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Keeping on top of the boom

Stuart Smith

Is growth or productivity the challenge, asks Stuart Smith of Bourton Group.

The Middle East is undertaking some of the most exciting and ambitious construction projects on the entire planet at the moment. The world’s largest indoor theme park, the world’s tallest hotel, and the world’s tallest building at 829.84m are in Dubai. Qatar is in the process of building Lusail City.

This city comprises of 37km2 of waterfront land that is planned around 19 integrated and diverse mixed-use districts of over 5,000 plots.  Under the leadership of Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar, Lusail City represents nothing less than the hopes and aspirations of the people of Qatar.

Then of course there is the 2022 FIFA World Cup which will be held in Qatar so the pressure to be ready for that is intense as national pride is at stake. Between 15% and 20% of the world’s cranes are purported to be in these two countries. It doesn’t much matter whether the statistics are correct, the stakes are already high enough when the hopes of an entire region are pinned on “build it and they will come”.

“There will come a point where no amount of money will make up for any time lost through inefficiency”

When growth is so evident what chance is there to improve efficiency? Often effectiveness in achieving objectives subsumes all thoughts of doing things in an efficient way. Of course the planned cost of these projects is vast, but what of quality, time and customer satisfaction?

As we all know construction can be a problematic and long winded process, especially if you do not build in efficient processes that maintain quality and keep the project on time and on budget. On the surface there is no cause to worry, the quality of what has been built so far is not in question, the cost is largely immaterial given the stakes but time is rapidly becoming a factor for states like Qatar. There will come a point where no amount of money will make up for any time lost through inefficiency, not just in the construction processes but in every support process from planning applications through to facilities management. Even if the buildings are up in time and to quality, should the processes that enable them to function fail, then national pride will be just as badly tarnished.

Qatar and Dubai should be rightly proud of their achievements. If they have an Achilles’ heel it is that the pace of operational and business process transformation is falling way behind the pace and scale of physical construction. The outcome could be an exponentially rising demand for resource later in the programme that will be even more difficult to manage.

In 2022 the World Cup means Qatar will face a “people tsunami” and while I am confident that the infrastructure will be in place because it will get high level focus and attention, money alone can’t fix poor processes, you also need time and a sustainable improvement capability - these are not commodities that can be easily bought.

  • Stuart Smith is chairman of Bourton Group. Email: Tel: 01926 633333

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