A Case Study on How to Improve Construction
The most recent Case Study on the COMIT website is one which describes the development of a software solution (Pre Enrolment) that grew from a partnership between Willmott Dixon and Colonel Duck Productions.
I like this case study and I recommend you read it, not just because the solution is something that will apply to many construction scenarios but because of how it came about.
Colonel Duck is a production company. That’s right, the kind of company you might expect to be good at producing videos, promotional material and communications etc. It is not the kind of company that you would immediately associate with delivering innovative solutions to construction.
But Colonel Duck is also a small, creative and dynamic company. When they were approached by Willmott Dixon to create some site induction videos, they could have done just that. But instead they wanted to understand the site induction process. As Colonel Duck’s Head of Business Development, Michael Delaney put it:
“if we just do what people ask us to do then we will never do anything new”.
So Colonel Duck engaged with Willmott Dixon who, all due credit to them, took the time to explain the site induction process in detail and the role it plays in ensuring site safety. This was not a minor undertaking with all the usual time and cost constraints that contractors work within. Willmott Dixon showed real foresight in working with Colonel Duck and an innovative zeal to improve their induction process. They also showed a willingness to consider a completely different approach, something not often seen in an industry characterised by its conservative nature.
Consequently, a bunch of creative people with presentation and communication skills got to understand what it was that a company skilled in construction, had to present and communicate. And not surprisingly they came up with a much better way of doing it.
The details are in the case study, but in a nutshell Colonel Duck recognised a number of constraints imposed by the existing induction process that were unnecessary.
This included inductions always taking place on site when much of the material could be delivered to workers away from site via mobile phones, tablets or PC’s. This meant workers could take as long as they needed to understand the material and it also provided an opportunity to test that understanding via online questionnaires.
This is highly valuable in an industry where a lot of site staff do not have English as their first language. Traditionally workers sign to say they have received and understood an induction but there is little if any testing of their comprehension. Colonel Duck’s solution not only provides a more flexible system that saves time on site, it also delivers a more effective site induction.
Add to this the ability to avoid the duplication of recorded details as workers move between sites, the flexibility of tailoring inductions to job roles and the integration with site entry systems – and you have a solution that can dramatically reduce costs while improving site safety.
And all this came about because Willmott Dixon asked them to create some videos.
Furthermore, the technology behind this solution is by no means leading edge. It is certainly elegantly designed and executed but it uses a standard web application approach. What makes it clever and delivers the value is the re-imagination of the process.
And that is where this case study is a beautiful example of what COMIT has been preaching for years. Technology companies need to understand construction; construction companies need to facilitate that understanding and everybody needs to focus on process.
If we can manage to do that then IT innovation in construction has a very rosy future.