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Project planning software vital to small firms

PROJECT PLANNING and scheduling should top the list of information technology needs for small and medium-sized construction firms.

This is the conclusion of a European Commission taskforce operating as part of its construction competitiveness initiative.

The taskforce, which includes representatives from the Association of Consulting Engineers and European contractors body FIEC, produced a list of 54 IT priorities for small to medium-sized enterprises - SMEs - working in construction.

Work has concentrated on this type of firm because their size might make it difficult to fund investment. In turn this could undermine improvements made by larger firms depending on SMEs as subcontractors.

The taskforce concluded that the needs of small firms to organise themselves, particularly when contributing to large projects on which it was difficult to keep track of progress, made project planning and scheduling an IT- must. The need to avoid priority clashes and to provide 'just-in-time' delivery of services was seen as vital.

The second IT priority was judged to be product information. SMEs were seen to need a wide range of data such as technical specifications and maintenance procedures. They would also like to purchase products on the internet and to access spares lists on line.

The third group of IT priorities was access to safety information, particularly relating to the Construction Design and Management and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations.

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