EP 150

How Main Contractors manage subbies today and how they will manage them tomorrow. (EP 150)



This week, Paul is joined by his close friend and QS, Chris Barber. Chris is a Chief Visionary Officer (CVO) at C-Link and Prosper and a passionate advocate for subcontractors on his YouTube channel, School of Sub.

In today’s conversation, Paul shares a recent conversation with a Tier 1 Main Contractor who explained all the “Pain Points” they had identified in their commercial department and how they wanted to remedy them.

If you are a Director at a Contractor, manage Quantity Surveyors or just a QS, many issues here will resonate. Paul and Chris reflect on their experience leading and working in Commercial Departments and explain why they built C-Link for many of the "Pain Points" identified.

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Here is a link to the eBook here: 
How Main Contractors manage subbies today and how they will manage them tomorrow.


Paul Heming: Hello and welcome to episode 150 of the Own the Build podcast with me, Paul Heming. Thank you to absolutely everyone who is listening to the show to get to episode 150. I wasn’t sure at the start if we would get there, but here we are and we couldn’t do it without all of you guys listening. Wouldn’t do it without all of you guys feeding back and telling me that you enjoy what we do. So thank you very much. It’s amazing that we’re here. We are returning today to our future of contracting series. And because it’s episode 150, I kind of wanted to spotlight C-link and what we do. So excuse the fact that we’re gonna be talking a lot about our product today and kind of the vision for our product. But here we are for all these episodes, the Future Contracting series. As you guys know, I’ll be joined in the studio by my good mate, Chris Barber who is the CVO, the Chief Visionary Officer at C-link. Welcome back to Own the Build, Chris.

Christopher Barber: Thanks, Paul. Thanks having me back on.

Paul Heming: My pleasure, mate. My absolute pleasure. So as we’ve talked about before, the critical thing with the future of contracting series is that there will always be well, so far there’s always been a piece of content that’s gone with it, usually written by myself because I get bored at the weekends, don’t I? But if you go down to the show notes today, you will see there is a piece which is called the Current State of Play, how Main Contractors Manage. So these, today and how they will manage them tomorrow. And let’s talk about this article, Chris, because that’s what we’re here to do today. And I wrote this off the back of a conversation with a prominent tier one contractor who shall go unnamed. And what was really interesting to me, because I find these things very interesting, is that they decided to share with me kind of how they viewed the way that they were managing their commercial department today and how they then wanted to manage it tomorrow, talking about tech, blah-blah. Now it was as if they were sat in the pub with us in 2015 when we set up C-Link. So question for you, take me back to that conversation in the pub and there’ll be people listening, thinking, blah man. Now we’ve heard the advert, Lad, stop it. But why did we initially set up C-Link?

Christopher Barber: The reason? And you know, to give context, I was working for a main contractor, high-end residential turnover around about 20 million pounds, doing high levels of procurement, procuring vast amounts of packages ranging from the old level wallpaper pool that’s been mentioned on the show before to doing like, you know, your piling and your roofing, some of the standard packages. And every time I started a new project, I felt I was starting from ground zero again. And I would have to pick up the project, go through it, maybe have a look at what subcontractors are priced, have a look at the ones who are kind of like working with, and try and drum up a procurement schedule with the preferred subcontractors and the subcontractors are priced and then start from there. And doing that time and time again for every single project is just mental. And it highlights how fragmented the industry really is.

Paul Heming: Well, not even just the industry, right? The company, because I always had that as well. I would be on project with 1:00 PM like as a QSs, I would maybe be working on two or three jobs, be on a project with 1:00 PM, I’d run it in a different way with the other pm then I’d start another one with another PM and it would be in a completely different way. So it’s almost like indicative of how fragmented the industry is just within your own company and your own projects. Like the systems just aren’t there. And you would have good QSs, bad QSs, good PMs, bad PMs, and it’d be a different experience on all of them, right?

Christopher Barber: Yeah, absolutely. And we weren’t ever collaborating as a complete unit, as a complete company. There was nothing centralized who we were supposed to be using from a supply chain perspective, no sharing of performance on projects. You know, what subcontractors have done well, who’s expensive, who delivers a really good product. We had none of this feedback coming into the system. So we were really kind of just doing it.

Paul Heming: But it was your bright idea, wasn’t it? What was it? I’m trying to think what it was that you can, how I was convinced by you that we should do this. Like, what was it?

Christopher Barber: It was the time spent doing procurement and the importance of procurement. Procurement is the project. If you get it right, you’ll deliver a high quality product on time and everyone will be happy to a certain degree. If you get it wrong, it’s gonna go drastically wrong and the industry gets it wrong time and time again and we never learn.

Paul Heming: Yeah, yeah. And so I take you inside now, kind of the conversation I had with this senior director at a tier one. And when this senior manager was talking me through the way this business procured, it did make you think, wow, even these guys are doing it like this. So they kind of broke it down into as the eBook does, which is why I would suggest that everyone goes and reads that eBook like this is how we are now and this is how we wanna be in the future. And so we’ll walk through a number of their issues and I just want you to talk to your own experience of these issues, see if it resonates because it definitely did with me. So number one, and you’ve kind of just covered this project teams procure in isolation with limited collaborative intelligence on subbie history, subbie performance. And we constantly miss out on opportunities to either, one, get discounts from procurement with subcontractors on two or three projects at the same time. Or two, we actually overstretch the subbie by, you know, we’ve got two different offices and they straddle both and they’re on four projects when we only really want ’em to be on two, but we have no system in place, which allows us to have that oversight of what our supply chain are working on, what they’re tendering on, etcetera. And they said to me, we know that we’re losing money by doing this and we want a system in place to allow us to manage our entire supply chain. That isolation piece, we’ve already touched on it, but how does that make you feel hearing that?

Christopher Barber: I quite like the way that it’s being picked up and recognized, I have to say that because I think some people or some organizations would be a little bit ignorant to that being an issue that the subcontractors taking on too much and it’s their fault. They shouldn’t have accepted the job, it’s their fault. They’re stretched. And someone who’s approached you Paul and said, look, I want a system that gives me the foresight to, eh, it was nice that the obvious one is let’s negotiate a discount.

Paul Heming: Yeah, yeah.

Christopher Barber: But actually looking at it from a risk perspective is really refreshing and I really like that that is at the forefront. I don’t want to be employing this subcontractor. He’s already on a half a million pound job. If I give him another half a million, I know he hasn’t got a capacity, he’ll take it because he likes working with us. We’ve got a good relationship but it’s gonna be at the detriment to my project and the other project.

Paul Heming: Yeah. You know, and so there are people who are not in our industry. Well, I think a lot of people listening will think, yeah, well I work for a company and we have little systemized approach to understanding what our supply chain are working on. If you were talking to people in manufacturing, like car manufacturing, any other billion pound company who were looking at their supply chain and didn’t have oversight on where their supply chain were working, what their previous rates were, etcetera, it’s centralized into a single point of reason I think other industries would be wowed by the fact that we don’t have anything for this. But that is kind of where we are as an industry. And that’s what, you know, taking it back to C-link, that’s where we built C-link so that, you know, you can have that oversight number one on your supply chain and what they’re doing and then we’re gonna kind of get to where you would want to be in terms of lead times and so on beyond this. The second issue that was raised was with regards to lessons learned. And again the feedback was there is no centralized hub where we are learning lessons, we are at best doing it. You know, I went to meetings before where you’d go to like a “lessons learned meeting” and it would just literally be like there’d be a Word document and people filling it out and like people wouldn’t really care. There’s no data associated to it, right? So they wanted a place where they could do that. And then another company that we now work with we’re actually talking about non recoverables and scope of work gaps, right? So a lessons learned would be, I don’t know, on the roofing and brick work, there was this extra, there was this variation, there was an interface scope issue there and we’ve learned about it and we’ve closed it and we’ve got like a bank of scope of works and we will reduce that non-recoverable, right? And one of our clients said, oh yeah, I call it my, I won’t mention his name, the equivalent of oh it’s Paul Heming’s Bank of Scope of works, right? Where after every single project I update it and say, oh I’m gonna add this in so that my non-recoverable get less and less. And I said, and so what you do you share that with your team? And he was like, no, I’ve just got it for myself, which sounds so ridiculous when I say it, but that’s what I’ve got. I’ve just have it and I don’t share it with anyone. It’s like, imagine if you could share it with someone and it became a team thing at the end of a project you sat down and said these were the scope of work gaps, let’s close them. What’s your experience Chris, with non recoverables and doing that?

Christopher Barber: I like the way you almost rolled your eyes at the lessons learned.

Paul Heming: Yeah, well exactly, because honestly I don’t think I went to too many lessons learned meetings. At my first company, we did them. At the second company I worked for, we talked about doing them and I never ever went to one. And at the second company I probably worked on 10, 15 projects where I can assure you there was a lot of lessons to be learned from every single project and we didn’t do it. At the first one, there was the intent to do it, but even that conversation, it might have fostered like a good conversation and maybe some change in the moment, but then it just kind of drifted off into insignificant. It is a bit like what you’re saying about, you know, working with one site manager and then another project manager. You’re not actually aggregating that lesson learned into anything meaningful. It’s not kind of all taught. Right. So that’s why I was rolling my eyes probably.

Christopher Barber: Yeah. I went to some of the lessons learned meeting and I think it’s got to be a culture led, it’s a culture of the business really. And it’s not about finger pointing which I don’t think they necessarily are, but they need to have like some proper outcomes for like what do we wanna get out of this and how do we implement it to make sure there’s a change that happens that impacts the wider business. Some people are like, yeah, just you need to come along to this. Lessons learned. You’ll learn a lot. You might hear some people talk in a room, but unless it’s summarized and succinctly put into a set of actions and you know, the business acts on it, it’s pointless that lessons learned. That’s why I was laughing about the eyes rolling.

Paul Heming: You’re rolling your eyes. And probably when I mentioned lessons learned, people listening, oh boring. But it’s also, you know, taking it back to previous guests on the show, Martin Paver, founder of Projecting Success, very focused on Data AI. He told me about the story of how his business was founded and his business is kind of effectively machine learning, AI Data. He said, well initially I went through reams of Microsoft Word and Excel lessons learned meetings going through the minutes of the meetings and I was trying to aggregate that data into something meaningful. And guess what? It drove me mad and I realized that we should be doing something with AI, machine learning, blah-blah. Now the thing I agree with you, it’s about culture but it’s also about like taking that commercial director who I spoke to who’s got his own lessons learned, but it’s not shared with the team, and drawing it back, we’re on episode 150 here, so we’re gonna crow about C-Link. Like imagine a world where your scope gaps, your schedules of attendance, they’re constantly adapting, they’re constantly closing that non-recoverable. And if you are listening to this and thinking yeah that would be nice, it’s this conversation is framed from the fact that a tier one that we spoke to billion pound plus told me they have no system for doing that in a sensible way. They’re probably doing it in the way that Martin Paver was trying to aggregate. And that just shows you at times where we are as an industry, doesn’t it? That a company, one of the biggest companies in the country is probably either not doing lessons learned or doing them in a way where lessons aren’t actually learned.

Christopher Barber: And I think it’s enabling and empowering the team to be able to give that lessons learned data that’s almost in a bit of an impartial way because it’s gonna be hard to see people have got to open up from a culture perspective. And it’s difficult. I mean not many QSs are wrong. You know, if they’ve missed something off a scope and they’ve sent the drawings and there’s a bit of a gray area, you know, the QS is right and the subcontractor’s wrong in most cases in this situation. But regardless if it ends in a dispute or it gets cleared that the subcontractor basically packs down from it, we need to capture all that data. What were the scope gaps? What were the non-client variations stuff that you couldn’t recover? Let’s understand that as a team.

Paul Heming: Taking it back to our QSs KPIs here, aren’t we?

Christopher Barber: Yeah, exactly. Back to the KPIs and then that can give really informed lessons learned and then sharing that with the team and this is how we get better. Not why did that job go wrong.

Paul Heming: A hundred percent agree. And then guys, if you are only just tuning in, I think going back to the QSs KPIs episode 146, I think it was, where we were talking about how you’re measuring, I think that it all ties together. I think that’s probably why we are doing this series, Chris, every four weeks. That the fact is through not a lack of will or want, I think that the cultures there, I kind of disagree with you a little bit or go back to your point where you said, you know, the culture’s got to be there. I think the culture is there for a lot of companies where they want to get better and they want to improve. That commercial director has got own bank of scope of what works where he is constantly improving it. But the problem is he’s doing it just for himself?

Christopher Barber: Yeah, exactly. That’s what I mean. The culture is there to improve but in isolation. Everyone’s protective about their own IP or how they’re getting on because if they make a mistake, they might not wanna share that with the team. And that’s why it is culture led. We’ve got to make it, everyone can make, everyone will make mistakes because that’s what lessons learned. Our people are making mistakes but we won’t make as many if we’re all sharing the mistakes together and learning from them. And that’s what I mean by a culture. I don’t say people don’t wanna learn. I know people want to learn. I know people wanna get better because I was at QS doing the scopes on my own because I was just a QS operating on my own trying to get the do the best job I could. Whereas it should be coming top down from the commercial director. And this is how we’re improving day in, day out for the business.

Paul Heming: 100%. And we’ve said this, I’ve said this so many times on the show that everybody listening is probably bored of hearing me say it, but the perception of the construction industry is that people don’t really care or that it’s an industry where, you know, it’s a bit laissez-faire like is what it is. But the reality is, and speaking to so many people on this show, you are a big champion of it. I’m a big champion of it, but almost every single guest I’ve ever spoken to wants to see cultural change, wants to see improvement in the industry. And the problem is taking it back to this tier one, there aren’t the systems in place to properly aggregate those data. And what we are building and what we champion at C-Link is, you know, and taking it back to that conversation in the pub is all about how do you create an environment where you can constantly learn and constantly improve as a business with those systems in place. But I’m blathering on a bit too much about C-Link. I’ll tell you what guys, I’m gonna let you listen to an advert all about C-Link right now and we’ll go to the break and we’ll be back in a second.
So, interesting first half of that show, Chris. And you know, the way I’d kind of planned this episode in my mind was exactly how that tier one contractor framed it to me, which was this is the current state of play, this is how we manage it today and this is how we manage it tomorrow, how we want to manage it tomorrow. And in the first half, you know we talked about the fact that project teams procure in isolation. There’s little in terms of lessons learned or if we do lessons learned then we only do them in a way that is fragmented and not very helpful. Talked about siloing of documents, they actually also talked about the fact that they didn’t ever really have oversight of lead times like aggregated. They had poor audit trail and generally speaking their staff were dissatisfied by this and it meant high churn in quantity surveying department. Now I don’t wanna focus in on how they are working today. I wanna now think about in the second half of the show what it would be like if they were working in a different way. And I wanna start it because this is how they framed it to me. So they said imagine this world. So imagine a world where, this is just for a QSs. They had easy access to a company approved set of scope of works, a scope of works library that contained all of the lessons learned by our company. So that if that was the case, I believe all of my QSs would produce scopes of high quality with a reduced risk of variations. Now that makes total sense to us, to everyone listening, but way I wanna talk to you about it is what would it have been like for you as a trainee QS coming into the industry if your company had a company-wide scope of works library, would that have helped or would that have hindered your progress? Do you think it’s actually been helpful to you individually that you needed to learn what the scope of works gaps were?

Christopher Barber: I say so because I kind of know the core packages inside out and what’s required in them because I used to pick up the drawings and specification, match the two up and just learn from that. There is, you’ve got to learn, but as a business you’ve got to balance that as a business. So there was a trainee QS coming in, I don’t know anything someone says go and pull a scope together. If someone said here’s the base scope that we’ve all worked on, it also comes with like, you know, forward or some notes alongside it saying, you know, you should consider this because not every project’s the same. So you know, if you had a basement project that including a groundworks package, it wouldn’t be the same as just doing standard foundations. You know, so there’s gonna be variance in kind of groundworks packages if they came with notes that and instructions that will help inform why you are putting that into the scope of works for that particular package, I think it would be hugely beneficial. And it’s not even stopping there. What that would do as a whole business, you know, if you are trainee QS, you can kind of avoid some of the awkward conversations of like what am I doing? I don’t know. And feel like you’re bothering your boss. As a QS, you can kind of empower your trainee QSs then to try and do a lot of the legwork for you to get you off the ground. And then kind of as like a commercial director looking at what a scope of works library would do is you are minimizing significant risk in your business and having the ability to upskill your staff really quickly into your business.

Paul Heming: Do you think that having a scope of works library, which you are iterating on, you know, project in, project out and what I mean is a lessons learned meeting would be right at the end of the project or even at the end of each package, we’re gonna do a lessons learned on that package and we’re just gonna look at the scope and we’re gonna assess it and we’re gonna say, that was right, that was wrong. We’re gonna fill this non-recoverable. So instead of it being 95% perfect, it’s 95.5% perfect. And you’re probably never gonna get it to a hundred percent right? Cause every project is unique, but you’re closing that gap. Do you see it as a way for a QS to be sloppy and just be like, well I’ve got the scope of work so I’ll be, I don’t need to worry about it. Or do you see it as a way of creating an environment where a QSs is guided and more specific?

Christopher Barber: Guided and more specific. You have to balance it and it depends how you sell it to your staff, right? You say, yeah, you’ve got, don’t worry about it, got scope of work, just dump it in. Because if you dump that in, it goes back to my frustrations that I talked to you about before about doing the document dump every single piece of information on them. If you are putting things in the scope that don’t match the drawings and specification, then you’re gonna look stupid and you’re gonna waste people’s time and it’s inaccurate. So that scope will go into the order and then you’ve got an inaccurate order. It’s just gonna be messy. So it should be, you know, there’s obviously gonna be core items that will be required for every package or certain packages, but it should be guidance that we’ve got this element of kind of, let’s think about something that might be slightly different on a certain project like a swale or something like that. And that’s incorporated into the groundworks package. You know, that’s not gonna be on every job, but they should then be referred to, look, if you’ve got a swale, this is what we normally talk about them, talk about it in the specification in the scope, sorry, but go and check your reference specification. There might be this change, there might be this change. So there needs to come accompanied with some kind of instructions or notes to make it, basically move it from being sloppy and easy QS into being a really high, a high performing accurate quany sphere.

Paul Heming: Yeah. Because you know I’ve been told by some people, you know, well that maybe that would make my QS easiest thing, ah, whatever the scope of works is done, who cares? And I’m in agreement with you that no, it would mean that actually you can focus on the core problem of that package or the core challenge bespoke to that package. Not just throw it away cause what happens, and I have done this myself, I’m guessing you have, and everyone who I speak to who is a prospect of ours, when we talk about scope of works and the library that we have says, ah yeah. So if I’m doing, you know, a single ply roofing package on a residential job or I’m doing one on industrial building, you know, or there’s different projects but it’s a scope which is new to me. What I will do is I will say in the office guys, anyone got a scope of works for a roofing package on an industrial project? And then, nah sorry mate, sorry. No, no. And then someone will say, yeah, I kind of have actually, and that will be, you’ll take that and it will be a hack job and you’ll start from that as a baseline, which God knows how good that scope of works was in the first place. But that’s kind of a process, is that a process that you recognize?

Christopher Barber: Yeah, definitely. And it might have a little reference in there to a certain item within that other project. Exactly. Like maybe even like a color, a row color or something. You might completely miss that. So we prone to error on that Copy and paste. And that’s why that is helpful sometimes in those small organizations but it leads to lots of inaccuracies and why is just one QS over here sent, shouldn’t that be coming at least top level like your commercial director or whoever it’s should be saying this is the scope of works for this package and this is what we use as the baseline. You need to go and evolve it, align with a specification. But here’s a good starting point.

Paul Heming: 100%. And honestly, we have people in our organization who are not construction people, who when they are with us speaking to clients, tier ones, tier twos, every construction organization does that process that we just talked about and our non-construction employees say to me, what? I thought it would just be the smaller companies that did that. And you say no, everyone does it. And we, I’m kind of a bit blasé about it now, but it is absolutely insane that as an industry, we’re so used to being lackadaisical that roofing, that fictional roofing package that I’ve just talked to you about might be worth a hundred grand, be on the critical path of that project, be uber important to the outcome of it. And I’ve just started from a point of, has anyone got one? And it’s mental. But I’m sure me and you are not sat here alone. I’m sure there’s people listening going, I did that yesterday or actually, I’ve got to do a, I don’t know a dry lining one today. And we might ask the same question, why didn’t we as an industry have this set up? It’s absolutely mad. And we talked about what it means to the trainee QS, what it means to the commercial director. And we talked about money there, we talked about how it will mean that instead of it being a hundred grand package that then goes to 110 grand because there was 10% of variations, it might be a hundred grand package that goes to 105 grand because you’ve closed five grand of scope gap. Brilliant. Every QS is delighted about that commercial departments have about it, business owners happy about it, but actually it’s time as well. And that’s one of the big things that if you have a procurement system in place, big plug C-link, hello. If you have a system in place, it’s gonna save you a huge amount of time as well. Because I’m gonna take it back to that example that just came off the top of my head for that roofing package. How inefficient is that I go and say, has anyone got one? Probably takes me an hour to go around and you’ve got one. So you end up digging out. That’s two hours lost for QSs. You send me one that is project specific to Bridge Street a job from two years ago. Got to check it for building regs. We’ve got to check has it got the speck in it, has it got all different kinds of things that were specific to another project. So by the time I’ve untangled it, I’ve spent another few hours and it’s still not useful.

Christopher Barber: Might not be any good either, Paul.

Paul Heming: Well, if it was from you, it probably wouldn’t be, would it?

Christopher Barber: Well, you don’t know. The quality of it, has it been, you know, you got the rubber stamp of approval from your execs, right?

Paul Heming: Yeah.

Christopher Barber: Was that the project on the lessons learned two years ago where the roofing, industrial roofing failed for example, that you don’t know, do you?

Paul Heming: Yeah, yeah.

Christopher Barber: Say it hasn’t gone through an approval process that is what the business should be sending out and –

Paul Heming: That would be just typical of you, just to send me one where the project failed. I wouldn’t be surprised. Yeah, I mean I think, you know, we’ve ended up actually talking about exclusively the scope of works library on this episode, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but isn’t really where I thought the conversation was gonna be. But just thinking about the other utopian ideals that this tier one had, take it back to that conversation, which I had. They also said we want to imagine a world where the QS has an efficient procurement process focused on creating value rather than completing administrative tasks. Now I’m gonna talk you through a workflow that I was taught through by another tier one just a fortnight ago. They told me that their process for creating tenders at estimate stage was so ridiculously laborious that the estimator receives the tender, creates their own scope of works, uploads it to a portal, downloads loads of drawings. And this workflow had about 20 steps, all just for an estimator to go out to the tender on a dry lining package, let’s say at estimate stage. They walked me through all of that and then said that the QS will pick up the tender that was done by the estimator and repeat the entire workflow again. So, they spend hours at estimated stage and they then spent hours at QS stage. This other tier one said to me, they said, we know for a fact that our procurement process is driving our QSs mad and leading to poor job satisfaction and leading them to potentially want to leave. And where there’s an ongoing attrition, I think that’s a thing at, you know, the larger companies, maybe less so at the smaller companies. What is your reflection of creating a tender pack for a project?

Christopher Barber: To repeat basically the same process, but it’s quite normal to have gone through a repeating the process cause design and drawings change by the time you’ve gone from tender to construction phase. But I didn’t really have oversight on what the quality of the tender packet went out in the first place because estimators are turning out, you know, basically a whole job in four, six weeks at main contractor level.

Paul Heming: Yeah, it’s tough.

Christopher Barber: Yeah, they’ve got to do it quickly. There’s gonna be gaps to kind of cover, there’s gonna be gaps basically. So they either allow for that within the pricing or they allow for some kind of contingency or it might be provisional some, etcetera. So there’s lots of things that can happen with a certain package, but I did have to pick everything back up, match all the drawings. I did start from ground zero and every package. There wasn’t the audit trail necessarily apart from a couple of like Dropbox links or folders where this was what we went with at tender stage that was what was in the price, kind of go away and make it work kind of thing. There wasn’t that with this roofing package there was a lot of unknowns around this area. So we’ve allowed for X, Y, Z back to roofing as we, you know, stay on theme. There could be a bit of an analysis around that package from the estimator, let’s just say about why it got, how, why it’s priced the way it is priced and this is what went out at tender stage. Being able to kind of pick that up seamlessly would make a huge difference.

Paul Heming: Yeah. And again, systems aren’t there to do that, are they?

Christopher Barber: No.

Paul Heming: And it’s funny that we’ve talked in a few weeks ago, didn’t we, about there’s 5000 to 10,000 vacancies for QSs and that’s all we really talk about is because we are both QSs. There’s lots of other problems in terms of skill shortage, but there’s not very many QSs. Your existing QSs are tired of the current process. It’s monotonous and it needs to be a lot better and can be a lot better. Why would you have a QS shouting to the other side of the office about a scope of works? Why would a QS have to pick up what an estimator did and rerun that entire process time and time again? Why is there no consolidated data for lead times? Why is there no digital contract? Why is there no digital tender? These were all the things I’m gonna take you back to me and you sat in the pub 2015, I’m trying to remember what it was that was triggering you so much. What was it? It was probably a bad day. It was probably that leather wallpaper day, wasn’t it?

Christopher Barber: It was just the amount of kind of rework that you were just mentioning and just the time spent, it just felt so inefficient and I have a huge disdain for inefficiency. It really bugs me. And being a QS, it’s just littered with lots of manual administrative tasks, which the software out there for other industries at the time, it was kind of automating that flow or at least helping assist with it that the SMEs just don’t have access to. And that was the big thing that was bugging me, that the fact that I had to get someone from our supply chain’s contact details, I had to go into some Dropbox folder into a spreadsheet that’s got a thousand tabs on it to try and find someone for that specific type of metal roofing. It’s like it should be jumping out to me on a system where I can just quickly go and find that same again with the scope of works it really inefficient bug in your fellow QSs. Can you tell me how to put, like, have you got a scope for that mate? I don’t know what I’m doing there.

Paul Heming: Do you know a subbie or do you know three subbies for the roofing package? Because I know one but I need another two. Do you know any? No, I don’t. Okay. Ryan, I’m gonna go on Google and I’m gonna have a look and then I’m gonna search for, I’m gonna call 10 of them. I’m gonna call all 10 of them. Three of them are gonna say they’re interested in pricing, four of them aren’t gonna pick up. Another three are gonna say yeah, maybe send over the information. By the time I’ve then got it to the contractors who are”interested”, half of them haven’t got the right insurance. Like the entire process is absolutely fundamentally flawed. It’s ridiculous. And it’s ridiculous for absolutely every company. I wholeheartedly believe this, there’s almost every organization, tier one all the way down to tiers, they are doing things in a way that they could be dramatically different. And this conversation, we’re gonna take it back to this tier one conversation and these ongoing regular conversations that I have with clients who want to change the way that they’re working. It’s out there. People want to change. And if you had a system in place, a process where your QSs were given the freedom to be creative in their thinking, but also put on a certain train track for systems, documentation, scopes, all of these things, the world would be dramatically different, right? And everyone would be a lot happier. That’s also the conclusion from this tier one is that they have high attrition of QSs and it could just be, it doesn’t need to be like that. So I think where we get to today is that scope of works libraries should be a thing. They are on C-Link. Systemized approach to how QSs has put documentation together is out there. And the way that we’re currently doing it is inefficient. And generally speaking, change is coming now and we, that’s what we envisaged when we started in 2015, isn’t it? And it feels like there’s real momentum towards it now. Would you agree?

Christopher Barber: I agree. I think the main word that jumps out here is centralization, like centralizing those key commercial processes. It’s absolutely clear what any QS has to do in that organization is Central –

Paul Heming: Digital toolkit.

Christopher Barber: The digital toolkit, right? That’s what they need. They need it centralized, they can pick it up, it’s plug and play. They start tomorrow. The commercial directors employing loads of QSs. You can upskill and onboard them in such a shorter period of time if you’ve got a centralized toolkit. And that is what the industry’s missing.

Paul Heming: Yeah, and my view on it is, and we’ll wrap up now, but my view is that when it comes to construction technology, gonna get my little world’s smallest violin out here for the QSs. But when it comes to construction technology, there has been kind of over the decade or two of real innovation, the majority of it has been focused towards sites. There’s a lot of project management, site management document control tools out there. Everyone will know all of those tools. You know, even up to for snagging, right? There’s loads of tools for doing all of this work on site. When it comes to the office there is document control. That’s obviously been a huge focus and there has been quite a lot of focus on estimating pre-construction and getting that bit right. Where I genuinely think there is a gap and that’s the gap that we are trying to occupy is for quantity surveyance, you know, and creating efficiencies in that commercial department. The department that drives is at the heart of your profit making capabilities as an organization. There just isn’t tools out there for them. We have taught today and many times before about how supply chain could be different, your scope of works, all these other elements could be different. Your digital commercial toolkit could make and transform your business. That’s what we’ve built at C-Link. I would recommend that you guys go down to the show notes. There’s a video in there. You can also have a demo meeting with me if you wanna talk about it or even with Chris, with the team. We’d be very happy to talk about it. And also I recommend just reading through that eBook and white paper that I’m also attaching in the show notes because that is the deep thinking of a tier one who thinks that they need to change. And I think anyone in construction, it will resonate with them. Chris, thank you for coming on the show again today, mate.

Christopher Barber: Thanks for having me back, mate. Speak soon.

Paul Heming: Yeah, absolutely. And guys, as always, I’ll be back next week. That’s episode 150. Here’s to the next 150. Thanks very much and I will speak to you next week. Take it easy.

Christopher Barber: Cheers, mate.

Current State of Play: How Main Contractors manage subbies today and how they will manage them tomorrow

Subcontractor procurement processes have generally not shifted in a generation. This e-book explores...

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