Ward’s Words: February 2018

Constructing Excellence

This newsletter comes out the day after our sister organisation ECI held its major conference on Rethinking Capital Projects in the engineering construction sector. A number of CE members are going, which is great as they are automatically free members of ECI now as a result of CE membership. Look out for the report of the conference, writing ahead of the event the parallels between the sectors are extraordinary. Meanwhile two other reports are due out from us this month. Like London buses, right….? Please look out for them, it is possible that their titles and subject matters may not immediately appeal to you, but I think both are a good read, no matter what type of business or which sector you are in.

The first is on Organisational Resilience, with a foreword by our co-chairs. It is timely in view of the collapse of Carillion, and produced by our member company Project Five Consulting. Resilience is the ability of organisations to respond to incremental change and sudden disruptions. We live in uncertain times, with the shape of our future outside the European Union unclear, weak economic growth and demand, as well as the ongoing skills crisis, and the sector retains well understood structural weaknesses in the industry such as low levels of profitability, a fragmented supply chain, adversarial relationships, skills weaknesses, low digital maturity and low productivity. The result is poor overall resilience of the industry, which is “built on a house of cards” as the authors write. Thanks and congratulations to Project Five Consulting in taking the initiative with this important topic.

The second report comes from our Nuclear theme group and is headed Factory Thinking. It tackles the productivity challenge, which is now sector-wide and government and CLC-led, but was first put by the MD of EDF Nuclear Newbuild nearly ten years ago in the context of the affordability of Hinckley Point C. Our group has recognised two scenarios, one a ‘greenfield’ project at the start of a newbuild, in which all options can be on the table including all offsite solutions, and a second which it terms ‘brownfield’ in which a project is already well onto site, so most options for offsite production have been exhausted or ignored. Here the report recommends the clear role of a “production engineer” with specific responsibility for site productivity in the onsite ‘construction factory’. Every real factory has one, why don’t we? Or maybe you think the role is part of what the Project Manager or Site Manager does? Have a read and tell us what you think.