Construction Services

The Changing Face of Construction in the Nordics

Covid-19 has changed the way we live and work across the globe. For the construction sector in Europe, the pandemic has brought about a big shift in attitudes towards digital innovation and traditional ways of working. In this series, we explore how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the industry in Europe and what this means for the outcomes delivered.

It’s clear that the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted – and continues to impact – each country in unique ways. As well as contending with different waves of the disease, every government has set their own regulations for construction industry activities.

For example, in Ireland non-essential construction sitesremained closed throughout much of early 2021; by contrast, sites have been allowed to open in the UK, but due to self-isolation measures, some projects are nowbeing delayed by staff shortages

In the Nordics, construction industries have been less severely impacted by the pandemic than some other European countries. Although some people have worked remotely at times, there have been a smaller number of lockdown closures.

As a result, between February and April 2021, construction activity in Denmark and Swedenactually increased. Despite a year of challenges, by April Finnish companies hadreturned to pre-crisis activity levels

In fact, construction in the Nordics is now growing rapidly, to the point of becoming overheated. Construction professionals in both Denmark and Sweden say the single biggest risk on their projects is time constraints and the need to make urgent decisions[ET1]

Beyond the pandemic, there is change ahead. Each country has committed to taking aleading role in the global green recovery. There will be pressure to work more efficiently and deliver greener builds, prompting changes for businesses.

In such a fast-moving industry, how can Nordic construction companies improve their operations, while preparing for further changes ahead?

Winning business

Winning new business is of course a core part of construction success. But organisations in the Nordics are missing out on a key means of creating competitive advantage and winning more business – and that’s effective data management.

In most businesses, each project team decides on the processes and tools based on their specific needs. After the project, the data is rarely re-examined to gain insights and knowledge. In other words, businesses don’t have a strong learning loop – and can be liable to make the same mistakes again and again.

Implementing a common data environment and using business intelligence (BI) modules can enable organisations to gain a more holistic view of their data, in a way that’s effective and sustainable. By not only capturing, but really using, past data, organisations can find opportunities to improve, gain a competitive advantage and ultimately win more business.

Maintaining quality

Delivering quality in a construction project comes down to three things: people, processes and tools. Unfortunately, it’s clear that some employees in the Nordics need a mindset shift. In the past, it was accepted wisdom that in construction you learned by getting things wrong – and many professionals acquired their skillset in this way.

These people can be reluctant to change and act as a blocker to adopting technology. For example, 40% of Norwegian construction firms say the reason they don’t have a data strategy is a lack of support from the leadership team and wider organisation[ET2]. Changing attitudes will be key for many businesses.

Once the right people are on board, organisations must take a holistic approach to their processes and examine how they can be improved with technology. Many businesses have tended to focus on optimising individual tasks – for example, finding the best tool to support quality inspections.

But in fact, we’re now realising the value of linking all the phases of a project from ideas and design through to construction and handover. Collaborating more closely, from design to operations, will mitigate errors and improve quality – and of course, that depends on having the right digital tools.

To maintain quality, it’s vital that information can be shared and accessed in real-time, enabling teams to avoid errors and make the best decisions. Equally, it’s important to ensure that tools aren’t siloed – or the data will be too.

Finally, remember slowing down can be faster. It can be difficult given the frenetic pace of construction right now. Nonetheless, taking the time to follow quality control processes in full will save issues down the line, and there are digital tools to help teams do this more efficiently.

Managing costs

When it comes to finishing on budget, preparation is 80% of the work. However, when time is tight, organisations often rush to get underway before all the decisions and planning are complete. This is not an effective way to mitigate risk and manage costs; decisions made in earlier phases will have a long-lasting impact, and the later changes are made, the bigger the costs will be.

For example, think of Storebæltsbroen, a Danish bridge constructed using concrete and steel elements in the 1990s. The original design team estimated lifespans for each concrete element based on the predicted level of bridge traffic.

But ultimately, the bridge proved much more popular than predicted, lowering the lifespan of the concrete. By failing to consider operations, the team had missed the opportunity to design elements that could be easily replaced, which could have saved millions in future maintenance costs. Giving every stakeholder enough time to plan will significantly improve the process – and reduce costs for everyone involved.

Owners especially need to take a holistic view of their assets. As they will be responsible for managing the building long after the handover, owners should take responsibility for project data from the beginning of the project. This will lead to cost-savings over many years.

Optimising schedules

Given the very high levels of demand in Nordic construction right now, finishing on schedule – and working as efficiently as possible – is essential. Again, this starts with good planning. During the preconstruction phase, organisations should focus on the critical components that will make up most of the build and consider all the constraints that will apply.

Once the project is underway, the schedule should be updated in real time. Currently some organisations work on a weekly basis – but by the time changes are made, you might already be four days behind.

This is an even bigger issue if data related to the plan is split across multiple locations: for example, the schedule in MS Project, the budget in an Excel spreadsheet and the contractors in a resource management tool. Simply keeping everyone up to date with accurate information will take significant resource – and it will be easy to make errors.

Digital tools can enable teams to integrate their processes and data. Project managers can then visualise the impact of any changes across the whole project, making adjustments and sharing updates instantly. This can help Nordic construction firms to optimise their schedules in a very busy period.

Health, safety and the environment

Health and safety have formed a mandatory part of projects for many years – and new regulations are constantly being introduced to set higher standards. However, there is a tendency in construction firms to view these requirements as an inconvenient time-drain, particularly when schedules are tight. People filling in checklists on-site might question the value of these activities or rush to complete them.

We need to reconsider our approach to health and safety, to instead view these activities as a worthy time investment. By completing checks upfront, organisations can ensure the proper protections are in place – avoiding incidents, injuries and of course the counterproductive time delays that will result on the project. Likewise, these processes can capture errors that would otherwise cause issues and costs later in the project.

Importantly, digital tools can help checks to be completed more efficiently, as well as supporting collaboration – as the faster the communication between the relevant parties, the faster the error can be rectified.

All of this can contribute to a real mindset shift in construction. People who feel safe about where they work will be more engaged and productive. Altogether, we should consider health and safety as a means of being more efficient and effective in Nordic construction.

Looking ahead to greater integration

As Nordic construction businesses look to the future, getting the right people, processes and tools in place – not only within your organisation, but together with your collaborators – will be crucial. Organisations have been forward-thinking in their adoption of digital tools, but approaches have often been siloed and limited to a single function.

Relying on standalone solutions will prevent firms from winning business in the future. It’s only by using integrated platforms, that automate processes and fully leverage data, that organisations will be able to save time and money, capture errors before they occur and ultimately gain the competitive edge they need.

Now, it’s time to create integrated processes that will improve your business and support your project partners. This will enable you to make decisions based on real-time information and learn from past data. And remember, if digital technologies are used correctly, it isn’t a cost – it’s a means of enabling everyone in the industry to improve.

Learn more about connecting workflows, teams and data at every stage of the construction processes withAutodesk Construction Cloud here, or reach out to me directly.

Click here to read the European version of the FMI report.

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Construction Management

5 Construction KPIs & How to Dramatically Improve Outcomes

Being successful in construction isn’t just about a finished project. While completion is certainly important, the outcomes that you achieve during and after the project also matter a great deal.

Five essential construction KPIs to focus on improving are winning more business, minimizing costs, maximizing quality, optimizing project schedules, as well as promoting health, safety, and sustainability. Effectively delivering on these KPIs will result in short- and long-term success for everyone involved, which is why construction pros should strive to achieve them.

Our latest ebook, How Digitally Connecting Workflows Dramatically Improves 5 Key Construction KPIs discusses how you can improve these KPIs by digitally connecting construction workflows. Download it for free. 



Essential Construction KPIs

1. Winning business

Many contractors want to win more business, and in today’s modern landscape, connected construction technology is one of the best tools you can have to achieve this outcome. When your workflows and systems are tightly integrated, you’re able to automate various tasks and be more efficient with your bids. 

It also paves the way for better stakeholder engagement and collaboration. Connected construction technology keeps everyone on the same page, reducing issues with miscommunication. 

In addition, a connected construction platform makes data more accessible. Information from different projects can be stored on one platform, so it’s easier to surface insights and analyze trends. This, in turn, can give you the information you need to make smarter bidding decisions. 

2. Cost

Maintaining cost-effectiveness in projects is critical to success. Unfortunately, the majority of construction pros regularly run into cost-related issues. Research by Dodge and Autodesk found that 66% of general contractors incur additional costs from overtime and second shifts on at least three-quarters of their projects. 

Connected construction helps solve budget issues for contractors in a number of ways. A robust platform can provide detailed reporting, allowing you to produce accurate forecasts, obtain better cost controls, and improve subcontractor qualification. 

Not to mention, the enhanced collaboration between all parties greatly reduces inefficiencies and helps stakeholders resolve problems quickly. 

As Michael Shurgalla, CADD Manager at Moffatt & Nichol, points out, “Connected construction allows teams to identify and resolve issues promptly, which significantly impacts costs before they appear.”

3. Quality

Quality issues lead to rework, which is a major headache for contractors. 

Here’s the thing, though: many of the issues that cause rework are actually preventable. According to the Autodesk and FMI report, Construction Disconnected, 52% of rework was caused by poor project data and miscommunication. 

Connected construction addresses these problems by bringing together various project workflows, ultimately reducing or even eliminating rework. 

What’s more, connected construction technology makes design reviews much more streamlined, thus helping stakeholders spot and prevent constructability issues before they lead to rework problems down the line. 

4. Schedule

Connected construction can also keep teams and projects right on schedule. 

When your tools and workflows are integrated, it’s easier to view the project timeline and determine what needs to happen and when. Armed with this information, contractors are able to spot opportunities and risks so they can optimize the project schedule accordingly. 

Plus, having the right data at your fingertips allows for more efficient resource allocation, so you always have the necessary resources at the appropriate time.

5. Health, safety, and the environment

With connected construction, you can have safer and more sustainable projects.

Integrated workflows and better communication between different parties promote a stronger safety culture in the workplace. Having better access to data also improves visibility when it comes to risks and hazards, so you can prevent safety issues on-site.

In terms of being environment-friendly, a connected construction platform makes it easier to source materials sustainably and ethically, enabling contractors to obtain the resources they need with the environment in mind. 

Download the ebook for free

We dive deeper into these construction outcomes in our new ebook, How Digitally Connecting Workflows Dramatically Improves 5 Key Construction KPIs. Download it today to start improving your performance and results. 


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