How standardisation can help to reduce error

5 May 21

Standardising requirements and components across the construction industry is a key recommendation of the Construction Playbook. The aim is to improve productivity and quality and increase the use of modern methods of construction. GIRI executive director Cliff Smith highlights the need to view standardisation not as a compromise on design but as a way to achieve better outcomes for all involved in the project.

I recently attended a webinar organised by the CLC that addressed one of the key recommendations of the Construction Playbook  harmonise, digitise, and rationalise. This three-point strategy aims to transform project delivery through greater use of modern methods of construction by standardising specifications and component requirements and aggregating demand. One of the benefits will be to bring greater predictability to construction projects.

This is a message we push in our events at GIRI. If you can standardise specifications, it will help to reduce error. But we need to move away from the idea that this will constrain creativity. As Jaimie Johnson of Bryden Wood put it, “standardisation at product level gives freedom at asset level”.

Just as in the LEGO exercise in GIRI’s training courses, where participants have the same components but build completely different structures, the standardisation of basic components doesn’t standardise the end product. But it does lead to fewer errors and can make projects more efficient, more profitable, and improve quality and certainty.

In construction, which is an unpredictable environment, you need as much certainty as you can get. The more we can harmonise the process and standardise the components and specifications, the more certainty we can bring to a project and the greater the probability of getting things right.

The Construction Playbook is a step in this harmonisation process. It prompts clients to ‘lean into commonality’. Its development was driven by Government, and if big clients such as the Ministry of Justice, the NHS, and the Department of Education start to move together on commonality, it will be adopted more widely. In construction, it could lead to greater predictability, productivity, and profitability.

Standardisation of specifications and requirements also paves the ways for more widespread use of modern methods of construction, such as off-site manufacturing. This, in turn, plays into another Government policy, the ‘levelling up agenda’. If component manufacture does not have to be local to the project, the funds invested in infrastructure can be better distributed around the country.

Unlike other reports before it, the Construction Playbook could result in a real step-change in the way the construction industry works in the UK. However, as one of the speakers Keith Waller of the Innovation Hub made clear, it needs to be more than just policy. It must be an action plan for better outcomes.

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