Increasing Productivity in Construction – Collaboration and Communication

Increasing Productivity in Construction – Collaboration and Communication

23rd October 2018

Last week we took a look at some factors that are preventing an increase in productivity in the UK construction industry, namely the lack of accuracy which leads to errors and delays which has resulted in 75% of construction professionals revealing that they have no faith in quality management systems.  Today, we’re going to take a look at another issue that can have a huge impact on making progress towards an increase in productivity – collaboration complications.

We’ve already stressed how important collaboration is becoming for construction contractors here in the UK and it’s a subject that has come up several times since then.  With an increase in specialisation and the need for new approaches such as integrated project delivery (IPD), it’s more essential than ever before for businesses in the construction sector to work closely together on a more frequent basis.  This means that successful working relationships between subcontractors and general contractors are a fundamental factor for project success.

Collaboration challenges need to be properly managed in order to save time and effort so that collaboration is no longer a drain on productivity.  When surveyed, construction professionals revealed the following issues as being the most damaging to building projects in terms of taking up too much unnecessary time and leading to delays:

  • Dealing with mistakes and rework
  • Conflict resolution
  • Scheduling communication/meetings with other project stakeholders
  • Jobsite logistics/co-ordination
  • Project management

We covered the first issue last week in one of our articles so today we’re going to address the other issues listed here.

When it comes to conflict resolution, this is of particular concern for the long-term development of the construction industry as collaboration will be fundamental to innovative new construction strategies such as off-site manufacture (OSM).   The UK government has adopted a “presumption in favour” of OSM for its projects, highlighting the advantages this approach offers for improving productivity throughout the construction industry.

Much of this conflict arises as a result of communication problems which can cause tension and conflict with partners.  Another factor to take into account when collaboration is necessary is the fact that project stakeholders may have competing objectives.  A recent report in the House of Lords suggested that collaboration as an industry model is being hindered by a lack of trust. 

Stakeholders in any construction project often compete for such thin margins that relationships between collaborating companies may become adversarial.  After all, margins are key to the profitability for any job and each of the collaborating parties will naturally need to make a profit.  General contractors are highly dependent on the quality of subcontractors’ work, whilst specialists often feel as if they are at the mercy of scope and schedule changes set out by general contractors.

Clear and effective communication is essential in order to reduce tensions and resolve these conflicting interests.  Intelligent and transparent collaboration is critical to the future of the wider construction industry as we face the challenges of the 21st Century.  Relationships and trust on jobsites are vital for success – working well together can improve each individual metric and benefit all partners involved.  Smart collaboration tools are necessary to enable businesses to share information quickly and efficiently in a manner that will reduce errors and clearly outline the responsibilities of everybody involved on a project.