Table of Contents
1 Problem Statement
The construction industry holds a significant position in society, providing the built environment for community life, contributing to the local and national economy in the United Kingdom (UK) and providing employment to approximately 10% of the working population (Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) 2013). HM Government (2013) also recognises the fact that this industry contributes to the level of inward investment in this country with significant additional potential to enhance income from exports.
However the industry has also been criticised for underperforming, with low levels of productivity and a variable service offered to industry clients (HM Government 2013; Latham 1994; Egan 1998). This is an important issue for organisations within the industry, in terms of their profitability and workloads. However it is argued that poor performance in the construction industry also has wider implications due to the impact of the sector in the economy, the provision of essentials such as housing and infrastructure and the fact that the industry supports other commercial sectors (Rhodes 2015; BIS 2013; Myers 2016).
This research explores the causes and effects of delays in the construction industry, focusing on the industry in the UK.
2 Outline Literature Review
An outline review of pertinent literature was carried out to understand the extent of research carried out to date on this issue. The review focuses on the extent of delays in the industry and provides an overview of the impacts of these delays.
2.1 Extent of Delays in the Construction Industry
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) suggest that as a whole, construction projects are delivered “on time or better 41% of the time”, although this figure varies each year as shown in Figure 2.1 (Glenigan 2016, p.8).
Figure 2.1. Time Predictability in Construction 2008-2016 (Glenigan 2016, p.8).
It is clear from the above figure that over the past decade, delays during the construction stage of a project’s life cycle have had a detrimental impact on overall project performance (Glenigan 2016). Ramanathan et al. (2012) argue that low levels of productivity are indicative of inefficiencies in the industry, adding that these inefficiencies are manifested as delays in construction. HM Government (2013) agree, suggesting that the industry needs to improve its performance in terms of the time (and cost) of project delivery.
2.2 Impacts of Delay
It is argued that the impacts of delay include poor levels of client satisfaction and reduced profitability (Fulford and Standing 2014). Poor time management on a project can have a knock-on impact on costs and quality, as delays are typically associated with increased costs and can adversely affect quality if workers are under-pressure to make good the time lost (Harris and McCaffer 2013). Meng (2012) expands the argument, taking the view that delays can lead to conflict over the cause of the delay with Hughes et al., (2015) adding that delays affect the contract and result in disputes over the party who should assume responsibility for such costs.
2.3 Causes of Delay
There are general agreement that delays in the construction industry are linked to high levels of fragmentation (Alashwal and Fong 2015), disjointed project delivery with low levels of collaboration (Fulford and Standing 2014) and the use of competitive procurement and reliance on sub-contracting (Hartmann and Caerteling 2010). Olawale and Sun (2015) agree, adding that design changes during the construction process can lead to delays, with Naoum (2016) maintaining that factors such as ineffective project management, a lack of leadership and the method of procurement can lead to delays. Myers (2016) implies that the industry has evolved into a fragmented sector due to the use of project-based work loads and the cyclical nature of these workloads.
It is argued that the result of these issues is that projects are typically delivered late and over-budget, which has a negative impact on the relationship with clients, profitability and the reputation of the industry (Arashpour and Arashpour 2015; Larsen et al., 2015). Furthermore it is submitted that this also affects the value-added by the industry to clients and to society (HM Government 2013; Egan 1998).
3 Aim and Objectives
The aim of this research is to explore the causes and effects of delays in construction projects in the UK. The objectives of the study are to
- Consider the extent of delay as a problem in the construction industry
- Explore the underling factors for delay from the main contractor perspective
- Assess the impact of these delays in terms of time, cost and quality
- Determine the tools/processes that could be used to reduce delays
- Ascertain the barriers to implementing these tools/processes.
This research seeks to add to the discourse on delays in the construction industry with a target audience of academic research and with the intention of providing construction professionals active in the industry with an insight into this problem. It is therefore important that the research is carried out in a logical, defensible and transparent manner (Fellows and Liu 2015). As such this research will be conducted in stages, starting with confirmation of the research approach and strategy, followed by the data collection and analysis methods (Bryman and Bell 2011). It is confirmed that this research is underpinned by quantitative reasoning as this is consistent with the researcher’s scientific and technical background (Farrell 2011).
4.1 Research Approach and Strategy
This dissertation focuses on delays in the construction industry, asking a specific question, namely
“What are the key causes of delay in construction projects and what are the main impacts of these delays?”
It is evident therefore that the research is a deductive rather than in inductive study (Biggam 2015).
Based on the outline review of literature in the previous section, it is submitted that this question can be divided into a series of linked sub-questions to guide the selection of the optimal strategy for this study. These include
- Why does fragmentation affect the efficiency of project completion?
- Is there a link between the method of procurement and delays?
- What role does the project manager/project management play in delays?
- Is delay influenced by the design team and /or client decisions?
- What measures are typically used to plan the project programme?
There are a range of research strategies which could be used to answer these questions including case study research which Naoum (2012) argues provides a flexible approach to research, enabling the researcher to consider the problem of and solution to delays from a range of perspectives in the industry. Fellows and Liu (2015, p.23) takes the view that a case study allows the research to ask how and why questions, whereas a survey expands the study to who, what, where and how much. In other words, the survey method offers the potential for an in-depth understanding of the problem of delays in construction and the potential to find a solution through detailed investigation of the causal factors. Bryman and Bell (2011) imply that archival study could add value to this discourse on delays, as it entails examining past performance and trends to predict future performance.
Given the fact that the construction industry is a complex sector comprising a myriad of organisations and types of construction (BIS 2013), it was decided to use the survey strategy as this option offers flexibility, whilst allowing the research to view the issue of delay from different perspectives (Fellows and Liu 2015).
4.2 Data Collection and Analysis
Survey data can primary and/or secondary with the former typically taking the form of interviews or questionnaires and the latter referring to published data. There are merits to both, for example interviews provide a mechanism to gather detailed information from a selected sample of professionals at the forefront of construction projects, whereas questionnaires facilitate the collection of a large volume of data from a sample of professionals in construction in a relatively short period of time compared to interviews. It is further argued that there is also merit to the use of secondary data as this enables the topic of delays in construction to be assessed from the expert perspective or from studying current practice in the construction industry (Farrell 2011; Fellows and Liu 2015; Naoum 2012).
It was decided that in this instance the research required two forms of data collection, namely secondary data drawing on the actual experiences from construction projects with respect to time management processes used in contemporary construction and primary data collected using a questionnaire. It is argued that the secondary data will provide detailed information which will be used alongside the data gathered in the literature review to develop the questions for the questionnaire. The data collected will be analysed using statistical, descriptive analysis to ascertain trends in the data and to answer the research question posed in this study (Bryman and Bell 2011).
4.3 Limitations and Ethics
There are potential limitations associated with this methodology, including the need to find a representative sample of professionals to participate in the study. This is an important point as the sample needs to be representative of wider opinion in the population that is the construction industry. As such the sample will be selected using the researcher’s contacts in the industry and the questions will be used to confirm that each participant has sufficient knowledge and experience of the construction industry in the UK to contribute to the study (Grove et al. 2009).
The research will include the collection of data from non-vulnerable human subjects, as such the researcher will conform to the accepted norms of academic study, by explaining the purposes of the study, the way in which the data will be collected and by avoiding the collection of personal or commercially sensitive data (Bryman and Bell 2011).
This dissertation is a substantial volume of work, therefore to negate the limitations of poor time management and missing key deadlines for the study, the research will be conducted as set out in the programme of work illustrated in Figure 4.1.
Figure 4.1. Programme of Work.
Alashwal, A.M. and Fong, P.S.W., 2015. Empirical study to determine fragmentation of construction projects. Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, 141(7), p.04015016.
Arashpour, M. and Arashpour, M., 2015. Analysis of workflow variability and its impacts on productivity and performance in construction of multistory buildings. Journal of Management in Engineering, 31(6), p.04015006.
Biggam, J., 2015. Succeeding with your master's dissertation: a step-by-step handbook. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill Education.
Bryman, A. and Bell, E., 2015. Business research methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 2013. UK Construction: An economic analysis of the sector. London: BIS.
Egan, J., 1998. The Egan report-rethinking construction. report of the construction industry task force to the deputy prime minister. London: HMSO.
Farrell, P., 2011. Writing a built environment dissertation: practical guidance and examples. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.
Fellows, R.F. and Liu, A.M., 2015. Research methods for construction. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.
Fulford, R. and Standing, C., 2014. Construction industry productivity and the potential for collaborative practice. International Journal of Project Management, 32(2), pp.315-326.
Glenigan, 2016. UK Industry Performance Report. London: Glenigan.
Harris, F. and McCaffer, R., 2013. Modern Construction Management. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.
Hartmann, A. and Caerteling, J., 2010. Subcontractor procurement in construction: the interplay of price and trust. Journal: Supply Chain Management: An International Journal, 15 (5), pp.354–362.
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Hughes, W., Champion, R. and Murdoch, J., 2015. Construction contracts: law and management. Abingdon: Routledge.
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Latham, S.M., 1994. Constructing the team. London: HMSO.
Meng, X., 2012. The effect of relationship management on project performance in construction. International journal of project management, 30(2), pp.188-198.
Myers, D., 2016. Construction economics: A new approach. Abingdon: Routledge.
Naoum, S., 2012. Dissertation research and writing for construction students. Abingdon: Routledge.
Naoum, S.G., 2016. Factors influencing labor productivity on construction sites: A state-of-the-art literature review and a survey. International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, 65(3), pp.401-421.
Olawale, Y. and Sun, M., 2015. Construction project control in the UK: Current practice, existing problems and recommendations for future improvement. International Journal of Project Management, 33(3), pp.623-637.
Ramanathan, C., Narayanan, S.P. and Idrus, A.B., 2012. Construction delays causing risks on time and cost-a critical review. Construction Economics and Building, 12(1), pp.37-57.
Rhodes, C., 2015. Briefing Paper Number 01432, Construction industry: statistics and policy. London: House of Commons Library.
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