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Will the construction industry modernise, die or stay roughly the same?

The report cited five drivers for change: a quality-driven agenda, a commitment to people, integrated processes and teams, committed leadership and for a focus on the customer. It called for reform in the construction industry to deliver: integrated project processes, decent and safe working conditions, improved management and supervisory skills, replacing competitive tendering with long term relationships and that leading public sector bodies should become best practice clients. The industry needed to save 10% on costs and to reduce defects by 20% year on year.

Sound familiar? No, it’s not the recently-published Industrial Strategy, nor the Hackitt Review on Building Regulations in the wake of the Grenfell disaster. Nor the Each Home Counts Review in to the retrofit sector. No, these are the key conclusions of the Egan Review published in 1998, some twenty years ago. Ten years later, Egan looked back and gave the industry a score of 4/10.  

However, the collapse of Carillion, Grenfell, The Housing Crisis, labour shortages, levels of customer dissatisfaction – surely these are the lines in the sand which mean that after decades of stubborn resistance, profound change is inevitable. Meanwhile, digitalisation is the great enabler, allowing supply chains at all levels to integrate and collaborate effectively. VR and augmented reality will revolutionise how projects are managed. The drive for cleaner, greener construction will reduce waste and energy. The government has announced that all large-scale public-sector projects must be delivered via offsite construction. Surely, the tide of change cannot be turned back this time?

The reality is whilst the majority of the large clients and contractors may embrace this agenda, the overwhelming proportion of the industry is relatively untouched by them. Most don’t know where to start, and so won’t. Entry-level gateways to the industry such as College courses remain little-changed, and are therefore serving to reinforce traditional methods. Many are lacking basic IT skills, and fewer still have been taught these in the context of a construction professional of the near future. Having the technology ready and freely available is pointless if firms lack the skills required to embrace it.   

To help overcome these barriers, a number of free-to-attend Build:Revolution events are being staged this year. They aim to provide a practical guide for construction SMEs on how you could and should be working in the near future, if you want to grow their businesses. Which technologies are fads, and which are game-changers? What will your business model look like? Will modernisation help you win more work? What will your clients be demanding of you? What skill-sets should you be developing within your team to get ahead?

80% of the construction and building design industries are made up of firms of five or fewer people. Unless we support them to embrace innovation the vast majority will remain exactly as they have for generations. Only this time, they will get left behind by the larger firms with the resources to do so. As a result, their businesses will begin to fail, and small-scale development will become a thing of the past. This time, resisting change could sound the death knell for small construction firms.

Build:Revolution events are taking place in the following cities: Nottingham (26th April), Manchester (21st June), London (14th September), Oxford (15th November), and Birmingham (12th December).

To register for your free ticket to any of these events, please visit www.buildrevolution.co.uk

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