May 16, 2020

How will the UK General Election impact the construction industry?

Commercial construction
Commercial construction
Liam O’Hara, SIG Building Solu...
3 min
The snap General Election called by Theresa May led to much speculation about how it will affect various industries, and the construction sector is no d...

The snap General Election called by Theresa May led to much speculation about how it will affect various industries, and the construction sector is no different.

Depending on the result, and how it will tie in with issues including the UK’s impending exit from the European Union, many different aspects of the industry will potentially be impacted in different ways.

On one hand, the momentum seen with high-speed rail, highways and other infrastructure projects in recent years could see the new or existing government building a case for speeding up delivery.

Committing to these schemes could lead to the next generation of construction staff being trained and an investment in STEM skills needed to deliver it.

With 80 per cent of the construction industry being of the opinion that the public is not aware of the role it plays, shaping this understanding can help to enable growth.

Approach to Brexit

With Brexit very much still on the agenda, the new government will need to take a joined-up approach that can facilitate the connection between infrastructure investment and economic growth.

From a short-term perspective, it can be argued that a General Election creates slightly more uncertainty and speculation for the UK economy as a whole, which has been evidenced by the fluctuations in the value of the pound, but with 2017 being a fourth consecutive year of elections or referendums, the country is now more used to adapting to widescale changes.

A brief hiatus in signing new public sector contracts has been witnessed in some areas, but with the summer season in swing this has had little impact on activity at ground level, due to most contracts being signed in advance.

Initial reaction was that larger projects such as HS2, Hinkley Point C and even Thames Tideway would undergo little impact as work does not begin in earnest for another year, but some schemes have been referenced outright in campaign manifestos.

As part of its manifesto, Labour has vowed to create a new department aimed at tackling the UK’s housing problem, as well as extending HS2 to Scotland and also ensure Crossrail 2 is built. 

Conversely, the Conservatives have left out a commitment to Crossrail 2 from their manifesto, but did outline plans to raise the cost of hiring foreign workers.

Brexit negotiations have been a focal point of campaigns, and for the construction sector a major priority is therefore ensuring the immigrations system enables the use of skilled labour where required.

From an economic perspective, market surveys across residential and commercial sectors alike have all revealed an acceptance of Brexit, but at the same time there is ongoing concern about deferral of major investment and recruitment plans, which will likely calm once the election dust has settled.

Narrowing the gap

Regardless of the election result, there will need to be a narrowing of the construction skills gap, with the new administration reinforcing the importance of the construction industry to the country’s overall wellbeing, and how its ongoing modernisation can contribution to the growth in UK companies.

After the General Election was announced, businesses immediately called for the political parties to offer assurances that they would support economic stability and prosperity over the next four or five years, and beyond.

At the same time, the industry has asked for the new government to ensure that improving UK productivity and navigating a prosperous exit from the EU are kept as high priorities.

This will enable businesses within the construction industry and other sectors to continue trading with the UK’s European neighbours and also seek out new opportunities, fostering an environment for future productivity.

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Aug 4, 2021

Diffuse disputes through better Project Management

construction
Projectmanagement
Disputes
Technology
Dominic Ellis
6 min
The pandemic has caused a near-doubling in the value of disputes – which means they need to better manage projects to minimise the fall out

The average value of disputes globally rose from $30.7 million in 2019 to $54.26 million in 2020, while the length of disputes fell from 15 months in 2019 to 13.4 months, according to a recent Arcadis reportThe data, featured in Arcadis' 11th annual report, illustrates industry-wide ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic although interestingly, the overall volume of disputes stayed relatively the same in 2020 as in 2019, contrary to what most observers would have anticipated as projects stalled and costs soared during the pandemic.

While trends in the value and length of disputes varied between regions, all surveyed saw an increase in "mega disputes" related to bigger capital programs and private projects. Notably, more than 60% of survey respondents encountered project impacts due to COVID-19.

Owners, contractors, or subcontractors failing to understand and/or comply with their contractual obligations became the leading cause of construction disputes in 2020 (jumping from 3rd place in 2019), followed by owner-directed changes and third-party or force-majeure changes as the second and third-leading causes, respectively.

Highlights from the report include:

  • Proper contract administration was a theme across the globe for the successful and early resolution of disputes
  • Most disputes were settled through party-to-party negotiation, and a willingness to compromise played a key role in early resolution
  • Among regions surveyed, the buildings (education, healthcare, retail/commercial, government) sector saw the most disputes
  • In North America, construction dispute value rose from $18.8 million in 2019 to $37.9 million in 2020, while the length of disputes shortened from 17.6 to 14.2 months.

So how can firms prevent disputes escalating in the first place?

Writing in the foreword to Connected procurement: the Foundation of Construction Success, Mike Pettinella, Director of EMEA Sales at Autodesk Construction Cloud, says trust between owners, main contractors and subcontractors remains a vital element. 

“The importance of partnership makes the preconstruction phase, when organisations decide who to work with and how, so critical to every project’s success,” he writes. “From selecting the best people for the job to mitigating risks, preconstruction is where you make your money and lay the foundations for a successful build.”

Inviting, tendering and submitting bids involves interactions between a large number of construction organisations. But currently there’s little consistency across the industry in the technologies used for this crucial process, the report notes.

Construction firms use a diffuse set of software to manage bids. Email is the most popular tool across owners, main contractors and subcontractors, followed by a combination of Google Drive, Microsoft Excel and  DropBox. Notably, a fifth of owners (20%) and subcontractors (19%) use a custom-solution that has been created in-house. 

A significant proportion of companies don’t use technology at all. More than a tenth of owners (12%) and subcontractors (13%) say that most of their tenders are still paper-based, although this trend is less prominent among main contractors.

Errors can take place that compromise the project later on - and this isn’t a rare occurrence. The majority of main contractors (86%) and subcontractors (78%) admit that errors are made during the tender submission process that impact the project down the line. In fact, a quarter of main contractors say this happens on the majority of projects (24%). 

InEight and Microsoft Dynamics 365 connect all business processes with Construction 365

InEight Inc. has announced a strategic integration with Microsoft Dynamics 365 to deliver Construction 365 – a unified enterprise platform incorporating over 30 different integrations to help businesses improve and standardize insights and information flow between office and field for capital construction projects.

The integration unifies the data experience (including CRM, Estimating, Project Controls, BIM, Risk Management, Document Management, Scheduling, Accounting, and Procurement, through desktop and mobile capabilities) to deliver businesses with improved transparency and alignment, providing a single source of truth to enhance ease of user access, collaboration and security across Microsoft and InEight applications. Using the end-to-end, customisable platform, customers can now connect data and processes seamlessly and intuitively across systems to reduce errors, omissions and redundancies while improving the outcomes of complex long-term projects.

Pål Christian Hustoft, CFO, at Veidekke Entreprenør AS, a joint customer of Microsoft and InEight and one of Scandinavia’s largest construction companies said it believes the Construction 365 solution will meet itsr business needs as a fully integrated digital transformation platform, providing transparency and control throughout the business. “We expect the ongoing implementation will confirm our beliefs, making it possible for us with a greater ability to create great projects for our clients with our desired profitability and on schedule.” 

Petter Merok, Industry Executive, Architecture, Engineering & Construction, Microsoft Norway, saic complex construction projects involve huge amounts of variables and many different cross-practice and company personnel. 

“This powerful Microsoft Dynamics 365 integration with InEight empowers teams with unified, real-time data across all processes to make smarter decisions that drive business progress. We are proud to be playing a role in supporting productivity and performance improvements in the construction industry, at a time when it has perhaps never been more important.”

Mike Paul, Managing Director for EMEA at InEight, said while the physical world is still seeing borders and restrictions on freedom of movement, the trend in the data world is the opposite. “Connectivity is key. Through this integration with Microsoft Dynamics, InEight is creating interconnected workplaces to enhance collaboration and project outcomes in capital construction. It’s an important and timely step towards our goal of digitalising construction project management.”

Pursue quality partnerships, embrace on-site tech and adopt agility

Construction professionals surveyed in the Arcadis report have clear ideas about the qualities that would make them want to collaborate with a business again in the future – and  communication, as well as reliability, is an  important factor. 

For subcontractors, regular communication and project updates (31%) and the timely completion of work (29%) are the attributes that would make them most likely to work with an owner again in the future. 

Turning to main contractors, the quality of handover delivered by subcontractors (46%) is the most influential attribute, followed by them completing work on budget (41%) and on time (40%). Notably, the use of digital technology on-site is also an appealing trait for both main contractors (31%) and subcontractors (25%). 

In an article for Business Chief North America, Chris DeBrusk, Partner, Digital Practice, Oliver Wyman, considers the future role of the project manager. He believes as organisations adopt agility and drive their transformation efforts using a more iterative approach with increased alignment between business and technology stakeholders, the role of the project manager is definitely going to change. 

“That being said, it will be a rare organisation that is able to eliminate the role completely,” he says. “More likely is that the role will become one of enterprise coordination, organisational change management, and risk management and less a manager of SDLC processes.”

Arcadis Report highlights

  • Proper contract administration was a theme across the globe for the successful and early resolution of disputes
  • Most disputes were settled through party-to-party negotiation, and a willingness to compromise played a key role in early resolution
  • Among regions surveyed, the buildings (education, healthcare, retail/commercial, government) sector saw the most disputes
  • In North America, construction dispute value rose from $18.8 million in 2019 to $37.9 million in 2020, while the length of disputes shortened from 17.6 to 14.2 months.

Business Banking Resolution Service tackles recent and long-standing disputes in UK

A free and independent UK dispute resolution service, the Business Banking Resolution Service (BBRS), is appealing directly to property and construction businesses to see if their banking disputes, both recent and long-standing, can be resolved. 

 It is estimated that, over the past 20 years, some 600,000 businesses could have developed a dispute with their business banking provider that remains unresolved. More than 179,000 mid-sized businesses including construction companies, property developers, architects, estate agents and residential and commercial landlords dating back to 2001 may be able to benefit from the service according to ONS data.

This number includes businesses that have since closed. The BBRS and Propertymark, are urging businesses to see if they can apply, particularly those with older unresolved complaints, as the deadline for historical complaint applications is February 14 2023.

Businesses going through the service will be assigned a highly skilled dispute resolution specialist, who will act as a single point of contact and offer practical support. The BBRS is fully independent and free to use. Businesses can find out full details, including if it is appropriate for their situation at: www.thebbrs.org/register

 

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