Construction Site Planning and Blueprinting, the initial stages of a construction project with an image showing architects and engineers reviewing blueprints and site plans, AI Construction Site Planning and Blueprinting, the initial stages of a construction project with an image showing architects and engineers reviewing blueprints and site plans, AI

The Challenges of Downtime in Infrastructure – What Can It Mean for Your Project? 

Infrastructure projects have many moving parts, and a slight delay in one area of the supply chain can have huge knock-on effects throughout the rest of the project. This affects businesses across every industry, with SMEs experiencing an average annual downtime of 14 hours, where staff only function at 63% compared to their normal productivity.

But what are the key challenges seen due to downtime? And how can it affect your project? Wincanton, an expert in logistics management in construction, gives an expert insight into the subject.

Cost
No matter the size of the project, the budget is significant to keep in mind. This is an aspect that downtime can impact significantly, with delays in the likes of materials or the appropriate equipment that can prevent workers from sticking to their schedule and result in increased labour costs. This, in turn, leads to areas of the budget and resources needing to be allocated and can affect the project’s outcome or overall viability.

There are many reasons for downtime that lead to increased costs, ranging from local or industry regulations that hadn’t previously been considered ahead of the project kick-off to site conditions that arise as a challenge for workers and their safety. This then leads to a further increase in labour costs for the workers, as well as the need for additional equipment rental and overhead expenses.

Increased carbon emissions
When projects spend extended periods in downtime, it can have a huge environmental and financial impact. The industry already contributes significantly to carbon emissions, with around 40% of all carbon emissions in the UK coming directly from construction. Delays to processes increase this as equipment and machinery spend considerable time idle, causing inefficient energy consumption.

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On top of the machines onsite contributing to emissions, multiple suppliers delivering materials and other equipment to the site produce even more emissions, both directly and indirectly. Not only does it increase the number of vehicle check volumes and receipt times for site staff, but it can also increase traffic and emissions for communities in the area. This means even more emissions are coming from the project than initially.

The main causes of downtime
It’s important for what the primary causes of downtime are to establish effective preventative processes to keep projects running smoothly. One of the standout reasons comes back to costs across the industry increasing from materials to equipment. In fact, Wincanton, in their insights paper, outlines that the price increase for materials between October 2022 and 2023 of around 15.5% can cause as much as 9% of a tradesperson’s day to be lost due to waiting for what they need, which in turn leads to downtime and further increases costs.

In addition, a huge reason for delays and downtime is simply not having a large enough workforce to hit deadlines for the project. Another insight provided by Wincanton is that around a third of construction businesses throughout the UK had a shortage of workers in the later months of 2022. This comes in part from the minimum visa salary threshold in the UK requiring the going rate of the position, or £26,200 per year or £10.75 per hour according to government regulations. Around 8.5% of the construction sector workforce in the UK came from other countries in the European Union, while 2.5% came from non-EU nations.

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How this affects project success
Whether it’s the cost or the impact on the environment, downtime challenges have a huge significance to project success. It can cause huge damage to the relationships with clients and stakeholders, particularly if contractual agreements are in place to deliver within a timeframe, which can also result in legal issues. In addition, the reputation of the businesses involved can also take a hit and could prevent future clients from engaging with projects.

Downtime and its associated challenges require many preventative and reactive measures to be considered by project managers to avoid the negative impacts they can have on projects. This can help keep it on schedule and avoid rising costs associated with more sustainable practices.

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