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The role of collaboration in construction

With contracts totalling £71bn in 2017, the construction sector accounts for a hefty 6.1% of the UK's total economic output. By all accounts, it’s a vital part of the economy, employing millions of people who work to keep roofs over our heads, create immense new skyscrapers for our cites, and much more besides. It’s a diverse and thriving industry, where you can pursue a career in everything from Procurement to Project Management.

However, the construction industry also faces its fair share of problems, and one of these is finding the best way to collaborate on-site. The work required to bring a project from conception to completion involves many different teams who must all work together to ensure that tasks are completed quickly and efficiently, despite competing attitudes and goals. However, creating an environment that celebrates and encourages collaboration is a relatively new phenomenon, and one that requires change at every level to implement.

Here’s what you need to know. 

Improving collaboration 

The issue of communication is something that the industry is already working hard to improve. Indeed, the Institution of Civil Engineers recently released a paper on government-industry relationships within construction. Written by industry experts, the paper puts forward a series of proposals that aim to shape and improve the government’s Construction Strategy, which was last updated in 2016 and which is currently undergoing development. 

Covering five main areas, including Commercial Strategy, the Procurement Process and the industry’s approach to contracting, the main focus in the ICE’s new whitepaper is on creating and improving transparency, fairness and open processes within construction, especially around hiring contractors and securing bids for projects. With better communication established between the government and the industry, regulations and processes can be created which will improve collaboration within the construction sector.  

However, more can be done. Whilst opening up the conversation is a step in the right direction, the paper also notes the importance of inter-team communication: often a tricky process on a project where hundreds of team members are required to interact across several sites to get the job done. 

Boosting inter-team communication

59% of Project Managers say that communication is their team’s biggest obstacle to success, and with good reason. A Project Management team who have good communication processes in place can co-ordinate activities, correct problems before they arise, and ultimately get the job finished on time, to budget: the ultimate aim of any construction project.

However, creating these processes shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of Project or Site Management: individuals should all commit to improving the way in which they work with others if any difference is going to be seen. 

One way to do that is by encouraging good working relationships from the start. Some companies are starting to hire Management Contractors and Construction Managers, whose position straddling both design and construction makes them uniquely suited for integrating the two teams; still others have started to host workshops and team meetings to encourage inter-team bonding and create an attitude where learning and sharing information is commonplace, rather than unusual.

The changing role of technology

What better way to improve productivity and communication than with technologies specifically designed for that purpose? 38% of construction companies say that they don’t experiment with emerging technology, but moving beyond mobile phones and Skype calls can be hugely useful in creating a more open and collaborative building site. Many companies, for instance, are making the switch to working in a Common Data Environment, or CDE, where files and information can be shared instantaneously from a shared online drive: for instance, the Cloud.

This has also been taken a step further with the introduction of Building Information Modelling. Known as BIM, it’s essentially an intelligent 3D online modelling process, which lets architects model a building and test it digitally before giving it the approval to be built. BIM models can even monitor mechanical, electrical and plumbing schematics, as well as stress-test the design remotely.

BIM has already been enthusiastically embraced by the construction industry: 55% of project teams have found that BIM reduced the time required for in-team communication, especially as the model can be accessed remotely by anybody, at any time. Thanks to this freedom of information, architects, builders, project managers and more can work together, to an agreed plan, creating a final product without any misunderstandings. With the advent of the Internet of things, and great connectivity, there’s no excuse for not staying connected and informed.

Inspire collaboration with Anderselite

The construction sector is striding towards a brighter future, and we want you to be a part of it.  Take your first step with us today: find out what you need to thrive as a Project Manager within construction in our latest blog, or browse our jobs and see what inspires you. 

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