From Construction to Production – an acumen7 Away Day in Stuttgart, November 2016

The topic for the day was how innovative methods from manufacturing, like agile design and lean construction, enhance productivity and cut project times drastically.

I had the pleasure of spending a stimulating and informative day with leaders from multiple industries in Stuttgart on the 11th November, hosted by Patrick Theis, Partner of Drees & Sommer and a number of fellow members of acumen7.


It is generally accepted that the construction industries in Europe and the US are failing to meet the expectations of their customers in the industrial and infrastructure sectors. The construction of new facilities is expensive and takes too long and the completed projects are often plagued with defects. Studies like UK show that errors, reworks and defects in construction add up to 20% to the costs of projects.

The companies that invest in new facilities have begun to take action. Industrial companies like BMW, GSK and Jaguar Land Rover are using their expertise in lean manufacturing to transform the delivery of their projects. And in the infrastructure sector Anglian Water and Transport for London have developed new approaches to delivering their investment programs based on working collaboratively with their supply chains.

The away-day in Stuttgart brought together thought leaders from manufacturing, infrastructure and construction to reflect on this process of change and to discuss how it can be accelerated and applied more widely within the construction industry. The event built on the discussions about Digital Transformation in Infrastructure held in London a few months ago, organised by acumen7 and the ICE.

The Stuttgart workshop had 4 broad elements; scene setting by 2 members of acumen7, identification of the challenge from 3 perspectives including GSK and BMW, identification of potential solutions from 3 perspectives including Anglian Water, SITA and Rhomberg Group. The workshop was extremely stimulating and thought provoking, in particular around the implications for the world of project management which I will touch on at the end.

  • Introduction - Patrick Theis, Managing Director and Partner, Drees & Sommer, host and member of acumen7

  • Objectives for the day - Simon Murray, acumen7.

The challenge – expectations from a client perspective

The discussion was chaired by Richard Ogden from acumen7 with 3 presentations:

  • From Prototype to Series Building – Transfer from Car Production to Construction Projects within BMW - Dr Jochen Wagner, Head of Quality Assurance – Architecture & Construction, BMW AG

  • Pharmaceutical facilities for the 21st Century - John Dyson, Head of Capital Strategy & Design, GSK

  • Is the construction industry ready for BIM? - Philip Langley, Director of Digital Delivery, Bryden Wood

The response – innovative methods to enhance productivity in construction

The discussion was chaired by Birgitta Schock of acumen7 with 3 presentations:

  • Real Estate 4.0: From Ego to Lego principle - Hubert Rhomberg, Managing Director, Rhomberg Holding

  • The @One Alliance – A shared enterprise that outperforms expectations - Dale Evans, Alliance Director, Anglian Water Services

  • Aviation and Mobility in the Digital Age – Smart Travel via Smart Buildings -Michael Urbaner, Director, SITA Aero Germany

How do we move from construction to production?

The workshop finished with a discussion about "What is stopping progress in moving from construction to production? What are the barriers and how do we remove them?" This created a number of excellent suggestions around how to build on the innovations described and make them more mainstream thereby improving the performance of construction - nothing like a grand ambition!

Many of these themes are picked up in McKinsey's paper from June 2016, details below. This focuses on the digital transformation of the industry - which you will see from their research is a major area of concern.

One of the other key areas of discussion was around the sharing of knowledge, or more accurately lack of. Many of the speakers at the workshop said that what they had developed was being made openly available for others to use, breaking the norm of secrecy and desire to protect and focus on gaining commercial advantage.

I described the Praxis Framework which is an open source integrated framework for the management of projects, programmes and portfolios which includes knowledge, methods, competencies and capability maturity: I am currently contributing to this by adding a people lens over key elements to help improve practice (which you can rad about in a LinkedIn article here). There is information available from professional bodies but this is typically protected, however, some information is now freely available and is disrupting the industry, such as from Praxis. There has been great feedback and people are offering up ideas to improve it. It has already been translated into Spanish and Italian. Organisations are also looking to adopt it after bespoking to their particular needs.

One other discussion was around how to obtain an independent view of the performance of organisations in the construction industry, whether for architects, engineers, project managers or construction companies at the various levels of the supply chain. I described Course Conductor which is the Trip Advisor for project management training: It’s up and running and providing, for the first time, a reliable means of identifying suppliers in project management training. Team Animation are delighted to be one of the Founding Members.

So what are the implications for project management?

Throughout the day I was reflecting on what all of the changes will mean for project, programme, portfolio and change management (P3CM™). I am still processing but I will share some initial thoughts below:

  1. the digital information that is now being produced SHOULD, if integrated effectively, provide a robust and reliable source of control information on projects not only around the iron triangle but also around value and success

  2. given the innovative new ways in which projects can be procured and delivered, the upfront stages of any project are even more important than ever requiring project leaders to effectively "design" the project to deliver the required value in the most effective and efficient means possible

  3. our current P3CM™ are not, in many cases, fit for purpose in this dynamic and VUCA world. They will require simpler and more straightforward ways to take account of the diverse range of people delivering projects, the need for change on a potentially constant basis as technologies and requirements change and the demand for instant reliable information on which decisions can be made.

I would welcome your thoughts on any of the above, in particular what you see as being the challenges we face and any solutions you can recommend.

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