C+S September 2021 Vol. 7 Issue 9 (web)

higher. The Construction Leadership Council lists steel, timber, ce - ment, aggregates, plastics, and roof tiles as facing supply constraints. Given the ongoing volatility in the materials market, which is expected to last into next year, it is vital that budgets for infrastructure projects are closely monitored to avoid costs spiralling out of control. Data will be central to the sector overcoming ongoing economic un - certainty, with the increased visibility and agility offered by digital technologies helping to inform decision making and track all costs associated with a large-scale infrastructure project. Without a robust, fully digitised cost value reconciliation (CVR) pro - cess in place, projects risk overspending or under recovery. Tracking CVR through innovative software means project teams can easily track monthly expenditure and revenue, and finance directors are kept abreast of project cash flow forecasting. Intelligent analytics As management teams face ever-increasing complexity, not to mention ongoing cost and materials disruption, access to accurate, up to date information is critical to inform smart decision making. The ICE report into systems thinking concluded that a ‘golden loop’ of high-quality digital information was at the heart of its recommen - dations. Enabling data-driven planning, project delivery and asset management, with data flowing through the asset’s lifecycle and back into future planning, is essential to create a new generation of future- proofed infrastructure. While long-term conversations around a common approach to the col - lection, storage, and exchange of data across the construction supply chain will continue, there are micro steps that can be taken now to ensure that businesses feel the full benefit of this information flow. The use of dashboards provides full visibility of trends, based on ac - tual and real-time data, giving the business an accurate and up-to-date representation of a project. Producing weekly and monthly reports will help to raise any concerning trends, and real-time information can prevent over-spend.

The use of mobile apps also means that staff working on-site can instantly view or submit key data to the ERP and finance system, rather than waiting until they are back in the office. With market forces changing rapidly, this speeds up the process and minimises any chance of error or confusion. As the industry seeks to develop a pipeline of engineers and manage - ment which can thrive in technology-driven environments, this is a long-term shift in skills and experience. In the meantime, the tried and tested engineers and construction methods will be vital to keep projects on track. By providing user-friendly solutions to teams on-site and in head office, the industry can help to bridge the gap between a tech-led, full systems integration and antiquated methods of project manage - ment dominated by spreadsheets and even paper-based systems. Major infrastructure projects are at the heart of Government plans to build back from Covid-19 and this presents huge opportunities for the civil engineering and construction sectors, with huge transport and energy projects, such as HS2 and Dogger Bank wind farm, just the tip of the iceberg. Despite the huge opportunities, it is clear that the current delivery mod - el for complex infrastructure projects is at risk of perpetuating long- term completion delays and spiralling costs. These challenges can be avoided, however, if the sector takes inspiration from other sectors by embracing digital technology and moving towards a systems approach.

CAROL MASSAY is head of construction at The Access Group. She sits on the Bank of England's Decisions Makers Panel (DMP) and has 30 years of experience working within construction, including 15 years in technology.



september 2021

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