Brendan Bechtel, new Chief Executive of Bechtel, one of the largest global construction companies in the world, recently made a speech to the Construction Industry Institute conference in National Harbor, Maryland in which he said, “Our house is on fire.” This was according to an editorial in Engineering News Record. Bechtel continued, “If we don’t address (the various problems), we may cease to exist as an industry…”
Sounds dire to me, how about you? What he was talking about was the current state of megaprojects (budgets of US $1billion and above) and the claims that “98% of all of those projects experience cost overruns or delays..the average cost increase is 80% and the average schedule slippage is 20 months.”
Sure, he was talking about projects that most of us will never bid or build, but he also intimated that those same problems plague the smaller projects that we build everyday. Sounds familiar. Lower productivity, aging workforce, shortage of skilled crafts people, overruns, schedule slippage for a variety of reasons. All of those issues need to be addressed now.
We have heard that productivity on all projects is very low and that the craft workforce is hard to find, usually untrained and getting close to retirement. And to make things more complicated, the construction industry is slow to adopt new technologies, cooperative methodologies, and as my professors told us in architecture school 50 years ago, we still build our projects 2 inches at a time.
Bechtel issued a call for the construction industry to look to manufacturing where productivity has far outstripped the construction industry and to take note of the new processes and technologies in the marketplace.
The time for a change is now because many of those megaprojects around the world will demand a new approach in the future.