Human Recognition Systems’ CEO Neil Horman thinks it’s time the industry turns the tide on productivity losses with the help of digital solutions.
Despite never being formally required to halt operations, housebuilders across Britain have clearly been affected by the lockdown period. In fact, some experts believe that the number of new homes completed during the last quarter was only half the rate of what it was the year before. Additionally, as restrictions are lifted and some sense of normalcy returns, housebuilders now face intense pressure to ensure that pre-arranged project delivery dates are upheld. As such, there’s now a real incentive for the sector to adopt more digitalised working practices, which can be used to foster new efficiencies and workforce productivity gains. Fortunately, solutions like this do exist, but must become more widely adopted to have the impact the industry needs.
The term “workforce productivity gains” relates to the amount of goods and services that a worker or workforce can produce in a given amount of time. Within the housebuilding sector, the concept refers to total delivered homes. Unfortunately, unlike other industries, the construction sector, including housebuilding, has been slow in adopting new solutions, which could be used to help improve workforce productivity. Instead, many in the sector have been reluctant to adopt new working practices. At times this may have held the industry back.
The construction sector has lagged behind other industries in terms of workforce productivity gains for many decades. According to a recent McKinsey research report, productivity in the construction sector has stagnated in the past 40 years. During the same period, other industries, such as manufacturing, have experienced an almost doubling of productivity rates. Whilst there are structural differences between the sectors, which can explain some of this gap, it’s also clear that some businesses in the construction sector aren’t doing enough to drive through innovation. This industry ‘blind-spot’ is arguably best summed up when analysing the sector’s complicated relationship with digital solutions.
Whilst not alone in the sector, housebuilders have been notoriously slow in embracing the ‘digital revolution’, which has engulfed many other industries during the last decade. As such, the idea of ‘digitalisation’, which denotes the combination of technologies, people and processes in a way that delivers productivity benefits remains somewhat stifled in the sector. At MSite, we believe this is down to some lasting institutionalised objections, which the sector must now work to overcome. Most notably, we believe that housebuilders often find it difficult to apply existing procurement methods to long-term investments, such as digital solutions. Additionally, there are also issues around standardisation and worker buy-in, but these concerns should be easier to fix.
Currently, procurement within the housebuilding sector is often a cost-based process, which looks to deliver the greatest short-term return for the lowest financial output. Conversely, other forms of investments, such as the adoption of an innovative digital-based software can only be judged in the long-term. Unlike short-term purchases, long-term investments can end up deriving results and adding value further down the line, such as workforce productivity gains. As such, these investments are best understood through the prism of a value-based purchase model. Therefore, it’s important that purchasing managers within housebuilding businesses become more open to prioritising long-term results. By making this switch, the sector may be able to protect itself from the fates faced by other change-adverse industries, such as travel, retail and banking, which all now face serious competition from innovative, outside disruptors.
Exciting solutions, such as our new MSite Workforce App, are allowing housebuilders to evolve their operations and meet project demands like never before. The multi-purpose digital solution allows businesses to operate contactless workforce access control and sign-in, not only making it easier for companies to manage the ‘new normal’ on sites, but also allowing more ‘joined-up’ thinking on-site and at a company-wide level.
The sector finds itself on the verge of unlocking significant safety and productivity gains through innovative digital solutions. These solutions are finally enabling the ‘digitalisation’ of people and processes within the housebuilding sector, and those who embrace the new tech may gain an advantage over those who are slower to adopt new methods. Leading companies in the industry will finally be able to establish reliable digital ecosystems within their operations, which will pave the way to productivity gains.