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24/10/18

What Can Hollywood Teach Construction?

What Can Hollywood Teach Construction?

What Can Hollywood Teach Construction?

I recently watched Gone in Sixty Seconds and it got me thinking. For those of you who don’t know the film, Nicholas Cage and Angelina Jolie are given a list of 50 high performance and luxury cars which must be stolen in one night. The penalty for failing is death.

In order to complete the task Cage and Jolie assemble a group of professional car thieves and plan in detail the sequence and timing of the theft of each car. During the course of the night a number of unexpected events crop up, including the involvement of the local police force which requires a change to the overall plan.  Monitoring the progress is a retired thief called ‘Auto’. How does he monitor this progress? With a blackboard and chalk. Not sophisticated, I know, but efficient.

There are a number of parallels which can be drawn with today’s construction industry.
Most projects start with a detailed list of requirements, be that either a detailed bill of quantities, employers requirements, or performance specification. The completion deadline is also provided along with a penalty for failing to complete. Thankfully in my experience this is not death, but if it is not reasonable it can be detrimental to the health of the contracting business. 
Contractors are good at reviewing the details of the project, assembling the team and providing some form of programme to completion. The quality of these programmes is variable. Some programmes are well thought out and fully logic-linked whereas others are a high-level overview with no links included - but at least there is usually a sequence indicated as to how the contractor intends to complete the project.

The next part, monitoring progress, is where the difference usually occur. 
Contractors generally record progress against each activity either on a weekly, fortnightly, or monthly basis. However, the difference between ‘informed’ and ‘un-informed’ contractors comes with using that progress data. Some update the programme by way of a jagged dropline whilst others input the data into a fully logic-linked programme and re-schedule. 
Whilst a jagged dropline may provide some form of status against individual activities, it does not provide an indication of the overall project status.  
Without inputting the progress data into a dynamic programme it is almost impossible to determine whether the project is ahead; on target; or behind the planned completion date.   

It is this lack of accurate updating and forecasting that cause most of the difficulties that I see. The absence of an accurate programme makes it almost impossible for any contractor to effectively plan its remaining works and inform its supply chain accordingly. A good programme also ensures that any delays are identified promptly, and should allow for the correct Notices to be issued as required under the contract.
The use of modern planning software allows the contractor to run various ‘what-if’ scenarios to determine the most effective way of reducing the impact of any delays, and if the programme includes the appropriate cost information, it also allows the assessment of likely costs.

A further benefit is that a dynamic programme allows variations and changes in the planned sequence of working to be modelled and evaluated ensuring that, if appropriate, the contractor receives its contractual entitlement.
So it is important not only to have the correct software in place but also to employ ‘Auto’ or another qualified person to correctly monitor progress and accurately record the position of the project.

So back to the film. Did Cage and Jolie achieve the contract? Almost, the final car was delivered 12 minutes late, which resulted in a difficult conversation with the client resulting in his demise. Fortunately, this does not happen in the industry – although I am sure there are some contractors who may have other ideas…

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