Analysis

Putnam: Better communication around Construction 2025 delivery is crucial

Mike Putnam, chief executive Skanska UK

Skanska UK chief executive Mike Putnam urges whole industry to drive for efficiency as the economy grows.

Last month the UK Lean Construction Institute published a paper urging the government to invest in work to put together a comprehensive deployment plan to underpin the Construction 2025 strategy.

In a paper presented to its annual conference, the LCI-UK highlighted a number of factors holding back delivery of the strategy ranging from not having a real baseline against which to measure performance to an over reliance on technology to deliver efficiencies.

It also warned that failure to invest in a deployment plan risked missing the Strategy targets and costing the UK perhaps £15-20 a year in overspend along with years of delayed delivery. 

Speaking at the conference Skanska UK chief executive and co-chair of the Green Construction Board Mike Putnam defended the Strategy and its deployment. He spoke to Infrastructure Intelligence to explain.

Interview by Antony Oliver

The Lean Construction Institute has warned about the lack of a Construction 2025 Strategy deployment plan. Why do you disagree?

There is a deployment plan. The delivery group has one and it covers all the key themes and has a number of work streams within it. One of the things that this demonstrates is that we really must get better at communicating not only the strategy but what is behind it. 

LCI-UK warned there could be annual overspends of £15-20bn – you don’t agree?

I don’t recognise the £15-20bn annual overspend risk. Sure there are some challenges coming out of recession and not just in construction. We have quite a lot of inflation and a skills shortage which will also drive inflation. Plus the whole supply chain has been working at sub economic levels. So the whole economy has to readjust.

Does the economic upturn help or hinder?

I think it does both. On the one hand people are already focusing on how to drive cost from the process so as to deliver the aspiration and the goals of individual projects and programmes and also across the industry as a whole. But then there are the hindrances of inflation coming back and competition being reduced.

There are a great number of efficiency groups and programmes underway across the industry. Should we make this whole efficiency story simpler?

The very fact that people still don’t get it means that the answer must be yes. But I prefer to see it as a series of opportunities that you can lock into or engage with in order to help. The ones I use are around BIM, around lean, around offsite, around engagement, people, culture and industrial techniques and so on. If people can understand them and then start to play with them, then they will start to take action and the flywheel starts to turn. Then momentum starts to build.

Is there a silver bullet?

No. If we are talking about a silver bullet for the whole of efficiency problem then that would be a combination of many things. But I also believe passionately that it is not just about industry and government working together but about clients working better together and the whole delivery side – contractors – working better together. And we have never historically worked well together. Here is a huge opportunity.

What are the barriers?

There is a view that working together gives away competitive advantage. I would argue that you can create additional competitive advantage because you take the whole industry to a higher level and compete there. Which is exactly the way the automotive industry works.

What should we be doing to boost the skills entering the industry. 

I come back to image, diversity and inclusion – helping people to understand that it is not all about hard hats and muddy boots. It is about a whole range of skills and contributions that people can bring. I also think it is about smarter working and the whole issue of collaborations and coordination. Imagine how successful we would be if we took all the thousands of construction firms, the suppliers and the clients and coordinated the message – we would certainly get a much bigger bang for our buck.