Embracing Innovation

Embracing Innovation

Andy Dalrymple writes for us on how Mackenzie Construction has embraced innovation and the opportunities presented by the Innovation Centre.

The Construction Scotland Innovation Centre recently launched their new Innovation Factory – a 3000sqm research and development facility, which will allow anyone within the construction industry in Scotland to access workshop space filled with state of the art production and prototyping equipment and technology. Construction businesses of all sizes will be able to use the new facility to test and develop new products, processes, systems and solutions, at all stages of the construction process. The centre also facilitates unique opportunities for collaboration between contractors, designers, academics and suppliers; at developing an innovative approach to construction that delivers better results for all involved.

There is no doubt that innovation is something every business aspires too; bringing opportunities for improvement in safety, productivity, in competitiveness and in profitability and given how important the construction sector is to the Scottish economy, this also generates dividends for the wider economy too. At Mackenzie Construction, we are fully committed to safer and more efficient and effective service through driving and embracing innovative technologies and works practices in all our activities. In simple terms, Innovation is anything new to our business, a new idea, method, technology, device, product, solution or procedure. Anything that brings positive change to the workplace. Innovation is crucial to the continuing development & success of our business.

As an SME, Mackenzie Construction realised back in early 2014 that in order for our business to develop, grow and remain competitive we had to focus on three key areas, Innovation, Lessons Learned & Best Practice.

For us, we see the potential benefits of focusing on Innovation across our business are improved safety, sustainable growth and remaining competitive, reduction in costs, improved productivity, improved collaboration with our clients and supply chain, bringing added value, providing better quality and solutions across the board and the potential to reduce our environmental impact.

The construction industry is a fast moving, challenging environment, where markets, materials and technology is always improving and evolving. Therefore it was important that efforts were made to embed the culture of innovation into our procedures and processes in order to maximise our own opportunities for development. Further to this, as our clients, partners, customers and supply chain also started to realise the benefits of encouraging innovation within their respective businesses, we also began to reach out to them in order to share our successes in order to promote further collaboration.

Often it is a case of simply constantly asking if there is a “safer or more efficient way” to carry out an operation. Of encouraging employees to challenge design/scopes and methods of construction and ensuring that we capture and utilise this knowledge to drive forward change. Our aim is always to improve and we have an ethos of continual improvement embedded within the culture of our company.

We continually embrace new technology, new systems, new equipment and review practices no longer as efficient as they once were. Change not for the sake of change but change to maximise our efficiency and competitiveness. Constantly considering and embracing new ways of doing things; at upskilling and at sharing and adopting best practice at all levels of our organisation. Meeting regularly with our Supply Chain to review and consider new and more efficient equipment and materials coming onto the market and engaging with the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre over opportunities for innovation development.

For example, recently we have involved the CSIC in the ongoing research and development of new innovative processes using new material which could reduce the removal of generated construction material from site to nil. This regenerative process will reduce resource input, waste, emission and energy leakage by slowing, closing and narrowing material and energy loops.

At the heart of innovation and key to its success is knowledge sharing. It’s the foundation on which innovation is built, vital to ensuring its potential can be realised and central to maximising its impact. Industry wide forums, such as those organised by the Civil Engineering Contractors Association are an essential part of this process – enabling industry liaison with key procurement authorities, including further and higher educational institutions, local authorities and the Scottish Government. Enabling companies to share knowledge too about changes that can enhance safety and wellbeing.

Sharing knowledge with our Supply Chain is another invaluable opportunity for prospective improvements. That’s why Mackenzie Construction organises a biannual Supply Chain Engagement Forum, an opportunity not only to engage with all in our supply chain but to stimulate innovation that in turn delivers improvements in safety, in efficiency and in sustainability.

It’s not just about external collaboration. Knowledge sharing at Company level is equally beneficial and productive. At Mackenzie Construction, we have an Innovation Notice Board where employees can put forward their ideas, which are recorded on our Innovation Register. These proposals are then considered by our Quarterly Innovation Forums, where construction staff from across the business debate the proposals and agree on how they should be taken forward. Employee engagement is also facilitated through monthly Worker Engagement Meetings, held and chaired by myself and attended by site operatives. All this is backed up by weekly meetings at site level. We know that workforce engagement is absolutely vital to the innovation process, it’s certainly central to ensuring its success.

Thereafter, on the basis that the innovation has been successful in any way, we then ensure that we share our success, primarily in house, but we then extend this to our clients, customers and supply chain. The sharing of Innovation is a vital part of the process that we have undertaken as it gives everyone that we engage with the opportunity to work with us in a collaborative way. We believe that this will only improve our business relationships with key clients and drive efficiencies and improvements through all aspects of our business.

The need for innovation in organizations has resulted in a new focus on the role of leaders in shaping the nature and success of creative efforts. Seeking and generating innovation is key to delivering positive change in our sector. From the smallest adaptions to large scale improvements, new ideas can lead to real and positive change. That’s why Mackenzie Construction has firmly embedded an innovation culture and we are committed to doing all we can to ensure our workforce, our clients and our supply chain are all moving in the right direction with us on our innovation journey.

You can find out more about the Construction Scotland Innovation Factory here

Andy Dalrymple is Managing Director of Mackenzie Construction and a member of CECA Scotland’s Board