Poor Performance of Public Construction Projects in Saudi Arabia
The modern development of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia testifies to considerable achievements in the economic and social spheres and to the emergence of new difficulties generated during the rapid modernization process. However, there is one drawback that needs to be addressed. In Saudi Arabia, there is a low efficiency of public construction projects which excel among the successes made by the state.
One of the main problems faced by SA construction projects concerns delays which ultimately undermine their efficiency. Saudi Arabia implemented numerous state-building projects within the framework of state-national development plans (Alsuliman, 2019, p. 801). However, despite this, these projects were characterized by frequent and long delays (Abdellatif, H., & Alshibani, 2019, p. 93). Essentially, Saudi Arabia, despite having enough resources and allocating sufficient funding, cannot ensure the fast and efficient completion of construction projects. Alsuliman (2019, p. 804) analyzed the causes of these delays and discovered that there were at least twenty most common reasons for the occurrence, including a lack of studies of soil and the absence of approvals from state entities. Unlike Alsuliman, Elawi, and Mahamid (2015, p. 5; 2017, p. 51) found that the majority of instances of delays were related to owners’ actions and not those of contractors. Based on such evidence, it is clear delays in construction work in Saudi Arabia emerge due to a variety of factors which all have to be taken into consideration.
Building Information Modelling is an approach that is often used in Saudi Arabia with the intention of resolving the above-mentioned issue. Yet, as researchers note, technology and resources act as barriers to the implementation of BIM in construction projects (Banawi, 2017, p. 119). While some experts state that it can be helpful in the design phase of construction to support quality management by clash and latency detection (Stransky and Matejka, 2019, p. 1707). Nevertheless, the fact that the problems of delays and poor quality, as well as high costs, still remain widespread indicates that BIM can hardly resolve the existing issues.
Researchers state additional problems related to the issues surrounding Saudi Arabia’s construction sphere. According to Alharbi (2020, p. 17), Saudi Arabia has poor efficiency in construction and constant delays because of various disputes occurring, mainly between clients and contractors. BIM proponents state their approach is crucial because it can solve the design errors which often constitute the causes of delays and which arise from conflicts between clients and contractors (Gopang, 2020, p. 225). Nevertheless, the implementation of BIM requires considerable changes in documentation, as well as policies, and regulations in the industry which further complicates the process and leads to delays and other problems.
Delays are not the only problem inherent to the SA construction sphere; another serious issue is cost overruns which similarly have had a negative effect on productivity over the past decade. In Saudi Arabia, on average, nine out of ten projects experience cost overruns on a consistent basis (Aljohani et al., 2017, p. 137). Some researchers state that Saudi Arabia has difficult natural conditions, which can be a factor capable of influencing the cost of an ongoing project (Alqahtany, A., and Mohanna, 2019, p. 163). Yet, if the natural constraints posed a considerable challenge, clients and contractors would allocate a certain sum for unforeseen circumstances in advance; therefore, the main cause of overruns is different. Thus, the financial crisis, political circumstances, and deferred investments negatively impact the economy and the construction industry, which causes overruns and delays (Abdulmoneim, 2021, p. 35). At the same time, Alavipour and Arditi (2020, p. 2) contend that change orders made by clients constitute the most common cause of cost overruns in the country. Thus, it is possible to assume that, similar to delays, cost overruns can be caused by various factors.
Thus, based on the fact that Saudi Arabia faces significant issues in terms of construction, it is necessary to determine success factors that can resolve the situation. Identifying key success factors can enable stakeholders to use limited resources to implement a successful project effectively. In one study, researchers identified five success factors: the competence and abilities of crucial contractor personnel in various disciplines, and the competence, authority, and participation of project managers. Moreover, clear communication channels between the owner and the manager and the designer, the commitment of all project participants to the established schedule and budget, and clear communication channels between the involved parties of the project are essential (Mathar et al., 2020, p. 365). Nevertheless, these success factors are often neglected due to poor productivity of labor and poor scheduling and planning, and payment delays, ultimately leading to unsatisfactory performance (Mahamid, 2016, p. 27). Essentially, despite existing success factors, clients and contractors still fail to attain the desired results in their projects and continue to encounter delays, cost overruns, and overall poor productivity.
It is clear that the aforementioned success factors play a significant role in construction projects in Saudi Arabia, but there are other aspects one has to consider. For instance, the involved parties must pay attention to technical analysis of the competitors, change tender checking committees and focus on financial analysis and awarding the lowest bidder to gain success and not just competence, authority, and participation. All of these aspects can be incorporated as part of the companies’ Quality Management, which can be effective if carried out at all stages of the construction project. Innovation and operational results are essential for strengthening the link between quality management and financial results (Tarí et al., 2021, p. 1). Frequent and prolonged delays and cost overruns are the leading causes of poor performance of construction projects in Saudi Arabia, and Quality Management can solve these issues.
Lack of Implementation of QM Practices Leads to Poor Project Performance in Construction
In market and competition conditions, developed countries perceive high quality as a strategic and commercial advantage and the most significant source of national wealth. Quality largely determines the state’s prestige and is the most critical component of competitiveness (Rumane, 2017, p. 171). Quality Management can be defined as a philosophy that involves continuous improvement of products and services and other company operations, both internal and external ones, and aims at delivering maximum value to clients (Ebrahimi and Sadeghi, 2013, p. 5626). Flynn et al. (1995, p. 660) consider quality management an integrated, inter-functional means of achieving and sustaining competitive advantage. Thus, QM methods are the means of implementing management processes, together with the impact on management objects, to achieve a specific goal in the field of quality.
An essential part of Quality Management is the practices and methods used by experts and companies utilizing the approach. Quality Management practices can be defined as aspects of quality that ensure the attainment of organizational objectives by means of continuous improvement (Patyal and Koilakuntla, 2018, p. 1411). Researchers differentiate between two types of QM practices, namely, cores and infrastructure ones (Flynn et al., 1995, p. 660). The former practices refer to various technical process improvements techniques such as the use of data, statistical process control, and product design (Patyal and Koilakuntla, 2018, p. 1412). While the latter implies the techniques aimed at improving organizational culture, implementing change, managing human resources, and enhancing relations with suppliers and clients (Patyal and Koilakuntla, 2018, p. 1412). Thus, QM practices constitute methods that allow companies to achieve better results and be able to improve their operations and production on a continuous basis.
Quality Management was first introduced in the sphere of manufacturing, and it is important to consider several factors when applying it to the construction industry. There is a variety of theories of QM that were developed specifically for manufacturing, but some of them can also be used on construction projects. For instance, there is a Lean production which focuses on minimizing waste by considering a standard of perfection (Sullivan, 2011, p. 212). Yet, unlike mass-production manufacturing projects, construction ones are usually unique, which creates certain challenges for companies implementing Quality Management since there cannot be one quality-control procedure applicable to the whole industry (Arditi and Gunaydin, 1997, p. 236). Nevertheless, modern large-scale construction projects make use of numerous standardized elements (Hoonakker et al., 2010, p. 954). This ultimately lets companies implement QM practices successfully, even on construction projects.
Another theory of Quality Management developed specifically for the manufacturing industry and then applied to the construction one is Six Sigma. The approach utilizes a five-stage process which implies defining a problem, measuring it, analyzing its cause, improving and controlling it, and has been successfully implemented in manufacturing (Sullivan, 2011, p. 213). Yet, in construction, Six Sigma did not yield any substantial results because there was no methodology for assessing performance improvement after removing a defect (Sullivan, 2011, p. 213). Thus, studies show that not all QM theories and practices are applicable to the construction sphere.
Total Quality Management is another QM theory that, despite having shortcomings, is the most effective approach for utilizing in construction. TQM was also created in manufacturing, and one of its key aspects is the use of statistical data for quality improvement, which is not compatible with construction (Sullivan, 2011, p. 213). Nevertheless, there are many studies showing the positive impact of TQM on companies, and improvements were especially visible in the province of customer orientation (Byrde and Robinson, 2007, p. 58). Such evidence indicates that TQM can still be effectively used in the sphere of construction.
It is also important to assess the effect of QM practices on the project level in industries such as construction. According to Jan Emblemsvag (2020, p. 728), project-based industries, unlike manufacturing ones, have features such as temporary organization and site production, which limits the use of QM practices. While other researchers (Jong, Sim, and Lew, 2019, p.) discovered that in the construction sphere, TQM practices such as employee encouragement and involvement, as well as setting of clear objectives, positively affected project performance. The evidence presented above shows that TQM and other QM theories and approaches can be successfully implemented in the construction industry only if certain practices are introduced. Yet, human resource development as the QM component was discovered to have a positive impact on project performance in all spheres (Barad and Raz, 2000, p. 582). Therefore, there is a need for more QM approaches applicable to project-based industries, and one of them is Quality 4.0, which implies using RFID chips, barcodes, QR codes for quality management (Emblemsvag (2020, p. 735). Utilizing such QM practices can potentially significantly benefit construction projects and all stakeholders involved in them.
Today, many construction organizations are now transforming their Quality Management standards to meet certain industry-wide guidelines and criteria. One of such standard is ISO 9001:2000, which ensures that a company observes the regulatory requirements concerning the quality of their products (Thomas and Jayakumar, 2017, p. 792). However, in some countries, experts in the construction industry are not well aware of the TQM philosophy and generally fail to meet any standards (Eshetie, 2020). As a result, there is considerable variance in the construction industry, meaning that while some companies adopt QM practices in the form of ISO standards, while others avoid it.
In the construction industry, a partnership among all stakeholders, including clients, contractors, and workers, is essential for ensuring the best result and observing quality standards. Wankhade and Kesarkar (2021, p. 1410) argue that a study of the literature and surveys conducted in the United States showed that management’s commitment to quality and continuous quality improvement is crucial. Ednäs and Granath (2021, p. 68) identify strong leadership and a culture of development and employee empowerment as the main aspects of QM. Essentially, such evidence demonstrates that to utilize QM practices successfully, everyone, including senior managers and employees, must be committed to the goal of pursuing continuous improvement.
Modern construction projects have reached a gigantic scale, and the pace of construction of objects has increased significantly, so it has become impossible to build without quality management. Too many regulatory requirements need to be met and at the same time ensure coordination of the work of many parties. Implementation of QM can improve the quality and business performance of the constructing organizations (Pambreni, 2019, p. 1397). Construction companies can achieve excellent organizational performance by using defect prevention methods and control tools (Rahman, 2005, p. 75). However, not all QM practices are positive; Dow et al. (1999) consider benchmarking, cellular work teams, advanced manufacturing technologies, and close supplier relations to be the aspects that worsen the quality of work. The excess of implemented practices in the overall program for improving the quality of construction projects can lead to frustration and a reduction in support for the program.
The quality management system is a set of particular practices, internal policies, and methods for the company’s work to satisfy customers with high-quality goods and services. The quality of construction products is the main factor affecting the efficiency and profitability of the completed construction object, ensuring its reliability and durability, determined by the quality of the project, the quality of construction materials and products, and the quality of construction and installation work. However, if the organization is inefficient and there is no proper quality management, the company may undergo cost overruns, delays during operation and lose its place in the market.
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