Ready for recovery?
18th May 2020
As sites re-open and operatives return to work following closures caused by Coronavirus, clients and contractors alike are keen to find out if, and how, they can deliver projects on time. Simon Martin of K2 Consultancy considers the options.
Although most, if not all sites were closed down almost immediately, in a manner far from being a planned shutdown, the opposite is unlikely to apply to project re-starts. Put simply, we cannot just reschedule the programme to restart from the date site reopens and we therefore need to produce a recovery programme which considers two main factors:
Firstly, the overall programme must be considered holistically to review the impact on pre-construction activities i.e. design and procurement; simply considering the construction programme is not sufficient. Contractors, designers, and consultants alike may have had to furlough staff and will still be working remotely in most instances, and this may well impact the timely delivery of programmed activities e.g. design deliverables or issuing tenders. However the biggest impact is likely to be on the supply chain itself and understanding when materials will arrive on site. For example, there is currently a shortage of plaster and plasterboard within the UK due to factory shutdowns. Many materials and products are imported from across the globe and local Coronavirus situations will have had impacts on production overseas, not to mention transport issues. Lead times for materials need to be established in order to produce a realistic programme.
Secondly, productivity levels on site will be lower than before the shutdown. There may be several factors which will influence productivity (assuming materials are available), but of course government and industry guidelines, predominantly those relating to social distancing, will limit the numbers of workers on site or in a particular area, and labour levels may be impacted by furloughed staff, or difficulties in travelling to site for example. The impact on productivity will be difficult to estimate initially (will it be a 10% or 25% reduction perhaps?) and will also vary between project phases e.g. piling may be relatively unaffected, but fitout may be most affected. Productivity may also increase over the medium to long term as restrictions are eased and eventually lifted.
Taking the above into account, the production of a recovery programme in this unprecedented situation will be challenging. Traditional approaches such as fast-tracking the schedule (performing more activities in parallel) or crashing the schedule (adding more resources to reduce durations) are unlikely to be viable, most likely due to social distancing restrictions and supply chain issues.
It may pay dividends to examine the critical path and consider how to minimise it, for example by employing alternative methods or materials or suppliers. It may also be necessary to review logistics and phasing to minimise the impacts of reduced productivity or increased lead times. All parties may also need to agree alternative solutions for completion such as phased handovers if possible.
Although the process may be intensive, there are many potential benefits to be realised. Firstly, the benefits of high quality and intelligent planning will become evident. Secondly collaboration between all parties will be paramount, and communication will become key with the project team scattered geographically, and planning workshops becoming virtual. This may well increase participation and commitment in future. Finally, 3D logistics and phasing plans accompanying the programme and 4D planning (BIM) will be invaluable in ensuring everyone understands the recovery programme. This situation may prove an ideal platform for showcasing these technologies.
Simon Martin is an Associate Director with K2 Consultancy, heading up the Technical Services Team. He has over 15 years’ experience of planning all phases of large and technically challenging projects across numerous industry sectors, including aviation, defence, engineering and mining.
Simon is experienced in Schedule Risk Analysis, Earned Value Management and Delay Analysis.