The Department of Transport and Main Roads is on the front foot in dealing with major construction challenges.
Over the last two years, Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) and industry bodies have faced significant construction challenges when delivering major projects due to supply, material and resource constraints.
In a recent Thought Leaders webinar with Engineers Australia, Andrew Wheeler, Regional Director of South Coast Region at TMR, discussed how the department is working closely with industry to manage these challenges and successfully deliver on infrastructure projects across the state.
Challenging set of circumstances
Australia’s labour and skills shortage is placing pressure on many infrastructure projects.
“This is one of our biggest issues,” says Wheeler. “It’s impacting our internal TMR team as well as our contractors and consultants.”
The resources challenge is also evident in the availability of material supplies and equipment.
“At present there’s a greater need for a longer lead time to secure construction materials such as steel liners and precast concrete girders for our bridge structures,” says Wheeler.
“It can also be a challenge to get trucks, rollers and graders, especially on construction sites.”
Cost escalation is another key issue. In particular, when there’s a lag between the planning phase and the delivery of a project, prices for materials can increase substantially, says Wheeler.
In light of recent weather events, the cost of insurance can also spike if there’s a greater risk of exposure to turbulent weather events when delivering projects.
Working hand in glove with industry, TMR has developed a number of key strategies to navigate the current construction challenges in the market. They include:
- Developing a multi-skilled workforce: This entails building an agile and well-resourced team that has the right mix of skills.
“We’re constantly looking at in-house training, capacity building, and ways to provide our staff with opportunities to work on a multitude of different projects that broaden their technical skills,” says Wheeler.
- Building strong partnerships: “We work closely with our consultants to provide industry with up-to-date information about developments in our projects and any foreseeable risks,” says Wheeler.
Strong partnerships also ensure TMR and industry can work collaboratively and flexibly to overcome challenges.
“We try to minimise as many risks as we can in the planning and design phases, but sometimes risks emerge further down the line,” says Wheeler.
“Being open about these risks helps us to resolve them together as early as possible. By drawing on our strong partnerships, we can respond flexibly to changes in external circumstances that may occur during construction.”
- Using digital tools to work collaboratively and effectively: “There’s been increased use of building information modelling (BIM) for presentations and virtual meetings for TMR staff working in the office and remotely, and for our industry partners who are also working more flexibly.”
“BIM allows everyone on a project to access the same data and intelligence, keeping them informed of certain risks associated with the delivery and design stages.”
- Drawing on external contractors to manage the skills shortage: “We’re supplementing our TMR internal project teams with contractors and skilled industry experts to enable us to deliver on our programs,” says Wheeler.
TMR is also approaching these challenges through a sustainability lens.
On the upgrade to M1 Pacific Motorway Varsity Lakes to Tugun, for example, TMR teams are breaking the existing concrete pavement into smaller, interconnected pieces – a process known as rubblisation – in order to reuse these pieces on site.
“This means we aren’t disposing of the existing product but using that material as a road base going forward,” says Wheeler.
“In the current environment where we have a limited supply of trucks, it’s critical that we reuse as much material on site as possible.
“This is one of the first initiatives of its kind in Australia and it’s been hugely successful.”
Watch the Thought Leaders webinar to learn more about how TMR is managing delivery in boom times.