As the world gets back to work, governments, analysts, scientists and businesses now face the task of trying to rebuild a safe and compliant workplace, so that the global economy can restart.
The UK construction industry employs more than two million people directly, with more than 3.5m across the overall ecosystem, contributing 9 per cent of GDP, making it a core industry we need to support getting back to work. But it’s a complex and fragmented sector, and it needs to find a new way of working.
Construction was already faced with stagnated productivity and an over-reliance on site workers to deliver projects, with in excess of 60 per cent of its workforce being site-based – a significant number of whom now sit within the most likely demographic to be affected with health issues.
“The current situation provides a perfect catalyst to improve collaboration, reduce disputes and make it less adversarial, resulting in better outcomes for the entire value chain”
And site-safety guidelines published by both the government and Construction Leadership Council make the challenge of re-establishing pre-crisis productivity levels – while providing a safe working environment – a massive undertaking for the industry.
Large companies, some of whom have continued to provide construction services over the past few months in support of key facilities such as the Nightingale Hospitals will have been operating with these considerations for some months, but in order for the industry to return to anything like pre crisis activity levels it needs construction companies, house builders, material suppliers and manufacturers of all sizes to be operating at near full capacity.
In addition to the productivity challenge, the industry is also not known for being awash with spare liquidity, therefore prompt payments across the supply chain has never been so critical, necessitating almost forensic level forecasting as the industry returns to a new normal.
Overhauling working practices
If it wasn’t already adopting digital technology to support the paradigm shift that is necessary, then now, more than ever, companies need to innovate working practices and support their roll-out by using appropriate technology to accelerate their recovery.
“The companies who seize this opportunity to innovate both operationally and technologically, will be those who emerge stronger from this situation”
Much like the financial crash in 2008, those companies that are agile and able to pivot quickly with the help of digital technology will be able to focus on how to bounce back, reduce risk, whilst protecting people and profitability.
For example, not only optimising the number of personnel on site due to the current environment but looking at ways in which technology can help reduce the number of site personnel generally; and for those key personnel who can’t avoid being on site, it will give them the ability to maximise their productivity, and provide immediate predictive insight as to the impact on overall project outcomes, whilst also maintaining a safe working environment.
Furthermore, assuming projects will need to be replanned, companies should consider innovating business practices to address broader industry challenges. New business models to include offsite or digital-twinning capabilities can improve quality, reduce the need to rework and offer a clearer forecast for both timeframes and costs.
Timely cashflow will be key to ensuring the industry recovers quickly; the current situation provides a perfect catalyst to improve collaboration, reduce disputes and make it less adversarial, resulting in better outcomes for the entire value chain.
The companies who seize this opportunity to innovate both operationally and technologically, will be those who emerge stronger from this situation and will have laid the foundations for a new delivery model, which will see a leaner, cleaner, more efficient industry, ready to face all current and future challenges.
Simon Eyre is senior director for industry and solution strategy at Infor