The lack of significant change in the productivity of the professions is understandable, though it will be interesting to see whether or not the increased use of BIM in future years has an impact. The very significant rise in productivity in the construction of water projects may be a result of the presence of a regulator, whilst the downward trends in electrical and plumbing trades are more difficult to explain. However, it may be that not all plumbers and electricians are being captured in the statistics, which include only specialist firms and ignore the tradesmen employed by general contractors. It follows that trends reported for individual trades should be viewed with the utmost caution.
External factors relate to the organisational or industrial environment while internal factors are those that are clearly within the control of site management.
The expert panel were unanimous in their view that the economic cycle had a major impact on the productivity of the industry and figure 3 supports that view.
Competition: Competition might be expected to play a major role in causing changes in productivity, but we could find no evidence to support that view. This may in part be due to the current industrial environment where developers have more interest in end-to-end productivity than performance in any one phase of a development.
Relationship: In recent years, there has been an increasing recognition of the impact of trusting relationships on productivity. Partnering and alliancing are modern forms of contract designed to share risk in a more equitable manner than traditional ICE and JCT forms of contract. Co-location of client, designer and contractor teams lead to joint ownership and resolution of problems, increased awareness of the impact of delays, and an increased understanding of making the design ready before construction begins. The Expert Panel was clear that client relationships played a major role in improving productivity.
Creativity: There is considerable evidence to show that innovation is an important driver of productivity improvement. Innovation may embrace both products and processes, but can be constrained by regulations that restrict creative freedom. It is necessary both to incentivise productivity and to exercise a reasonable balance between the need of the supply chain for creative freedom and the need of client organisations for a reasonable degree of control.
The most important internal factors affecting productivity are: delays, working hours, size of the labour force, quality and training of the labour force, quality and training of management, and potentially off-site construction, though data relating to off-site construction is hard to find. Of course, some internal factors may also be influenced by external factors.