A review of project controls in the UK and methodologies to improve the processes

  • David Mackenzie

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The construction industry represents a significant part of the Gross Domestic Product, (GDP) in the UK. It employs around 1.4 million people and has averaged around 7.5% of GDP over recent years. Although the industry is of major importance to the UK economy, it still under achieves. Many projects run over budget and are completed late to schedule and a lot of resource is invested in making good defects, repair and replacement and in litigation (Latham 1994). These shortfalls in the construction industry were investigated by EGAN 1998 in his report, Rethinking Construction. EGAN proposed five key drivers for change, these consisted of committed leadership, focus on the customer, integrating the processes and teams, a quality driven agenda and commitment to people. Targets were set to gauge the improvements to the UK, these include 10% reduction in capital cost and construction time, 20% reduction in defects and accident, 20% increase in productivity and profitability and 10% increase in predictability of project performance. This thesis reviews one of the most important drivers, which is the improvement to integrate construction processes through improved project controls. The aim of the Thesis was to investigate by a literature review, a questionnaire and survey and three audits of client’s processes and work practices how Project Controls was currently operating to deliver Projects on time and within budget. It was then necessary to review (how based on best practice) current Project Control processes and systems could be improved. The improvements are portrayed by the development a series of “road maps” and “tool kits” demonstrating how processes and systems could be improved. This research thesis investigates the status of Project Controls in the UK and develops methodologies to improve controls. The investigation of Project Controls is based on five pieces of work, namely; i) A literature review of current practices; ii) The development of a questionnaire and survey results; iii) Three client reports of work carried out by the author. The five pieces of work were then contextualised to form a commentary of findings and recommendations for improvement. The recommendations were then linked to a methodology for improvements to the key elements of Project Controls. The aims of the thesis were achieved in that many issues of weakness were identified in current Project Control systems and processes and “road maps” were developed identifying in detail how best practice should be adopted. The thesis identifies major weaknesses in control of major projects with examples such a Pharmaceuticals, Building construction and Road construction industries demonstrating minimal understanding of the concepts and benefits of effective control. It could be described as disappointing series of examples of why some of our Industries fail to deliver to cost and schedule. However, the thesis does layout via “road maps” how improvements could be made, this knowledge has in part been shared with some clients in the Pharmaceutical and Road construction. The thesis therefore does demonstrate a contribution to knowledge and some of its recommendations are being implemented in practice. The primary conclusions of the Thesis indicates that with the exception of Oil & Gas companies there are major gaps between what is accepted as best practice and what is happening in Industry with regards to Project Controls. There is a lack of understanding at Project Control engineer and Project Manager Level. There is a need for additional training in particular for Project Managers as their understanding and ability to see the benefits is paramount to driving forward effective planning and control for projects. Also it is necessary that robust Project Control procedures are established in all industries to integrate the cost and planning disciplines to ensure a common approach to best practice is adopted.
Date of Award1 Feb 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Teesside University
SupervisorNashwan Dawood (Supervisor)

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