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Collaboration, innovation and diversity key to improving productivity, report says

Mabey, the bridge and engineering services specialist, has produced a report which presents a three-fold approach to improving the construction sector’s productivity levels and highlights how collaboration with the supply chain, embracing new technologies and a more diverse workforce are critical to the industry’s development.

Mabey is looking to answer one of the biggest questions facing the sector by publishing the report as it attempts to show how construction and infrastructure companies can become more commercially, financially and operationally secure. Over the past decade, the industry has seen a sharp drop in productivity, forcing the government to tackle the sector’s annual £15bn productivity gap, including cutting costs by a third by 2025.

Companies that are embracing new ways of working are said to be benefiting from lower costs, reduced risks and faster implementation, with less disruption and increased efficiency. The report argues that a new way of working across the board is vital with the UK construction industry needing to change quickly to reap the benefits. 

Commenting on the report, Juliette Stacey, group chief executive officer of Mabey, said: “Delivering projects on time and on budget is a challenge that has always plagued the construction industry. Unless we implement new ways of working, slim margins and below average productivity will prevent UK construction from reaching its full potential.”

The engineering specialist proposes a four step guide to improving better collaboration which includes establishing roles and responsibilities from the beginning of the project, early contractual involvement, increased transparency and consistency in the sense or working with partners which have experience on similar projects. 

The report includes case study examples to support its findings. One of which identifies how innovation was developed at Canning Town flyover to create a cost-effective way to safely carry out Crossrail tunnel excavations without having to close the Canning Town flyover, which ran directly over the top of the site.

The solution led to the viaduct being raised on hydraulic jacks, each linked and centrally operated to control vertical and horizontal movement and support the viaduct within tolerances. Stephen Hubbard, chief engineer at Mabey says “communication was critical” to ensure the 70 plus parties involved knew the possible issues and possible responses and meant the project remained on schedule.

Another case study is the development of Kirkthorpe Hydropower station in Wakefield where the firm’s early contractual involvement resulted in the installation time of groundworks halved and cut the cost of the propping solutions for excavation works by 50%.

Addressing the skills gap is the final key component for improving productivity, the report states. It pinpoints how engineering firms in the UK need to find 182,000 people every year until 2022 to cover retirements and expected growth within the industry. In order to shorten the skills gap, the industry needs to attract more individuals from more diverse backgrounds and provide the necessary training and development for an ageing workforce.

Stacey added: “Our experience, working with contractors, subcontractors and clients, across multiple sectors, has taught us that it is not the sole responsibility of the end organisation to drive down costs and increase productivity. All contractors and infrastructure clients rely on a broad and deep supply chain of specialist organisations. The key is unlocking expertise in those specialists through better collaboration and early contractual involvement, and to adapt to better ways of working across the entire supply chain.”

To view the report in full, click here.