observation

Since the past six months I am involved in several discussions related to the (building) construction industry. If you look to this industry, it seems like this is one of the few industries without innovation in its processes.

Someone in the discussion even claimed that if a worker from the middle ages would come back to this century, he would be quickly adapt and understand the way people work. OK, there are some new tools and materials, but the way the building construction industry works has not changed.

And let’s look to productivity. Where in the past 60 years in all industries productivity has increased, I have seen a survey where productivity in this industry has not increased and even decreased a little.

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Although the survey ends in 2003, another article caught my attention. Robert Prieto, Senior Vice President from Fluor Corporation wrote end of last year in Engineering News Record his viewpoint: Engineering-Construction Needs a New Model. Reading this article and the comments demonstrates there is a need for innovation in the building construction industry.

Failure costs up to 15 % and delayed deliveries are considered normal business in this industry, where if this would be applied to mid-market companies in the manufacturing industry, they would have gone bankrupt due to claims and lost profit.

If we look at this industry, the first excuse you hear is that every project is unique and that project execution is done by a group of loose connected suppliers, not really pushed to stay within the targeted budget. But you might ask yourself: what is the correct budget?

whyworryI noticed that in this industry when a project is estimated, suppliers are asked to deliver their bid and proposed solution based on their understanding. Usually the lowest bid wins the bid.

All participants are aware that not all requirements are clear, but no one wants to ask and invest further as to invest more in accurate cost estimation. This is not anticipated. It is about winning the bid with the lowest trouble and investment.

So who is to blame? First of all, the client who has a short term vision. By selecting the lowest bids and not pushing for in-depth analysis of the project delivery and operational costs in the long term, the situation will not change.

What if the client was using the basics of PLM – Product Lifecycle Management? For me PLM means a connection and sharing of the concept phase, the delivery phase, production phase and maintenance phase.

What I consider as strange is the fact that in the engineering and construction industry these four phases are not connected and often that the maintenance phase (operations) is not taken into account during the concept phase.

plm_constrAnd then there is the data handover. After engineering and construction specific data is handed over to the maintenance organization. What is the quality of the data, how applicable is it to the maintenance organization and how does it support maintenance is not clear. There is a disconnect and loss of knowledge as the handover is just based on the minimum data required.

What if the engineering construction industry would use PLM best practices, like:

  • Requirements Management – connecting, implementing and validating all the requirements from each stakeholder. Making sure all requirements are considered and negotiated in a structured manner – no excuse for surprises.
  • Data sharing with versions and status. Instead of a handover, data becomes mature during the lifecycle of the project. It requires the maintenance organization to be involved from the start
  • Standardized validation and approval processes related to requirements and data. These processes might be considered as an overhead but they are the ones that lead to quality, risk and cost management

Conclusion: I believe connecting the engineering and maintenance phase for engineering construction companies will lead to higher productivity and quality. For sure the initial engineering cost will be higher, but during the construction and maintenance phase these costs will be recovered and probable much more – here is the ROI

As my intention was to write shorter blog posts this year, I stop at this point and look forward to your comments for a further discussion.

YOUR THOUGHTS ??

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