You’ve heard the old joke about speed, cost and quality. How you can only choose two, implying that all three are impossible. But is that truly the case?
Oftentimes, failures to meet this trifecta boil down to one word: inefficiency. The construction industry is notorious for this but, for the most part, seems to accept it as the status quo. Even though increasing efficiency and productivity has the potential to save more than $1.6 trillion per year industry-wide, according to a report from global management consulting firm McKinsey! With that kind of money on the table, we need to ask where the problems lie—and what we can do about them in industrial contracting.
Think about how much time is wasted on every industrial construction project. From waiting for trades to complete their work to managing the reams of data that projects generate, construction waste doesn’t always end up in the landfill. A survey by Levelset revealed poor coordination between subcontractors as the cause of delays by more than 54 percent of contractors. Creating a schedule and communicating expectations daily with your teams can help reduce wasted time and avoid the unexpected.
With the impact of COVID-19 on the supply chain, this one is probably at the top of everyone’s list of things that cause projects to go south. We all remember the project disasters that began appearing in 2020. Supply chain efficiencies and pricing are getting better, but they’re nowhere near where they were beforehand – or where they need to be. Contingency planning coupled with inventory buildup are effective strategies to keep industrial contracting projects moving forward.
With every new project comes tons of data that offer a real opportunity for improving efficiency. But too often that data is siloed, making it largely unavailable to the teams that need it. Connecting data in a single, accessible location can boost productivity and avoid missing and incorrect information that often results in rework.
The design phase of projects consumes massive amounts of time, especially when considered as a part of the whole. This is frequently the result of custom scopes for every project. While each new project carries its own unique expectations, there are also opportunities for standardization and repeatability that could significantly raise productivity. Creating libraries of optimized designs can reduce the length of the design phase.
At the end of the day, construction is about actually building something. Making that happen requires managing the project, machinery, materials and people. Successful execution calls for rigorous planning before work begins to ensure milestones are met on time and on budget. Part of the planning process is the establishment of key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs augmented with future-facing metrics can identify and reduce variance. A sometimes overlooked opportunity for efficiency gains in execution is in the process of moving equipment, people and other resources to the site prior to starting the work, which should be an intentional part of preconstruction planning.
While our industry lags behind other industries in the adoption of technology, there are signs of change. The usage of building information modeling (BIM) software including digital twins is becoming more commonplace as firms look for ways to improve efficiency and outcomes. Digital twins provide a virtual representation of a project that can be updated in real-time. Their utility spans the entire project lifecycle, from preparing initial designs to comparing as-built to plan. Digital twins can be game changers for project success, but for them to work properly, any changes made, regardless of who they are made by, must be integrated into the master twins to avoid inaccuracies.
Construction projects require coordination of all the activities going on at any given time. With the myriad layers of projects, it’s critical for every player to be reading from the same page. Communications breakdowns throw confusion into the project matrix, and are a leading cause of rework. If you’re being hampered by outmoded forms of communication, it’s probably time to consider digital options.
Workflows involve identifying, assigning and detailing the tasks necessary for project completion and then effectively communicating the details across project teams. When they work well, workflows can help reduce inefficiencies by streamlining processes and improving quality. The best workflows are standardized, collaborative, automated, integrated and contribute to timely process and resource adjustment.
Monitoring and Measuring Efficiency
Seeing the fruits of your efficiency push requires continual monitoring and measuring. Start with your project KPIs and compare with progress reports on the work. If you’ve measured effectively, the results can identify areas for improvement and help you make better, data-driven decisions as the work progresses.