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The growing imperative to measure and benchmark projects is spreading back up the supply chain towards specification and design Management by measuring

Contrary to popular opinion, baa is not an expert client. At least so said Derek Eke of baa, speaking at a recent Construction Productivity Network meeting on performance measurement in construction. But baa intends to become one, partly by following its own slogan, 'If you are not measuring, you are not managing.' So it is measuring its own performance as well as that of others. Its ambition is to measure everything - the cost-effectiveness of its products (airports), the process of realising them, and its dealings with people, and with partners in particular.

One of the potentials of framework agreements, with their open-book working, is to measure the performance of partners such as designers. For Terminal 5, baa is trying to capture how long design teams take and the resources required for specific activities.

baa professes itself keen to share the results of measurement, though Eke says it is early days yet.

Out of measurement comes refinement of norms and targets. baa has set global targets for construction projects (see table) and specific targets within these - for example, saving 12-14 per cent at the design stage, including design input from suppliers, as part of cutting construction costs. Or reducing on-costs by 10 percent over 97-98 and 30 per cent by 2000. The intention is to create a challenging environment for all.

Eke believes that spending more on planning and design could play a part in improving productivity. But he has not got the data to convince his own financial managers.

Targeting design

Being able to compare diverse projects - varying in size, scope, etc - is one of the challenges of measurement. Engineering contractor Blomel was lead partner in a project to develop productivity measurement methods, part-funded by the detr, with other partners including Bovis, degw, Mace, Schal and Stanhope. Although the main focus was site productivity, the researchers wanted methods that brought in the effects of site management and off-site factors such as procurement, materials delivery and design & specification. Existing techniques such as work study mostly focus narrowly on the individual site worker.

To make the project manageable, it concentrated on commercial buildings. And, after discussions with clients and industry professionals, it focused on the trades said to be most critical in terms of productivity problems. In descending order of importance these were building services, cladding/curtainwalling, finishing trades, commissioning and roofing.

The researchers came up with an extensive questionnaire of factors contributing to site productivity. This can be used to measure performance and develop targets. Respondents were asked to rate each of around 100 factors as having high/medium/ low/no effect on productivity. Ideally, the questionnaire was completed by on-site staff - the site manager, the trade contractor's project manager, the trade contractor's site foreman and one or two operatives. That the results of trials pointed so strongly to off-site factors may in part be the traditional industry response of blaming others. But there is no doubt that off-site factors are of major importance in site productivity.

The questionnaire covers design, drawings and specification, the workforce, its work, management of people, materials and equipment, project planning, contracts and the specifics of the job and its context. For design, drawings and specification the factors under scrutiny were:

adequacy of design information

timeliness of design information

erroneous/conflicting design information

design change orders, change management and related work


lack of standardisation


insufficient consideration of site safety in construction detailing

lack of speedy feedback on the need for design changes

failure to optimise off-site fabrication

difficulty in contacting designers to resolve queries.

The research continues towards benchmarking productivity. Anyone interested in being involved, especially clients, should contact Doug Caldwell of Blomel (tel: 01628 777707).

Some service

Chris Parslow of bsria reported the monitoring of m&e installations on four sites in the uk, one in Sweden, one in Germany and one in the us. He drew an important distinction between overall productivity - measuring output per unit of available time (earned hours) - and task productivity - measuring output against productive time. The task productivity in the uk and us was similar, with Sweden and Germany somewhat better. The differences were more apparent in the amount of productive time that was worked in the day. The percentages of productive time were: uk 60, Germany 68, us 75, Sweden 82.

Vassos Chrysostomou of bre described a methodology for monitoring waste on site - processes are mapped, coded, benchmarked, targeted, measurements taken, data analysed on site and fed back. As well as more broad-brush reports, immediate feedback is treated as especially important. Data from one day may be presented to site staff by 10.00 the next.

More generally, Chrysostomou, previously at baa, questioned why baa should have needed to develop framework agreements. Why doesn't the industry provide a one-stop shop, a team responsible for design and construction? Others pointed out that new options in procurement could bring in the design skills of subcontractors as a matter of course. Others asked why education is not changed to bring in site factors more. As yet, the industry has few answers.

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