In today’s construction industry, time is money. Contractors are challenged with establishing a profitable, competitive advantage over their rival firms. Generally, costs for materials, construction labour, equipment, machinery etc are fairly standardised, particularly for companies that operate within the same area.
There is a way, however, in which contractors can edge in front of their competition and achieve greater profits. The answer? By carrying out efficiently run construction projects and building a reputation for doing so.
Achieving greater efficiency in construction projects can provide the following benefits:
- Projects cost less to carry out
- Projects are completed quicker
- Projects will generate more profit
- Projects will produce less waste
- Contractors can afford to submit a more competitive bid
- Company image and reputation is sustained
Here are 4 initiatives companies can put in place in order to improve construction efficiency:
- Improve planning and material management
- Use new technologies to reduce inefficient construction practices
- Listen to your experienced staff
- Adjust client expectations
1. Planning is everything – one of the biggest causes of delays in construction projects is a delay in material supply or a lack of staffing.
To state the obvious, a vital part of any construction project planning process is being able to successfully orchestrate the interfacing of people, processes, information, materials, and equipment.
Planning is a crucial part of any construction project – in fact, most issues that arise, come as a direct result of poor or insufficient planning and project management. More in-depth planning is almost certain to mitigate the impact of changing factors on the overall timescale of the project, and will essentially allow managers to keep things flowing. Aspects such as making sure you’ve done a full and detailed site check before you start working will prevent any surprises down the line.
It goes without saying that the delivery of materials and number of personnel should be well thought out to account for any delays or shortages.
Although ‘plan better’ may sound pretty simple, it needs to be approached with the intent to arrive at genuine, measurable improvements. In order for companies to do this, they must develop metrics for determining how accurate their current planning process is, and identify realistic goals for planning improvement in the areas that require it most. This means looking retrospectively at past project planning and making sure you’re learning from previous mistakes.
2. Provide Your Staff with new technology and equipment designed for efficiency
Following on the first point, construction projects can benefit greatly from new technology, which can be used to improve the efficiency of almost every area of a project, from planning through to build and completion.
For example, emerging 3D BIM modelling can enhance project planning and materials acquisition. Building information modelling is a process for ‘creating and managing project information’ and allows those planning and running projects to see a ‘digital description’ of each aspect of the build which can then be linked to key information such as specifications, site photos and scheduling times. This technology can benefit construction professionals by helping them create better plans, produce faster results, and stay within budget.
Technology efficiencies don’t stop at the planning phase. Even having the correct equipment and tools can really improve the efficiency of your project.
For example, when it comes to timber framing projects, structural screws over the traditional nut and bolt screws have been known to help teams fit structures at least 5 times quicker than usual. This means you can easily shave a day or two off the process. Just a small change such as changing your screws can have a huge effect on your project. Making sure that staff is given the tools to do the best job possible in the shortest time is key.
Technology that allows for increased efficiency is everywhere if contractors will take the time to unearth them. More often than not, it only takes a conversation with your current staff to find out new ways of doing things.
3. Listen to your staff and problems on the ground – then provide the right training
Following on from point 2 you’ll find that more often than not, your staff on the ground will offer the best insight into how you’ll be able to make your processes more efficient. Experienced staff coming from other companies can bring with them a wealth of knowledge and influence best practice. This can be in the form of a new production process, a way of doing things or equipment used.
You’ll then need to make sure the efficient ways of carrying out a task are taken up by the rest of your workforce through training. Training goes a long way, especially when it comes to increasing efficiency and productivity. The skill/knowledge level of the crew, particularly construction supervisors, can have a massive influence on how well a project is executed, and how long it takes. Quite simply, if a crew member is trained to a level which they feel completely comfortable and competent, their performance in an activity or with a given piece of equipment, will naturally increase their output.
It’s highly suggested, therefore, that you thoroughly train not only your crew but also your supervisors, to ensure they enforce the appropriate training measures. This way, everyone will be pulling in the same direction, with a clear focus on improving the speed and effectiveness of certain processes, thus improving the overall efficiency of the project.
It’s equally as important to ensure that all supervisors and staff understand the true value of efficiently run processes and their impact on the success of the project, both in terms of completion time, and profits gained. If this is drilled into the team, they’re more likely to get on board with the changes that are implemented. You’ll want to make improving efficiency everyone’s job, andinvolving each team member in the initiative to improve greater efficiency will yield much better results.
4. Adjust client expectations
In all projects, there are going to be setbacks and factors that didn’t quite go to plan. It’s important, especially when working on domestic projects that affect the standard of living of the inhabitants, that you set realistic expectations with the stakeholders at the start of the project.
Points 1 through 3 all amount to this final point. By maximising your use of new technology, efficient planning and staff training/management as mentioned above, you’ll be able to manage client expectations more accurately.
Ultimately, efficiently managed projects will not just improve your bottom line but also greatly enhance your reputation, which in an increasingly referral based society, is a precious commodity.