Why Better Collaboration Among Construction Stakeholders is Critical and How to Achieve It
Constructibility (aka constructability) isn’t a new concept. In fact, constructibility as a project management technique to ensure more timely and efficient completion of construction projects dates back to the 1950s. And its 70-year history is a reminder that the over-budget and behind-schedule perceptions that permeate the industry are nothing new either.
The benefits of a constructible process to identify construction obstacles before the build begins are pretty hard to ignore, including a reduction in errors, delays, and cost overruns. Yet, a surprising number of AEC professionals are slow or even reluctant to fully embrace constructibility.
In fairness, there are obstacles to overcome. For example, because engineers and designers aren’t experts in construction methods, models often lack the detail needed to be truly constructible. Owners also may be resistant to implement constructibility because of the costs involved.
Additionally, a lack of collaboration and communication can’t be overlooked when examining the roadblocks to constructibility adoption. To expand on this, constructibility is about more than just building information modeling (BIM) technology. It’s a process that’s enabled by constructible and content-enabled models, yes, but it also relies on connectedness between the various construction teams and stakeholders to deliver the efficiency gains it promises. And this collaboration is hindered by traditional siloed workflows.
“Many of the problems related to [constructibility] are the result of lack of communication among employers, architect or designer, and construction companies before starting the project.”
Source: “Constructability obstacles: an exploratory factor analysis approach,” International Journal of Construction Management, Dec. 2018
Constructibility Relies on More than BIM Models
BIM is a foundational element of a constructible process. Accurate and information-rich BIM models are necessary to identify problems before construction begins and realize the sought-after productivity gains and waste reduction that constructibility provides. These BIM models are equally important later in the project lifecycle as digital as-builts or digital twins that enable easier and more efficient management and maintenance. But constructible models alone don’t a constructible project make.
While the use of BIM and other technologies can certainly improve construction outcomes, the success of construction projects ultimately comes down to the players involved. The efficiency, timeliness, and profitability of a project are highly dependent on the coordination and cooperation among the stakeholders involved. Even one weak link in the chain can drag the whole project down.
“The higher-productivity large-scale half of the [construction] industry is not immune to the low productivity of the other half.”
Source: Reinventing construction through a productivity revolution, McKinsey Global Institute, Feb. 2017
In their often-cited 2017 report, Reinventing construction through a productivity revolution, the McKinsey Global Institute validates this. The report found that while the bigger players in civil and industrial work and large-scale housing, who represent roughly half of the industry, benefit from higher productivity, the other half of the industry, which is composed of a large number of smaller players, suffers from significantly lower productivity. As a result, the overall productivity of civil, industrial, and building projects suffers when subcontracted trades are involved, dropping by as much as 28% depending on the project type.
The report went on to recommend that any attempt to improve productivity must apply across the entire supply chain to be effective. This further underscores the importance of connected teams to a constructible process. While construction workflows and the teams responsible for them have long been insular and disjointed, this is also why construction productivity lags behind other industries. It only stands to reason then that breaking down these silos in favor of connectedness is a critical component of achieving the efficiency gains constructibility can deliver.
How to Increase Collaboration among Construction Stakeholders
Construction isn’t unique when it comes to the challenges of disjointed people and processes. But given the tight deadlines and dangerously thin margins involved in today’s highly competitive construction landscape, effective communication and collaboration become even more critical. Those that are able to communicate project information in real-time and share it among all team members gain a leg up on those that cannot.
When determining how to improve collaboration among your teams and stakeholders, the best place to start is by identifying where the disconnects are occurring. This includes examining and questioning long-held processes that have likely been in place for years. Often, it’s these unspoken rules about “how things are done around here” that need the most scrutiny.
For example, you may have project managers (PMs) who are responsible for ensuring jobs stay on time and budget. But if the PMs have little or no involvement in estimating or scheduling, and they feel one or both are unreasonable, this may be creating resentment and communication breakdowns before the work even begins. Let’s say a PM is working on such a project, and there’s an ordering mistake or a scheduling conflict with a subcontractor. Their resentment will only continue to fester as they find themselves in a losing battle.
These issues happen every day in construction and can quickly escalate to finger-pointing and resentment in the office that also extends to the field. But by engaging all project stakeholders earlier in the process, you can virtually eliminate these types of problems. During pre-construction, you can foster collaboration and communication by sharing information with everyone involved.
“We don't want to send out stacks of documents to people who have never seen the design before and say, ‘Go read this and get back to us with a price.’ We'd rather have them involved from the very beginning. This means, all the trades, contractors, suppliers, and the client working together in 3D, from concept to completion.”
—Jason Li, Senior Associate, VRBIM for M Moser Associates
This gives those with ultimate responsibility for the work an opportunity to identify potential issues and voice concerns. And collaboration can continue during construction and beyond by enabling real-time updates to models, budgets, and schedules, and providing shared access to this information.
Bottom line: when addressing barriers to collaboration, no process is too sacred to be exempt from scrutiny. And no person with a stake in the project should be excluded from weighing in on what’s working and what isn’t. When you approach the changes themselves in a collaborative way, even small shifts in how things are done can yield big improvements in communication and cooperation.
Reap the Benefits of Better Collaboration & Connection on Your Construction Projects
Constructibility is a proven process that can improve productivity, increase accuracy, and save time and money. By relying on content-enabled models and workflows, and enabling real-time collaboration, a constructible process ensures every person, phase, and process is working together seamlessly.
To learn more about how to connect stakeholders to reduce error, streamline project management and payment process, and work more efficiently with project owners, get your copy of the Dodge SmartMarket Brief.