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The Supply Chain is a Key Part of Successful Collaboration

The issue of collaborative working in construction has been high on the agenda for over 20 years. The 1994 and 1998 reports by Michael Latham and Sir John Egan – Constructing the Team and Rethinking Construction, respectively – defined the need to work together to combat inefficiencies in order to achieve significant cost savings.In part the industry heeded the advice with frameworks, in particular, becoming much more common.

The case for collaboration is clear. It offers the best results – stronger long-term relationships, shared research for creating better ideas, time- and cost-savings due to greater understanding and reduced overheads. All of these aspects have a direct impact on efficiency, both on a project-by-project basis and for ongoing best practice.

That said, significant improvements can still be made, especially when it comes to integrating suppliers more closely into construction projects. Even now, the majority of communication takes place between client, contractor and architect, while manufacturers of building products are seldom involved until the later stage in any project.

Arguably, that’s due to a difference in mindset. As a manufacturer, it’s second nature to buy from suppliers for years at a time because we can develop new ideas and solve problems together. A long-term relationship creates a better understanding; our team gets to know the products instinctively but always know who they can call on for advice or training.

We couldn’t run without an integrated supply chain – but few of our customers have that system in place, meaning that they don’t always appreciate how manufacturers run a business. You might call it ‘factory gate syndrome.’ As long as the products are being supplied on time and on budget, procurement managers, designers or contractors don’t look beyond the factory gate. And there is a lot to learn there.

Manufacturing and contracting are very different businesses. Although they often use a common language, the meaning in the processes and approach is quite different. This therefore leads to lack of understanding and a failure to get optimal outcomes. So the key to good collaboration between manufacturing and construction is translation, to ensure that best practice in one sector can be brought into the other. Because of these differences the suppliers’ knowledge is rarely called on fully. Surely the companies that actually make the products have the most extensive knowledge of how to improve efficiencies for their customers.

In collaboration, where can savings be made? The biggest savings comes from building a reliable supply chain using the same companies rather than jumping between suppliers from project to project. Not only is this applicable to large capital projects, but any size project can have more efficiency with a collaborative approach. By listening to the needs of the manufacturer, the integrated team can now adjust to improve efficiency for the manufactures customers. How can a communicative, collaborative team improve your next building project?

This article was originally published by Constructing Excellence and originally written by Ron Edmondson.

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