In this article, David Simpson, Global Product Manager for Elecosoft, tells PBC Today how home builders are using project management software to achieve their construction goals.
UK homebuilders face complex challenges. They must manage the delivery of multiple developments in parallel while dealing with increasing lead times and material prices, getting the right craftsmen on site at the right time, and keeping customers satisfied. Unfortunately, the sector is falling behind government targets.
In 2021, the government called for 300,000 new homes to be built, but only 181,810 were delivered. This 40% deficit was the largest since 2007. It is clear that adjustments are needed to achieve bold goals in the years to come.
Housing construction has always been a strongly local industry, which naturally leads construction companies to organize regionally. When it comes to project management and planning, project planners traditionally use excel sheets or other tools to plan locally. However, project planning requires a similar approach no matter where a site is located.
Save time and share knowledge with software
By using project management software in a national company, planners from different regions can combine their knowledge, reduce their administrative burden and free up time for more important tasks. For example, with specialized project management software, it is possible to set up and adapt standard project templates to avoid starting from scratch.
And by updating the project planner throughout the project delivery, the team will create a record of the project. The main advantage is that it provides visibility and facilitates communication with the client’s colleagues and subcontractors. It can serve as a reference for future projects or as a summary of actions in the event of a dispute.
Three examples of companies that have met their delivery target for home construction projects are Bloor Homes, Lovell Partnerships and Durkan.
Eighty sites, an overview
As the UK’s largest builder of family homes, Bloor Homes works on thousands of plots across England. At any given time, Bloor employees are working on no less than 80 job sites. Getting all of these sites to work efficiently while maintaining transparency is a difficult task — and she saw software as the solution.
The company was using low-cost project management software with a web interface and an app. However, this was no longer fit for purpose as it required individual management and configuration for each site, which created unnecessary administrative tasks.
Instead, they wanted more visibility and transparency into their program management and processes.
After considering several alternatives, decision makers adopted Elecosoft Powerproject planning and project management software. They selected four network licenses and 36 standalone licenses to cover their seven regions. Additionally, they have extended the reach of the system with 100 mobile licenses as part of the Site Progress Mobile module, which provides site-to-desk progress reports of site managers using mobile devices across the country.
Another requirement was a custom integration with Bloor’s financial and enterprise resource planning software, which required a close working relationship.
Today, Bloor construction managers, contract managers, and site managers across the company are trained in the software and use it to plan projects and report progress.
A Bloor representative said, “The introduction of Site Progress Mobile’s field data capture capability has been a huge bonus, saving time across the group.”
Since adopting the software, Bloor has reported significant time savings, improved scheduling efficiency and better reporting accuracy. While the entire industry has gone through a period of uncertainty and change, Bloor’s approach to project management has helped the builder stay on track, as evidenced by its rating five stars by the Home Builders Federation in 2021, which recognizes customer satisfaction. and quality.
Working on a major award-winning housing partnership
Another homebuilder using technology to complete projects more efficiently is Lovell Partnerships, part of the Morgan Sindall Group. He was appointed as a house builder by the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk for an urban extension of 1,000 houses under a venture called Major Housing Partnership. With the project going from initial planning in 2014 to construction through 2025, Lovell uses Powerproject software to help his team plan the delivery of the project in phases and record progress.
As the first phase, the Orchard Place area posed a difficult initial challenge. The site had a high water table, tidal deposits and rich soil, which required time-consuming earthworks. Then the “Beast from the East” blizzard and the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic slowed progress. Fortunately, the software’s management and scheduling features allowed the team to make up for lost time.
Construction Manager Michael Saunders Michael said: “We can watch the whole project on screen and discuss the resources we needed to get us back on track. With Powerproject, you immediately see the impact of changes, helping you stay focused. For example, once we knew the cost and duration of earthworks, we updated the delivery sequence and looked at where we could take time. This motivated us to bring in prefabricated floor beams, rather than building them on site. »
When Covid security measures required the team to clean the site three times a day, it was easy to add them to the program templates. Later, when that requirement was lifted, the team found other uses for that time using a dynamic scheduling tool. The project management software also made it easier to share schedules with the client in real time, building confidence in the team’s delivery schedule.
Project management software enables teams to work quickly and consistently
The software has also helped Michael’s team engage with the supply chain, even though the pandemic has caused disruption. With Powerproject, they were able to filter requirements by contractor and share data with subcontractors. Likewise, the software allowed Lovell to create standardized templates for each type of property on the Orchard Place site. This allowed his team to work quickly and consistently.
Despite several unexpected challenges, the first phase of the project was a success, earning Michael a gold medal at the 2020 UK Construction Manager of the Year Awards.
Building on this success, the East Anglia team plans to continue using Powerproject for the remaining Major Housing Partnership sites. Michael added, “As a company, we have very satisfied customers and we want to continue these successful partnerships while winning similar projects. Powerproject is rooted in our team. And we’re still only using the tip of the iceberg!
Durkan created 354 homes in 139 weeks
Durkan is another construction company that has achieved success through software.
It delivered a four-block 354-unit project for Southern Housing Group (SHG) housing association in Ilford on schedule, with two blocks completed ahead of schedule. Project manager Patrick Phillips used Powerproject to manage the details that can make or break a project.
Patrick said: “We used Powerproject to manage access to the site, excluding certain periods when traffic would be heavy or the road would be blocked by delivery trucks. This allowed the program to run smoothly and also facilitated local relationships, as our machines did not impede access to nearby facilities.
Software also played a major role in design and production choices. Patrick explained: “For example, when we looked at traditional crane-based methods, the lead time came out at 62 weeks. However, when we incorporated slip forms into the program, we gained ten weeks, as we could pour one floor per day. Powerproject allowed us to move the whole timeline forward.
Realize the potential of project management software
By its nature, construction is complex and project management software can help take control of an uncertain world. Where a tool like Powerproject by Elecosoft stands out is that it was developed specifically for the built environment and can therefore provide an in-depth level of detail alongside a high-level overview. This is a real advantage for home builders who strive to complete projects on time.