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Case study: 
Early engagement is key when minimising risk on site

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Problem

Benefitting from all the insight and innovation that the supply chain can offer often seems like a tall order for the construction industry.  Despite a wealth of knowledge and experience that resides with the tier 2 and tier 3 contractors at the sharp end of successful project delivery, all too often the approach adopted leaves no space for them to contribute in a way that would benefit the project and its partners. By missing the opportunity for tier 2 and tier 3 contractors to be effectively engaged before work commences, there’s an increased risk of disruptions to their workflow on site. Common problems include not loading materials in the best locations or in the right quantities, being slowed down by other trades due to poor scheduling of the works and misaligned interfaces between building elements.

 

Intervention

A dry lining contractor (tier 2) and its tier 3 contractors were engaged to collaboratively review the project documentation (drawings and programme) for the construction of a large health care facility.

 

Participants discussed potential disruptions to their workflow on site and sought solutions. This activity, referred to as “flow walks” involved the workers walking around and evaluating issues that block the flow of work on site. This was presented as an early supply chain engagement process that enhances synergetic working and improves reliability of site production.  Participants were briefed on why assessments of any disruptions to flow of work as part of a collaborative risk management approach could help improve the reliability of commitments made in the plans by the subcontractor.

 

The drylining contractor was to complete the installation of ceilings in 110 rooms across five floor levels in six weeks. 

Tier 3 contractors reviewed the collaborative plans and drawings for the job and were then asked to identify any foreseeable problems that they could experience on site across eight common constraints: information, equipment, materials, people, prior activity, external conditions, safe space, shared understanding, along with the interconnections between these constraints.  They were also asked to vote on which blockers posed the most risk to their workflow so that these could be addressed as a matter of priority.

 

Outcome

People constraints were identified as the restriction with the highest level of impact on the successful delivery of the drylining work package for this project. The outcome of the collaborative risk management activity, resulted in of the dry lining contractor receiving contributions as to the feasibility of different planning scenarios from the perspectives of different tier 3 contractors. 

 

The views expressed by the  tier 3 contractors challenged the initial concepts of the tier 2 drylining contractor on how to improve the productivity of the ceiling installation.  There was discussion on how the size of and number of gangs that could be deployed increased productivity.  Some participants held the view that material distribution would be better in a central location to the rooms they would be working on while others contended that materials stored on alternate rooms to the ones that they were working on may be a better approach.  

 

The dry lining contractor through the process of the collaborative risk management considered the following actions they would do differently before start on site:

  • Plan to load materials out differently by distributing materials in a more centralised location rather than adjacent to the rooms being worked in.

  • Consider the use of a setting out engineer as an option to make it quicker for the tier 3 contractors  to fix the ceilings at a faster pace as against having the responsibility for setting out and fixing ceilings in each of the 110 rooms.

  • Consider the access that is needed on site by consulting the tier 3 contractors about what their requirements are ahead of starting on site to plan the work.

  • Consider using a guillotine as opposed to using hand tools to improve the finish of the cut of ‘top hat’ sections as well as a possible time saving.

  • Negotiate for a later start with the main contractor (tier 1) where at least 25 rooms have been completed before drylining commences thereby allowing other trades to complete their tasks without interrupting the drylining’s contractor’s continuity of work.

 

Impact

Following the “flow walks” activity as an early engagement process,, the delivery programme for the drylining work package at the large healthcare facility was renegotiated with a five-week delay in the program start date and a new programme of 14 weeks to ensure the site was safer for all involved.

This early engagement activity also highlighted the challenges faced by the tier 2 and 3 contractors, when attempting to plan and manage the work, without the collaborative input of the tier 3 supply chain on the risks to achieving the delivery targets on site.  

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