Page 1: Introduction
'The industry as a whole is under-achieving.' This was the verdict of the Construction Task Force, led by Sir John Egan, in July 1998. The Task Force had investigated the state of the British construction industry.
The Egan Report, as it came to be called, confirmed that the industry did have some centres of excellence, but that overall there were many problems to resolve. These included:
- low profitability, which in turn led to
- low levels of capital investment
- insufficient research and development
- inadequate employee training
- outdated methods of production
- excessive waste of resources eg time and materials
- many dissatisfied customers.
The Task Force thought that too many firms in the industry were poorly led and lacked vision. Firms were criticised for being insufficiently aware of the business environment in which they operated, and for failing to adapt products and their processes to meet changing customer needs.
The directors of Portakabin, Europe's leading provider of modular buildings, welcomed the report's findings. Clearly, its comments were accurate in relation to large sections of the construction industry.
On the other hand, Portakabin had good reason to believe that it was one of the industry's centres of excellence and that its own progressive approach gave it a competitive advantage over many of its would-be rivals.
This case study looks at how the Portakabin operations exhibit the kind of good practice that the Construction Task Force wants to see the whole industry adopt. In particular, it demonstrates how Portakabin is 'ahead of the game' by being customer-led and responsive to the changing business environment.