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By Duane Craig
June 16, 2017
Construction is a highly competitive industry, and even more so as building becomes increasingly commoditized. The dominance of fixed price contracts and emphasis on the “low bid” are forcing construction firms to use competitiveness as a core marketing strategy. When they do that, they’re finding places where they can specialize and have strategic focus.
Here are four actions any construction firm can take to become more competitive through innovation.
Use Advanced Building Materials and Tools
It’s difficult to abandon time tested materials for new ones that don’t have 40 years of use under their belts. It feels risky and dangerous all at the same time. But, ignoring advances in materials and tools, ignores the fact that all those old materials and tools, were once new too. Imagine if you still used redwood instead of pressure treated, or single pane glass instead of dual paned.
At times, the design team will specify new materials and that’s a bit less unnerving because they will also face the consequences if it doesn’t perform as advertised. At other times though, you get to choose, and many new materials have enough science behind them to support using them.
New tools, on the other hand, don’t get left behind in the structure like materials do, so there’s far less risk with them––other than for the kinds of tools you use to measure, scale, and locate components. So, what are a couple of these advanced materials and tools?
Fast setting concrete has been around long enough to have a track record, and it looks pretty good. Wherever you want to have less shrinkage and excellent resistance to chemicals, this is a proven performer. And, you’ll be ready to move on in record time with the next step to whatever you’re building because this concrete reaches compressive strengths in hours rather than weeks. Your jobs move faster, giving you the competitive advantage of speed.
One of the time-consuming aspects of electrical work is installing boxes. But, in a short time you will be able to use a tool attached to your cordless drill that will cut the time drastically. The QUADSAW is part of the latest British invasion. This one gives you the competitive advantages of speed and accuracy.
Adopt Standardized, Modular, Prefab Components
Building structures on site exposes the operation to the vagaries of weather and the inaccuracies of an uncontrolled environment. One way to lower the risks of building on site is to use standardization. The advantages include:
Roof trusses and engineered floor joists are two examples of standardized components taken for granted on today’s jobsites. Newer items like engineered beams can carry huge loads compared to traditional dimensional lumber, and they open up greater possibilities for design.
When you take standardization to the next level, you get volumes of benefits. Modular components like entire rooms or complete floors provide the accuracy assurances of the factory with ease of assembly on the jobsite.
At the next level, you have completely fabricated structures built entirely off-site in controlled conditions. When you get a reputation for knowing how to work with standardized units, and you have the people and equipment for the job; you get the competitive advantage of knowledge and experience in a specialized type of construction. When you incorporate standardized items during the building process on any project, you gain all the advantages they offer, and that too boosts your competitiveness.
Front Load Your Project Planning
Projects often get off the ground in a rush, before there’s been adequate scoping and planning. That leads to huge new costs during the project because of changes. Astute contractors gain competitive advantage by lowering the uncertainties caused by excessive change orders.
To do that, you have to put the appropriate emphasis on scoping and planning—basically anchoring it to the front of the project. That means getting really thorough about construction planning during the design phase. Then, you have to constantly review those plans as the design evolves.
But, there are also opportunities offered by people and their expertise on the construction side. If you assign construction experts to work with engineering and design, their deep knowledge of how construction actually unfolds in the real world can infuse the project with “buildability.” By front loading project planning, you increase your competitiveness through the expertise you bring to the table.
Go for Continual Project Management Improvement
You lose competitiveness when you think you already know it all. This is critically true in construction project management. Worse, when you don’t harness the power of lessons learned, you take a hit on your ability to innovate. Companies that don’t innovate, lose their competitiveness.
You need to get all your project management data collected and consolidated. You need strong project monitoring and strong reporting. Best practices are another key aspect you need to gather. Not to enshrine them as THE way to manage projects, but to grab their advantages as long as they apply, while still keeping an eye on them for relevance and effectiveness. Too many companies establish best practices without also setting up regular reviews on those practices to make sure they still deliver the value they’re supposed to.
Then, make sure the best practices actually get used on projects. They look fine in a three ring binder, but that’s not where they’ll give you any project management boost. You need to use them.
Make your project management a living entity, one that is always evolving toward the next best system. When you do that, you’ll boost your competitiveness in multiple ways. From smoother, more efficient projects, to ones that deliver more value, the word will get around about your excellent abilities. And, that’s the biggest competitiveness boost.
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