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Industry still at odds over aims of Egan task force

CONTINUING TENSION between clients and construction firms over the work of Sir John Egan's government-backed task force to improve industry efficiency emerged this week.

Construction Industry Council deputy chairman Robin Nicholson identified the rift in a report following a visit by taskforce members and construction industry representatives to the Nissan motor plant in Sunderland earlier this month.

The two day trip was to study lean manufacturing - a method pioneered by Japanese car makers which aims to strip out 'waste' from a production process.

Nicholson writes: 'Although there was a high degree of enthusiasm among task force members about the potential for applying key principles in construction, there was less agreement among the construction representatives present about how this potential is to be realised - if in fact it ever can be.'

He adds that, when challenged by 'the more vocal' client representatives to change and innovate, construction argued that clients were stifling its efforts by adhering to competitive tendering arrangements.

Some close to the task force are concerned that the consensus approach developed during the Latham review could be abandoned by the government in favour of a confrontational style to implement proposals once the task force reports in May.

Nicholson continues: 'Although our visit was intensive and exposed us to a range of aspects of lean manufacturing, we could only scratch the surface.' He warns that there is a danger that opinion will split between those believing it is the only way forward and those who think construction can never emulate best production practice in the car industry.

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