ANNUAL SAVINGS in the construction industry of up to £18bn are achievable through benchmarking, according to the results of a survey by the Agile Construction Initiative after its first full year of operation.
The Department of Trade & Industry-backed scheme is run by the University of Bath, and involves Balfour Beatty and the Highways Agency.
Agile's theory is that measuring current performance is the first step towards a benchmarking system, which in turn should make it easier to identify efficiency improvements (NCE 5 June 1997).
Agile director Professor Andrew Graves this week announced that the Treasury had joined the programme and was feeding data on 40% of government spending into the benchmarking system.
However, he warned that the construction industry's risk-averse nature meant that there were still not enough contractors involved.
'We haven't yet got a critical mass as people are still reluctant to take the plunge and get involved,' said Graves. 'But we have shown that savings of 28% are possible, and if you extrapolate that across the industry you get some very big savings.'
Having spent the year examining Balfour Beatty and the Highways Agency, Agile is confident that if more construction firms come on board and open their books, confidentially, to the programme, the benefit to the industry as a whole will be huge.
Agile already has data on around 75 projects, but Graves is keen that the scheme is spread throughout the industry.
Graves added that it is essential any savings made should be fed back into the industry as a way of creating the continual improvement necessary to bring the industry forward.
Balfour Beatty managing director Andy Rose also urged the rest of the industry to get involved. He said the most significant gains achieved by his business resulted from the systematic implementation of Agile-inspired improvements.
'The power of the information obtained by measuring what we do generates its own improvements. But the industry is only going to move forward if we all do it together,' he said.