Private sector construction ‘playbook’ aims to tackle low productivity

construction productivity
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A group of construction businesses have joined forces to produce a new ‘playbook’ to combat low productivity in the sector.

The playbook comes from a mix of developers, contractors, architects, engineers, professional services providers and suppliers. They are working under the umbrella of the Construction Productivity Taskforce, a group founded by productivity champion Be the Business.

The goal of the playbook is to promote trust and collaboration in a fragmented industry. The Taskforce said it hoped this would help the industry to reduce waste, address the skills shortage, and reduce the impact of low margins and investment in UK construction.

Falling productivity

UK construction productivity growth fell by an average of 0.6% each year between 1997 and 2019 according to Oxford Economics. Over the same period, the productivity of the whole UK economy rose by 2.8%. Manufacturing productivity grew by 3.9%.

This means that construction needs a larger workforce to match historical output, making it increasingly expensive. The Taskforce warned this would also lead to a “downward spiral” of low margins and low investment. It added that such conditions make innovation more challenging.

Ten drivers

‘Trust and Productivity’ draws on the expertise of the Taskforce’s members to set out ten key drivers for success that should underpin any project. Those 10 drivers are:

  • Form effective partnerships
  • Adopt portfolio and longer-term contracting
  • Take an outcome-based approach
  • Embed digital information flows across the whole life of the asset
  • Involve the supply chain early
  • Benchmark objectives
  • Allocate risk fairly and appropriately
  • Pay fairly
  • Assess the economic and financial standing of suppliers 
  • Promote innovation and continuous improvement

Simon Gorski, executive sponsor of the Private Sector Construction Playbook Working Group, and managing director, construction, Europe, at Lendlease, said: “This landmark publication sets out a more productive and sustainable way forward for our industry. Productivity in the UK private construction sector has long been an issue, and while progress has been made in trying to address this, our industry is still blighted by a lack of openness and transparency.

“Alongside the government’s Construction Playbook, I am pleased that the whole industry now has the opportunity to deliver better project and programme outcomes for clients across the private and public sector.”

Nigel Webb, chair of the Construction Productivity Taskforce, and head of development at British Land, said: “By increasing productivity, the construction industry can play a vital role in driving economic growth, supporting the UK’s net zero ambitions and improving the economic health of the sector.

“This playbook seeks to identify ways to address some of the issues limiting construction productivity. I would encourage clients, contractors, designers and supply chain members to engage with the playbook and start to measure and identify ways to improve productivity.”

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