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January 30, 2015

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Rethinking construction: smarter, safer, shared building

By Jody Kennedy

Following the recent surge in the Markit/CIPS construction Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) to the highest level of growth since 2007, there are signs that the supply chain might be struggling to keep up with the heightened demand.

Alongside this growth, the latest Markit/CIPS Construction PMI survey suggests that the quality of subcontracted work has suffered in recent months. With nearly a quarter of construction sites failing to meet basic health and safety requirements, companies are leaving themselves exposed to hefty fines when accidents happen as well as costly project delays.

As HSE has shown with the recent JD Leadbitter case  in which a fine of £100,000 was issued, workforce injuries can represent a very real threat to business survival

Whilst project managers’ objectives begin to shift to fit this new more buoyant market, it’s no wonder that seamless communication and operational efficiency are their primary concern. This is especially true given the complex and widely dispersed layers of contractors and sub-contractors that make up today’s construction industry.

Turning the tide on the growing number of missed deadlines, overspending and accidents will not happen overnight, but here are three ideas project managers can use to start tackling these problems:

Take a leaf out of your own book

As individuals, we are more willing to embrace new technologies and adapt the way we engage with one another than ever before. But despite the popularity of social media, apps and instant messaging in our private lives, this has not translated to better ways of working in the construction industry.

Tying all of the moving parts of construction’s complicated infrastructure together into one seamless process means adopting better platforms for communication and encouraging the workforce to see the advantages of using them in its day-to-day activity.

Walkie-talkies are old hat

Developments in the technologies available to businesses are happening at the fastest pace we’ve ever experienced. It is now possible to tap into innovations like intuitive document management and durable smartphones regardless of the size or sector of business.

Going a stage further, already we are seeing technologies specifically designed to tackle construction issues. Cost-effective automated systems now exist that can securely track health and safety compliance live on site, coordinate contractors, track deliveries in real time and share best practice at the touch of a button.

Keep a digital eye on things

As your business invests in better solutions and begins to adapt to working more collaboratively, it is important to remember that it takes time for users to adapt and to see the full value. Issues will still arise that need your attention and using the same internal systems to closely monitor for these means they can be raised through the entire supply chain and addressed instantly.

Put simply, more sophisticated communications technology makes consolidating a workforce of any size and complexity a far more manageable challenge. As orders rise and the complexity of projects increases, rethinking the way your business and your workforce interact is a critical step in avoiding the costs of growing inefficiencies and poorer working conditions.

Jody Kennedy is the founder of SafetyBank and CTO of Olive Communications

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