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Want To Raise Productivity In 2022? Try Making Fewer Mistakes

The recent article published by Construction News in February summarises the opportunities available to the construction industry should they make fewer mistakes. Spraylat found the article most interesting and has decided to publish it in full on their website. Here is what Cliff Smith, Executive Director Get It Right Initiative says;

Productivity has to be the top priority for construction firms in 2022. The sector faces unprecedented challenges over the next 12 months – including building safety, skills and material shortages, COVID restrictions, and the climate crisis.

Each issue brings its own set of challenges, but the task of becoming more efficient and productive is a common thread that will help address them all. Yet within that productivity discussion, there is an uncomfortable item on the agenda: the fundamental issue of error.

Doing a better job

The industry has at last begun to realise just how much money is wasted each year because things are not done right the first time, but there is still a long way to go before we see the change we need to address the problem. At the moment, our industry remains driven by the urge to cut costs, which recent inflation and supply side pressures have only exacerbated.

"It will be extremely challenging to commit to a decarbonisation programme without tackling error head-on"

Improving productivity means fighting against a race to the bottom and focusing instead on a mindset of efficiency and assurance. It means avoiding wasting time and resources on fixing mistakes, and saving money in the long term by doing a better job of building and specifying.

Our research shows that the cost of avoidable error in the construction process currently totals 21 per cent of project value – which in the UK adds up to around £21bn per year. That is money that could be saved if work was done right the first time. Fewer mistakes would boost sustainability, reduce the use of increasingly precious labour and resources, and save time. Conversely, by accepting at the outset that we will get things wrong and factoring that into our project planning, we are simply making it harder to resolve the challenges facing the industry. But 2022 can be the year all that changes.

The unique challenges we’re facing now – on building safety, supply shortages and climate action – all bring their own fast-moving agendas. Legislation and regulation are set to change dramatically. But rules and regulations only go so far. As these policy areas progress, we must make sure our industry also pursues cultural change. As a sector, we need to wean ourselves off the notion that waste is normal, to focus instead on making error the exception and not the rule. We need to engage with the industry’s leadership and change attitudes at every level of the supply chain, from inception to completion.

Accounting for every nut and bolt

Take the climate as an example. It will be extremely challenging to commit to a decarbonisation programme, or to prove your carbon credentials to regulators and investors, without tackling error head on. By not fully understanding or accounting for their waste, construction businesses simply cannot get a firm handle on their carbon impact. But if we were to encourage efficient, responsible productivity, where every nut and bolt was accounted for, then we could start to make – and measure – real progress.

The same goes for building safety, where fixing long-term attitudes to cost-cutting are as urgent as short-term cladding-remediation costs. Meanwhile, COVID continues to eat into productivity on site. For supply chain shortages, too, the problem demands we don’t waste the increasingly limited resources we have.

While none of these issues are easy to tackle, each also provides an opportunity. Digital technologies and modern methods of construction have transformed our work in recent years. We have the capabilities now to monitor and reduce error in ways that will meaningfully improve safety, quality and efficiency.

Change rarely happens overnight, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think radically. Improving productivity means getting things right, not simply putting things right. By getting more and more of what we do right first time, we can not only save money, but reap the benefits of a zero-error culture and solve many of the problems our industry is facing.


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