#### March 29, 2018

Planning is key

As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. This applies to all aspects of life, and your next potential construction project is definitely not an exception.

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has recently announced in January that between $16 -$19 billion worth of public projects will be awarded in 2018. On average, this amounts to an expected increase of $2 billion worth of projects compared to the previous year. The Government has also been helping the industry and this can be seen by the allocation of$1.4 billion in funds for construction contracts in 2017. These projects include upgrading works for community centres, sports halls and police stations, which greatly benefit the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The Government has also been the industry’s biggest client, generating $15.9 billion and over$20 billion worth of demand in 2016 and 2017 respectively. This upward trend is expected to continue in 2018.

Construction businesses must be prepared to take on projects with a clear goal in mind. You can utilize the following six considerations as a guide to make sure that you start your construction jobs on the right foot.

1. Management strategy

A good plan is half the work done. Your construction project management strategy will determine how well your workers can complete each stage of the project on time. With a good strategy, your workers can have enough rest and remain productive. Otherwise, dips in productivity will not only cause workers to overwork, it can also push your project past the deadline. This negatively impacts your company’s reputation and diminishes your chances of securing future contracts.

2. Manpower availability

Without manpower, no work can be done. Ensuring sufficient manpower that can last throughout the construction project period is crucial. However, with increased work demands across the Singapore construction industry, securing enough manpower for your projects may prove to be challenging. The presence of more than 8,000 construction companies operating in this region does not help the situation either.

To overcome the manpower challenge, one option is to place greater reliance on employment of foreign workers. However, you have to take note of Ministry of Manpower regulations when doing so. There are specific requirements for foreign work permits in the construction sector, in addition to the general ones. These requirements include satisfying the conditions for the source countries, the application age and the maximum period of employment. Moreover, there is a quota and levy involved. In general, you can only employ 7 work permit holders for every full-time local employee under the construction sector quota.

The other option is to streamline your operations with the help of technology. The streamlining process should replace physical labour with smart alternatives, such as prefabricated components and automated processes, thereby decreasing the need for manpower.

Missed deadlines often stems from scope creep, material shipment delays and workforce management issues. A detailed estimate of the raw materials budget and use of early supply orders is a simple yet effective solution that can prevent many potential delays.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) or apps such as Autodesk BIM 360 can also aid in project management. BIM helps to reduce the number of errors encountered on the construction site and minimises redundant work. It also ensures that everyone is looking at the latest plan and design, reducing communication delays between subcontractors. With the help of BIM’s optimised workflow management and automated alerts, delays are minimised and problems can be resolved swiftly.

Misunderstandings over contractual agreements is another area where disputes often threaten to delay construction projects. You should always aim to:

• Understand all terms and conditions in every contract
• Document all correspondence
• Safely file away all paperwork
• Communicate in a clear, easy-to-understand fashion

These help to prevent lengthy disputes and protect your company from potential legal claims and lawsuits.

4. Contingency plan for cost overruns

Cost overruns are an inherent risk in the construction industry. Common causes of cost overruns include:

• Budgeting errors
• Errors on estimates
• Scope creep
• Unexpected equipment and tool expenses
• Inadequate planning for order changes

To minimise cost overruns, plan your project by diligently tracking data and updates from design to project completion. When you observe that productivity has been steadily decreasing or delays have been steadily increasing, it is a sign for you to take immediate action.

You may also want to create a list of potential causes of cost overruns. This can include material delivery delays, adverse weather conditions or disputes with suppliers and subcontractors. Then, write down possible solutions to prevent or alleviate each problem. Your whole team should also know how to react promptly when problems surface.

Next, create a risk matrix by assigning a probability to each cause and its consequences. For those with high probabilities and/or high consequences, you should adjust management strategy and budget to cope with potential cost overruns.

With the above measures in place, your team can be prepared to deal with cost overruns.

5. Permits and permissions

Other than financial and manpower considerations, it is important to obtain the necessary permits and permissions before work can commence at the construction site.

Permits and permissions are mainly issued by BCA and are required for almost any structural project, including:

• Additions and alterations for existing buildings
• Housing developments
• Commercial buildings

In general, approvals for project permits and permissions will take at least 2 weeks. Thus, it is recommended to send in your applications early in the project planning phase.

Additionally, environmental considerations should also be one of your top priorities. In December 2017, 74 construction firms were penalised heavily for discharging silty water into waterways and causing water pollution. This is a situation which you would definitely want to avoid.

6. Safety requirements

The Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) guidelines clearly spells out the safety requirements all construction companies must follow to protect their workforce. Everything, from the operation of pressure vessels to the use of lifting equipment, is detailed in the documents on the Ministry of Manpower website. Failing to adhere to these safety requirements can result in project delays, reputation loss and even legal consequences.

Success in the construction industry

To do well in the construction industry, planning is often as important as execution. The 6 areas above that you need to consider can help to create a comprehensive and detailed plan that covers various aspects of your construction project.