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Planning for Future Virus Outbreaks – What Have we Learned?

planning-for-future-virus-outbreaks

Coronavirus has certainly played its part in upending the stability and normality of 2020, and certainly will remain doing so for quite some time. It is these types unplanned and chance worldwide events which cause extreme disruption and are difficult to plan for. Nobody could have seen this coming. However, as compos mentis individuals, we can understand that we can learn from past mistakes and successes in order to plan for the future. One of the most criticised faux-pas of the British government was the indecisive nature to formalise a nationwide decision to lockdown at the end of March. This left many British citizens with a diminished respect for the government authority due to the potential unnecessary deaths it may have caused.

There are many criticisms over different decisions which have been made over the course of the pandemic. Not just the British government, either. It’s no secret that the US government has posed some questionable tactics. This leads many of us to think: ‘What would we have done differently?’ A good question. None of us really know what would happen and how we would act if put in that position. As citizens, business owners, stakeholders, planners, and engineers, we can take control and begin to mitigate problems such as future pandemics, climate change, fires and damage caused by negligence.

It is the role of planning engineers to prepare for and prevent these issues and risks as much as possible. What are the notions we can take from the coronavirus pandemic, and other pandemics for that matter, and apply them to future projects going forward?

Always have a contingency plan

It’s vital to have a contingency plan when constructing a project. The purpose of such is to make sure risk management features are taken into account. Here at APE we know that planners must have a backup plan at all times. As they say: ‘you can plan to fail if you fail to plan’. Contingency planning is important for evaluating possible scenarios that may completely derail or interrupt projects; something which people will be familiar with after the last few months. We can expect extra time and focus being put into contingency plans moving forward, since no firms want to be left without backup if things go awry. Risks have always been an important part of planning. Even more so with the volatility of the environment and economy at the current time. Being prepared is vital.

Be thorough in your analysis

This goes without saying, but it’s important to reiterate how vital attention to detail is in even the smallest of projects. Giving room for error is where many managers meet complications down the line. Triple checking your plans and documents for any hint of a mistake is a key way to help prevent you or your colleagues falling short and leaving elements of a project incomplete, delayed or irreparable. Crisis plans are vital in 2020, with organisations around the globe needing to adapt to the unpredictability of the world.

Prepare with upgraded digital infrastructure

Many employees around the globe have had to adapt in recent months to working from home. Planning for future virus outbreak will include preparation and implementation of digital infrastructure such as internet and cyber security, working from home or remotely will be much easier. Increased security is vital for firms who are planning to work remotely for the foreseeable future, since overheard conversations, unsecure Wi-Fi networks and potential data breaches can be detrimental to any company. In this sense, upgrading digital infrastructure is a great way to prevent security issues, as well as helping to increase productivity.

Use competent scheduling and planning software

While this point may be obvious, many project planners do not use software best suited for them. They often use the software which the firm is familiar with using or whatever their predecessor implemented. It’s important to use software which works for your projects and you can use efficiently to increase your productivity. Project and planning managers will be very familiar with preparing scopes, delegating tasks and producing risk management plans – these are all tasks that are best formatted in digital software which can be integrated with employees. The tricky part is finding out which software works best for you and your team. Have a look at our 7 Project Management Tools for some inspiration if you’re looking to upgrade your management methods.  

Lessons learned

As with all good planners, it is important to reflect on the issues and successes of the project. This reflective and evaluative process will be undertaken at the end of the project in order to see where areas can be improved for future development. This is a crucial stage to learn and advance as a company in order to prevent future mistakes and pitfalls. As a business, you must continually be seeking improvement for your employees and your customers for the best outcomes. Finding lessons from each project is a valuable task for both employees and stakeholders – you can evaluate areas of weakness and improvement.

In terms of the Covid-19 outbreak, it is safe to say that plans sometimes need to be amended and adjusted as situations develop. The coronavirus pandemic is an excellent example of adaptation and widespread social change in order to provide a positive outcome. Thousands of individuals around the world have had to adapt to new ways of life, in light of government plans and guidelines which they have chosen to trust. This immense authority is a blessing and a curse, meaning, authority can be lost or gained in an instant with poorly executed or successful motives.

Learning to reschedule, adapt and reflect is vital in the planning industry. If you haven’t already considered membership with us, you might find that your career and personal development will both benefit from our exclusive memberships. Throughout your membership with us, you’ll receive exclusive development tools, access to CPD resources, free lectures and seminars and worldwide networking events. These traits will even help you in planning for future virus outbreaks, among other things. Become the best planner you can be with APE.

Coronavirus: Lessons Learned 2020

It is no secret that the throngs of Coronavirus have consumed citizens and societies of the world, sending 2020 into a chaotic spiral of mass panic and medical overwhelm. While, inevitably, countries have handled the spread and restrictions of COVID-19 very differently, it would be naive to suggest that many countries weren’t reluctant to understand the severity of the virus at the very beginning. With a worldwide death toll of over 290,000, there is much speculation as to whether governments handled the outbreak effectively, or if nature was just due to run its’ course regardless. With a global pandemic, a completely alien situation to many of us, handling of the outbreak came at a shock to many leaders worldwide, with many left with no choice but to take it in their stride. Much like a project of any kind, it’s important to review the strategic elements that can be learned from in order to prevent a similar situation happening again.

It’s Better to be Overprepared Than Underprepared

This lesson comes with the mixed responses to the way the UK government handled the containment and addressing of the pandemic. Boris Johnson has come under great scrutiny for his initial plan to increase ‘herd immunity’ before rapidly changing stances to enforce a nationwide lockdown just days later. Many Britons understandably felt confused with the indecisive nature of the, potentially lethal, turn of events that led to the exposure of thousands of individuals prior. Boris Johnson has received backlash from Italy, Spain and other EU countries; with belief that the only nation to handle the outbreak worse was the US. The lesson that should be taken from this catastrophic turn of indecisive events is to overprepare before irreversible damage is done. Meaning, lockdown should have been enforced earlier and with definitive guidelines demonstrating the severity of the disease. However, many of the consequences were not entirely the British government’s fault, the belief systems of many UK individuals meant that the comprehension of COVID-19 only really became apparent when death tolls began to rise by hundreds every day. A better government-citizen relationship would have resulted in greater trust, authority and implementation. Yet, following the UK’s Brexit plan just months before the Coronavirus outbreak, maybe it was just bad timing.

Reduce Outsourcing

One of the most crucial situations which has emerged from the pandemic is the vital lack of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) throughout the UK for key workers, including those working on the front-line in hospitals and care homes. While also not having anywhere near enough equipment, the PPE which was being imported was often faulty and unusable. This comes after the delivery of almost half a million gowns which were rendered useless with the much lower standards of Turkish healthcare policies. Since Britain has primarily moved away from manufacturing in the last half-century, it sparks debate about whether the UK should not rely so heavily on outsourced goods to provide for the nation in times of need. This comes with a growing sense of nationalism as the UK has seen great increase in acts of compassion and general community togetherness, which may introduce a greater sense of national pride in promoting British-made goods.

Make Testing a Priority

The UK has fallen short on testing since the very beginning. With new measures in place to deliver and provide testing kits to those who need them, this number has slowly began to increase. However, it comes with speculation that it’s just too little too late. The early numbers of testing were falling up to 80,000 short of the projected targets, meaning thousands of people who were infected were going untested each day. A more robust strategy for widespread testing should have been implemented and made a priority from the beginning. Many healthcare workers were not getting the access needed to coronavirus tests to ensure their safety while working on the front-line.

Look After One Another

This lesson comes after the extreme animosity seen throughout the world when the pandemic began to make serious headway and started infecting thousands worldwide. The saddening reality of the impending pandemic was to stockpile and hoard essential items, leaving none for the elderly, vulnerable or key workers. Throughout the UK this atrocity continued for weeks, with empty shelves leaving supermarkets looking like something from an apocalyptic movie. The optimists among us would hope that the threat of an oncoming virus would lead to acts of kindness, sharing supplies and remaining thoughtful of your neighbours and fellow residents. Much like something you’d have seen during World War II, which we were starkly reminded of following the 75th Anniversary of VE Day on the 8th of May. Supermarkets did impose certain restrictions on essential items to prevent stockpiling, and eventually the panic diminished enough for people to shop somewhat normally. It still poses the psychosocial question of selfishness over selflessness as a nation during times of crisis. Though not applicable to everyone, and having settled down in recent weeks, it’s still important to reflect on the behaviour of the nation in times of national panic, and thinking how it will have an effect on other vulnerable members of the community.

Should history repeat itself and leave us inundated with a worldwide strain of a deadly virus once again, I hope we have the courage to teach our future generations, and indeed remind ourselves, to act with kindness and integrity. It is so important to remember that humanity is the forefront of our existence, and if we have no compassion for others, then we have ultimately failed those past generations who fought so hard for us. This ‘Lessons Learned’ approach to the coronavirus situation is an important way to evaluate how individual situations have been handled on both a national and international scale.

 

 

7 Project Management Tools to Increase Your Efficiency

Tools are useful implements that can be used throughout your career as a project manager to make your life easier, more organised and more efficient. While you may not need all of these project management tools below, you can pick and choose which software you think will be effective at helping your business projects day-to-day. Software is undoubtedly an excellent way to improve your teams efficiency, since the organisation and integration of management software is usually much more effective than old-fashioned pen-and-paper methods. These are just a few of the hundreds of programmes out there that you can use to help organise your business projects, regardless of what industry you work in: construction, IT, business. All project coordinators, planning engineers and management professionals could benefit from the use of these tools.

1. Primavera


Oracle created software Primavera P6 is the latest version in the Primavera series and is used by project managers worldwide. The software allows project managers to add teams to a project by assigning tasks and ‘activities’ to certain members, track their progress in real time, and view comprehensive visual data of the project itself. This is a great way to stay on track, keep a close eye on any risks and send visual reports to your team on a weekly or monthly basis.


2. Evernote


Evernote is more than just a notetaking app. Think of Evernote as Microsoft Word and Excel’s savvy and overachieving cousin. It gives users the opportunity to track projects with other team members, integrate timetables and Gantt charts, and set milestones for reaching certain goals. With internet connectivity, it allows new information to be updated in real-time so all collaborators have the most recent version of every document. Evernote can also be integrated with e-mail, communication software Slack and Google Drive for ultimate storage facilities.


3. Trello


Trello provides users with an interactive and digital noticeboard, which can be used as a simple but effective tool to manage ideas, tasks, ongoing projects and running to-dos. One of the great functions of Trello is the ability to communicate quickly and effectively without the need for the constant back-and-forth of e-mail threads. Trello also used the Kanban visual method which is known to be an efficient organisation method which uses boards, cards and lists to organise tasks and projects. This is a great option for those who enjoy more visual methods of organisation, and the satisfaction of seeing tasks placed in the ‘Done’ section once completed.


4. Asana


Asana is a great online webspace that can be used for collaborating projects between teams. Here, tasks can be assigned and discussed by team members throughout the clean but simple interface, which also integrates with software such as DropBox, as well as Google storage options. This tool is great for tracking progress of projects, as well as collaborating with easy formatting and simple design.


5. TeamGantt


As a project manager, the use of a Gantt chart should become second nature to you. It’s a great way to visualise your project strategy by setting targets and deadlines. The easy interface allows users to easily and quickly start planning a project, and the integrated share functions allow collaborators to view up-to-date documents and tasks. Since TeamGantt is cloud-based, you never have to worry about losing your files, you’ll be able to access them on the go and produce reports at your fingertips.


6. MavenLink


MavenLink is another excellent software which is another excellent all-rounder. It can incorporate Gantt charts as well as analysis and budgets. What sets it apart from many other project management software is its timesheet features which allow users to create expenditure reports and track all accounting aspects of a project. MavenLink can help you predict future payouts for employees based on their rate of work and create invoices based on time and resources spent throughout a project.This can be especially helpful with project estimations and budget analysis within a project or across multiple projects.


7. CPD Learning


While not technically a project management tool like the others, CPD, or Continuing Professional Development, is a great way to keep your professional knowledge up-to-date and relevant. With new software and developments coming out each day in our technologically developed world, it is important to make sure you’re using the most efficient software and strategies for your role. Many online companies and institutions such as the Association of Planning Engineers offer CPD lessons which contribute towards your professional development. An example of a free CPD course we offer is the Primavera 2019 course which will help you to utilise the Primavera software to make your projects more efficient.

While this list is not exhaustive, there is a plethora of software and project management tools out there for your business to try out. Sometimes, it is about trying different methods and figuring out which works best for your team. You may find some features you find very useful throughout your project, but others not so much. If you haven’t tried any of the options on this list before, maybe give them a go. Similarly, if you haven’t tried any CPD courses or lessons before, it can be a great way to become inspired if you find you’ve stagnated in your career. Learn something new, gain valuable skills and ensure your professional knowledge is up-to-date so you can perform your role to the best of your ability.

5 Ways of Increasing Sustainability in Construction

With global climate change a topic on everyone’s minds, it is a crucial initiative of construction firms throughout the industry to focus on increasing their sustainability. Net-zero is a phrase thrown around often within the construction industry and sustainability in construction is becoming increasingly demanded. With the UK Climate Change Act 2008 implementing a target of up to 80% reduction in emissions, it is vastly important for many construction firms to switch up their methods. More and more sustainability-orientated projects are being given the go-ahead in order to work towards reducing emissions as a nation, and as a sector.

Smart Buildings and Technology

The introduction of ‘smart buildings’ has been a game-changer for sustainability in construction industries. Smart buildings serve to make the purpose of a building so much more efficient and enjoyable. While internet connectivity is a huge part of smart buildings, as it is with modern speakers, lights and even fridges, they are so much more than that. What’s great about smart buildings, is they can monitor their own energy consumption in order to provide insight into how the building can be made more efficient. They also have the ability to have temperature and lighting changed remotely, meaning a reduce in needed electricity, and therefore helping to keep unwanted emissions at bay. Many more smart buildings are popping up and are more common than you might initially think. With even greater incentive to focus on sustainability, there will be a huge increase in smart buildings within the coming decades.

Reducing Emission-Intensive Materials

Many materials, such as steel, are very emission-intensive. Sustainability in construction will by no means be easy, but the sourcing of more eco-friendly materials is a great way to reduce the carbon footprint of a build. Although not always viable, where possible, firms should prioritise local materials when searching for resources, since this will greatly reduce the amount of transportation emissions that are produced. Moreover, timber building is much more environmentally viable than its masonry counterpart, therefore opting for more timber based builds is a great way to reduce a heavy carbon footprint from stone and brickwork practices. Even opting for resources with primarily recycled materials is a great way to lower the emissions outcome straight from the get-go; while sometimes more expensive, often recycled materials are of a higher quality and will last longer throughout the lifetime of a project.

Improving Waste Management

Waste is a huge part of any project build and is a great hindrance on sustainability in construction. Finding new ways to recycle or repurpose waste materials is a good first step. This involves the implication of searching for recyclable materials in the first place. The Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP) suggests that building materials should be ordered responsibly and realistically to prevent excessive ordering which is wasted at the completion of a build. It is also encouraged to repurpose leftover materials into aggregate and other usable materials. This is in order to promote a more circular economy which will help to reduce emissions by eliminating the need for wasteful bi-products or over-ordered goods.

Vehicles and Equipment

It comes as no surprise that the heavy equipment and vehicles used are a great cause for emissions within the industry. Many vehicles used in construction are resource intensive and produce greenhouse gases. It is encouraged by many leading institutions, for sustainability in construction to be achieved with more environmentally-friendly vehicles. Since it is primarily petrol and diesel which are used to power these fuel-guzzling machines and vehicles, switching them off when not in use, and switching to electric power if possible are great ways to help cut down on these emissions. There have been implementations by environmental firms in London which require the use of equipment which is only less than a decade old, to ensure that the equipment is as efficient as possible.

Efficient Building Practices

In order to ensure new buildings have a lower carbon footprint than their retro counterparts, there are measures in place to make sure they are efficient from the very beginning. By implementing strict procedures such as quality and effective building insulation, many heat emissions can be reduced due to less heat-loss. Not only is this better for emissions, it will reduce the costs the client will incur due to inefficient heating. Furthermore, it’s important that quality materials are also used throughout any construction project. This will provide longer lasting results which will require less maintenance, and therefore less additional materials, in the long term.

Now, while there is no sure-fire way to decrease emissions from buildings within the construction industry, the points above set about a good overview of the ways it can be done. A combination of all of these points will be the way for firms to implement environmentally-friendly practice and educate their workers on the importance of this. Since there is a high-risk for excess emissions at all stages of a construction project lifecycle, it is important to try and tackle all stages of this process. Starting with the sourcing of materials, the efficiency of the build itself and the equipment used, finished with how all waste is managed and taken care of responsibly. It is a key time within the construction industry for firms to take environmental emissions seriously and set standards to combat carbon emissions. While this task is not to be completed overnight, it is a set of gradual changes that must be implemented in order to reduce the climatic impacts that the construction industry has.

 

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