ECAM 21.3 Contents and editorial

ECAM 21.3


Improving construction productivity: a subcontractor’s perspective

Martin Loosemore, David Higgon and Laurie Foy

Addressing effective construction logistics through the lens of vehicle movements

Fei Ying and John Tookey

The Effect of Construction Demand on Contract Auctions: An Experiment

Alexander Soo and Bee Lan Oo

Critical Success Factors for Implementation of Risk Assessment and Management Practices within the Tanzanian construction industry

Nicholas Chileshe and Geraldine John Kikwasi

Construction Efficiency: A Tale of Two Developed Countries

Craig Langston

Highway maintenance: impact of framework agreements on contractor performance

LAM, Terence Y M and Gale, Keith


ECAM 21.3

This edition is virtually our Australasian edition with 8 authors from Australia and 3 from New Zealand with two co-authors one from Tanzania and one from the UK making up the 13 authors that contributed. Two of the papers are co-authored with industry or a research body.

The topics in this edition include: productivity and sub-contractors; construction logistics; the effect of demand on mark-ups; critical success factors in risk management and management practices; comparing construction performance in different countries; and traditional contracts v framework agreements,

What was pleasing in this set of papers was the robust and varied research methodologies ranging from focus groups; site observations and interviews; laboratory base simulations; survey; and a case study based on data analysis. This was good evidence of the research method being chosen to suit the investigations. I was particularly enthused by the laboratory based simulation. Totally unpredictable and relying on responses, many researchers would be too cautious to try this.

The papers that particularly interested me were the investigation into sub-contractors and productivity; the investigation into construction logistics; and the inter-country comparisons but this is simply reflecting my own interests in productivity and economic data. The other papers were well worthwhile too.

Papers in this edition are:

Martin Loosemore correctly argues that the sub-contractors perspective is almost entirely absent from the construction productivity literature. They decided to address this imbalance by forming eight focus groups from seventy-one tier one sub-contractors. With these groups they explored their insights to productivity. The findings include: the relationship with the main contractor; opportunity for early involvement in design; transparent tender practices; growing administration and document control; design management; project management and supervisory skills, particularly in planning, scheduling and coordination; risk management; and industrial relations. Stated like this the findings could appear general and obvious but this was a piece of work worth doing and provide a platform to build on.

Fei Ying, John Tookey and Johannes Roberti examine construction logistics by considering vehicle movements. These researchers set out to find about what hampers efficiency in transporting construction materials and plant to a construction site with the intention of improving construction logistics. A case study approach was used based on site observations and interviews with suppliers and sub-contractors. They argue that cost related both monetary and non-monetary are not measured and are ignored as are environmental factors and social impact of truck movements. The number of truck movements is generally only used for traffic management. The lack of understanding of construction supply chain management is due to a lack of commitment from management level and the skills at operational level.

This is a very critical report and therefore potentially well worthwhile. However I wondered whether this was a local issue or much more widespread, this would be worth knowing. Also I would have hoped for stronger advice on how to correct the situation, possibly by training.

Alexander Soo and Bee Lan Oo experiment to test the effect of construction demand on the mark-up price level in construction contract auctions. They conducted their experiment in a controlled laboratory environment where sealed bid auctions were simulated with a varying number of projects. They varied the market conditions from a boom to a recession. The findings show that inexperienced bidders varied bid price and general mark up with respect to levels of demand.

It is refreshing to see such an imaginative research methodology being used in a construction subject. The limitation of the findings is that the bidders were inexperienced students. Having designed the experiment perhaps it could now be repeated with different and more experienced participants. The researches could start to examine the responses of say a QS group, an engineering group, an accountants group and as it would be in practice a group with a range of mixed and relevant skills.

Nicholas Chileshe and Geraldine John Kikwasi explore critical success factors for implementation of risk assessment and management practices within the Tanzanian construction industry. The authors argue that there is little research on CSFs for the deployment of risk assessment and management processes in developing countries, particularly, Africa. The purpose of the research was to examine the perceptions of construction professionals with respect to CSFs in Tanzania. The authors surveyed 67 professionals and analysed their responses. The authors listed 10 critical success factors and the three highly ranked were:”awareness of risk management processes”; “team work and communications”; and “management style”. The least important were: “co-operative culture”; “customer requirement”; and “positive human dynamics”.

This left me a little confused as these findings did not align with my own prejudices. I would have thought that a cooperative culture and customer requirement would have been right up there at the top. There is an aspect here that I don’t fully understand. However the authors have collected and analysed data which is of value they now need to tell us what can be done with this data. How will it improve the industry’s management of risk and the development of CSFs?

Craig Langston compares the construction efficiency of two developed countries. The author tackles the vexed question of benchmarking construction performance of different countries arguing that it is not well done and no agreed method exists. The author proposes a new method for comparing international construction efficiency, tested on a dataset of 337 modern high-rise buildings in both Australia and the United States, and in so doing demonstrates that the ratio of cost over time is capable of ranking the performance of projects, building contractors, cities and even entire industries. Using this method the author examined efficiency in both countries using data from the five largest cities. The conclusion was that USA is outperforming Australia by 1.1%.

This is an interesting paper, perhaps because I like this sort of data, but it gives a framework to ask some probing questions relating to the set up of construction in different countries and the role of Government, trade unions and clients.

Perhaps the author will now compare many countries and start a worldwide discussion in the research community.

Terence Lam and Keith Gale are interested in highway maintenance, in particular framework agreements and contractor performance. The starting point is the UK history of client dissatisfaction. This work attempts to assess the difference between performance on framework agreements and traditional engagement of contractors in highway maintenance. Using a case study approach for one major county council in the UK data was gathered from 164 civil engineering highway projects separated into framework agreements and traditional contracts.

The analysis of the data showed significant improvements in overall performance and in time (finish on time), cost (payment accuracy) and quality (defects and health and safety) resulted from the framework agreements.

This is a tidy piece of research reporting success of framework agreements.

Ronald McCaffer