As the old adage goes: “two heads are better than one”. But is it possible to work together in the scaffolding sector?  Sally Peck looks at the pros and cons of collaboration.

In the world of construction – be it designing, building, project managing, insulating, scaffolding or roofing – working in unison can mean solutions to potential problems are found faster.

Of course, when we talk about collaboration, we are not necessarily suggesting you team up with your competitors, although this can work on big contracts where you may struggle to deliver alone.

But we are talking about working alongside similar companies engaged on the same project.

And here there can be a raft of benefits, not just for you but for your customer too.

A common goal

Collaboration is about identifying shared goals and investing combined time and effort into achieving them.

It’s also about sharing benefits and combining expertise.

Offerings can include anything from information, data, processes, resources and skills.

And the benefits to combining resources can be monetary – in terms of cost savings – and can support employment opportunities, cross sector training and help to address skill gaps, supply chain engagement and transparent and timely procurement.

For your client, responsiveness can be increased through economies of scale and availability of more resources and increased capacity and expertise means that more can be achieved for less.

Better decision making and a broader understanding of the bigger picture of activity can also reduce waste.

Why we need to work together

For centuries, the building trade has been a hugely fragmented industry, with lots of different companies coming together for a particular project and then moving on to different ones.

Typically, a client will commission an architectural team or design team, and then engineers will become involved.

Building services consultants and structural engineers get the call next, before a separate building or roofing contractor finally arrives to undertake the actual work itself.

Then there are workers on site with individual jobs who rarely know much about the bigger picture.

Such fragmentation means that it takes a long time for best practice to filter through and communication failures between contractors and procurement teams compromise jobs.

Break down the barriers

New technology and ways of working are helping to break down barriers between the different players in the construction process. Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), which advocates the collective harnessing of all project participants’ talents and insights, is one approach that many in the industry think can make the process more collaborative.

It makes projects much quicker, smoother and cheaper but is currently only being used properly on the largest projects.

Challenges of collaborative working

It would be wrong to pretend collaboration was always plain sailing.

It can also bring enormous challenges and these shouldn’t be ignored.

1. Sometimes not everyone is starting from the same place.

Disagreements are not the best way to find a strategy forward.

You need to know that you have the same drive and ambition or your partnership will fail. Before you agree to work together, thrash out what it is you hope to achieve and your plans for achieving it.

2. Decision making can become more complex.

This is usually the case in partnerships where clear communication and a coherent discussion are absent. Make sure the person you work with is happy – and available – to talk through any of your concerns.

3. Savings can take time to materialise.

Delays can be frustrating but remember that if you persevere with the partnership, you will start to reap the rewards.

Why we collaborate

 

At Apex Roofing we work together with our sister organisation Apex Scaffolding on a regular basis.

We have very defined roles, actions, processes and responsibilities in the projects we undertake but find that collaborative decision making helps the project work smoothly and on time.

We run parallel research on risk management and we share staff which creates a skilled and motivated team, all of which are chosen on the basis of “best for the job”.

And we identify and align aims and objectives at a “best for project” decision making meeting ahead of the work.

By doing so we create a culture of engagement and innovative thinking.

How you can do it too

If you are considering taking a collaborative approach to your next project, consider the following:

1     Awareness – become part of a working entity with a shared purpose

2     Motivation – create consensus in problem solving or development

3     Self-synchronisation – decide when things need to happen

4     Participation – where everyone gets stuck in

5     Mediation –negotiate and find a common ground

6     Reciprocity –share and expect sharing in return

7     Reflection – consider alternatives and adapt accordingly as a project progresses

8     Engagement – proactively engage with each other rather than await instructions.