Working collaboratively to raise productivity

The American economist, Paul Krugman famously said: “Productivity isn’t everything but in the long run it is almost everything.” So what can we do within the construction industry to raise our productivity?

Over the past five years the UK has done well in achieving high levels of employment with more people contributing to wealth generation. Conversely, individual productivity levels (output/hr) have remained broadly static. The way we can afford to pay ourselves more is to produce more, through a more collaborative work approach.

Project efficiency correlates very closely with the time spent pre-planning works. This is not just the period from order to commencement, but also time spent during the bidding period. Securing a good quality contractor or project time constraints are often the customer’s main driver for negotiating a project rather than tendering for the lowest possible quote. Although initial costs can be higher on negotiated projects, they normally deliver a very similar final account cost to customers, and with a higher quality product delivered in a more certain and stress-free environment. Maximisation of workplace safety and waste reduction are also key by-products of a collaborative approach.

The level of negotiated work closely follows the health of our industry and in all likelihood, we are likely to see a significant fall in this type of work over the next two years as the economy tightens. As a company, we feel we can increase our negotiated work by looking beyond the vagaries of the marketplace and focusing on communicating the value we add for our customers during both the pre-construction and construction phases of every project. Collaborative working has been part of our culture for many years. As buildings have become more complex, we have become increasingly reliant on our supply chain to bring detailed solutions to the table which give our customer a high quality building within their budget.

I believe there are three main drivers for genuine project collaboration:

  1. A willingness and capability for contractors and their supply chain to take broader responsibility for delivering a successful project.
  2. Embracing design, project planning and information-sharing software, including BIM which facilitates greater teamwork.
  3. Old fashioned trust between contractors and customer and the wider consultant and co-contractor team, built up over many years of doing what you say you will do.

If our industry is truly serious about raising productivity, collaborative working is essential. Investing in getting things right first time has infinitely more merit than paying expensive lawyers to sort the mess of not getting it right.

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