Improve performance in a construction project
As a result of these methods, Taylor managed to lower the workforce responsible for shovelling coal at the Bethlehem Iron Company from 500 down to 140. He also managed to increase the amount of pig-iron handled by each worker by a factor of four (Taylor, 1967). Taylor’s findings also greatly contributed to the formulation of organisational theory as a whole. Frank and Lillian Gilbreth to give one example published their own theories of organisation in management, formed by the study of bricklaying, influenced by Taylor’s work.
With regards to the construction industry, how is a typical project organised? If we assume a chain of action, where one task logically follows another, there are numerous ways of organising a construction project. The majority of projects are organised on a Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) method, a standardised construction contract that shows what each party is required to undertake. The project to rebuild Wembley Stadium was undertaken through this process.
In this case the Client (The Football Association) wanted to avoid timescale and/or budget escalations affecting their own financial position. The Contractor (Multiplex Ltd) was responsible for any overspend or overrun in the building schedule, through a fixed price JCT. (Design Build Network, 2006) The
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The best example of this can be demonstrated by the building of the new Terminal 5 at London’s Heathrow Airport (Analysis, 2006). The Client (BAA plc) took on the risk for the project, from the planning stage onwards, leaving the 60 contractors employed on the project to concentrate in the delivery of the project (Airport Technology, 2006). Project Partnering Contracts (PPC 2000) have developed from Sir John Egan’s ‘Rethinking Construction’ (Audit Commission, 2006).
In this case clients, contractors and those concerned with the design process come together and are all involved in one central contract. When Macclesfield station was refurbished, a PPC 2000 contract was employed (Lean Construction, 2006) Taking these three examples of organisational contracts, how do they relate to Taylor’s theory of scientific management? The first two points made earlier, about finding the right workers and training them specifically and scientifically for their specific job, can be satisfied by most if not all construction projects.
The amount of statutory training required for employment on a building site accounts for this, to give one example. The best way to answer the question is look at how successful each project mentioned was in its aims. Taylor saw scientific management as a way for firms to improve efficiency and output, for the monetary gain of both the employer and employee; in his own words “…. to secure the maximum prosperity for the employer, coupled with the maximum prosperity for each employee” (Taylor, 1967).
He also noted that employer and employee should not necessarily have competing interests; that they are not embarking in a zero-sum game (The ‘co-operation’ point made earlier). From this observation alone, we can see why the rebuilding of Wembley Stadium is being held up as an example of how not to carry out a large construction project, whereas the construction of Terminal 5 at Heathrow, one of the largest civil engineering projects in Europe, is on time, on budget and has an exemplary safety record for a project of its size.
Where on one hand, BAA decided to act in a cooperative fashion with all its contractors (insomuch that they have not placed any financial risk on their contractors) and labour, the Football Association in effect sold all financial risk to Multiplex, who handled their first British construction project in a adversarial fashion. Various squabbles with sub-contractors, famously with their original steel supplier (Cleveland Bridge) resulted in the stadium falling three years behind its original opening date.
How could the rebuilding of Wembley Stadium, been improved to the point where it came in as designed, rather than as it is today, where the project is still incomplete, and millions of pounds over budget? Instead of following the fixed-price route, putting the contractor in a position where the only way they were to make money was by cutting costs on an unrealistically budgeted project, the client could have followed a similar route that BAA pursued for the Terminal 5 project.
The client, the Football Association would have had a far better chance of owning a fully functional facility at this point in time if they had decided, as per Taylor’s principles, on a far more equitable division of responsibilities between themselves, the contractors and the designers. Not taking accountability for the building phase meant they had little control over any delays, which from a public relations angle were far more damaging to themselves than their contractor.
It seems that they decided to pay a certain price for their project, and if any problems arose on the project, they would resort to litigation. So it can be argued, in these examples given that, even for a construction project of the magnitude of Terminal 5, the closer that a project gets to Taylor’s principles of scientific management, the more likely it is to succeed in its initial aims.