Operational Excellence Program: Shaping industry-leading construction sites

Phillip Smith

No matter where you are in Australia, all SHAPE sites offer the same experience. From a remote modular project in Coober Pedy to a multi-million-dollar fitout in Sydney’s CBD, our clients and subbies can walk onsite and know it’s a SHAPE project by our focus on customer experience, safety, quality, and sustainability.

We have created consistent industry-leading worksites through a unique internal program that focuses on excellence and continuous improvement across a broad range of project delivery disciplines.

The Vision

More than five years ago, our CEO, Peter Marix-Evans envisioned enhancing the SHAPE client and subbie experience throughout the project delivery phases, in addition to our existing focus on the final product. Peter believed that by establishing and maintaining project sites that provide our client and subcontractor stakeholders with a workplace destination where people want to be, the project deliverables and disciplines would organically improve.

The key to a high-quality product is the journey – it’s the people who imagined it, designed it, and built it that make it what it is – and creating the right site environment is critical to how people feel during the build. Creating a site that people feel they belong in and that respects their contribution to the project plays a key part to positive mental health and many other project delivery factors, including safety, quality, environmental sustainability, and productivity. With all of this in mind a unique internal program was born, known as the Operational Excellence Program (OPEX).

What is OPEX?

A key component of our OPEX Program is an annual event where representatives from each state are selected to travel to best-in-class project sites in other regions on an assignment of discovery, connecting with likeminded counterparts, sharing ideas and initiatives, completing project reviews, documenting and photographing examples of project excellence. Learnings are then shared across the business nationally which often later form part of our SHAPE Minimum Standards.

The OPEX Program achieves three key objectives:

  • A consistent national standard of operational excellence. On average, SHAPE has more than 250 construction sites operating each year. As a national business working across all seven states and territories, we want our people, clients, and subbies to have the same great experience no matter which SHAPE site they visit or work on.
  • Cross-border learning and improvement. We know our people are the key to meeting our vision. By aligning with the ‘borderless SHAPE’ ethos, we tap into our extensive knowledge and experience base and share best practises and innovations across the business. OPEX also allows our teams to acknowledge gaps and offer feedback on how we can improve our delivery performance.
  • Strengthen national relationships. We want to provide an opportunity for our people to build stronger relationships with team members across the business. In doing so we open a gateway of knowledge and experience through our 570 plus strong team with insurmountable years of construction experience.

We have created consistent industry-leading worksites through a unique internal program that focuses on excellence and continuous improvement across a broad range of project delivery disciplines.

How OPEX has led to improved worksites

Over the last five years, we have seen improvements across our operational excellence measures. In FY23, we recorded a world-class client NPS of 84+, TRIFR improved by 43% to 3.8, LTIFR improved by 55% to 0.9, and 92% of our projects achieved Perfect Delivery status as measured by our clients.

These are some of the strategies and innovations we have implemented over the years:

  • Industry-leading safety app. Our SHAPE Minimum Standards (SMS) app was developed with operational excellence being front of mind. Many of the learnings and initiatives we have since derived from the OPEX program now form part of the SMS content. Free for anyone to use by downloading from your app store or visiting sms.shape.com.au, our SMS app allows our project team and subbies to easily access and comprehend key production activities, processes, and procedures.
  • Development of our SHAPE Minimum Standards (SMS) for Site Establishment. We created a national minimum standard for site establishment as a precursor to the first Operational Excellence program. The site establishment minimum standard outlines best practices with respect to site presentation, including site signage, site offices, amenities and meeting room arrangements, and customer experience initiatives for both our clients and out subbies. Some of the simplest initiatives, such as planning and providing dedicated areas for cutting and mixing activities, PPE storage, provision of lunchroom staples, can have a profound impact on how people think and act – creating a welcoming, safe environment ensures everyone who attends our sites leaves somewhat better for the experience.
  • Virtual Training. Another operational excellence by-product has been the development of SHAPE TV, an opt-in 15 to 30 minute virtual training program delivered weekly by a variety of expert presenters across a wide range of business delivery focuses that anyone in the business can tune into. The benefit of this unique program is that the recorded content is then made accessible to our people via our internal training platform.
  • Virtual Communication and Display of Information. What started as a great initiative on one of our OPEX Program project visits has now been adopted across our sites. TV monitors, often redirected from project waste, are used to display safety, quality, and other site information, as well as for the delivery of our electronic site induction presentation. In addition, horizontal monitor tables (often referred to as SHAPE information hubs) provide digital access to project documentation via Procore, ensuring the most current documentation is always accessible, eliminating trades working from redundant documentation and reducing paper waste.

OPEX 2023: Adoption of emerging technologies

In September 2023, our OPEX program involved 14 of our people visiting sites within each of our state and territory operations across Australia. A key insight from this year’s event is increased adoption of emerging technologies, such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). With the possibility to increase savings, reduce waste, alleviate design challenges, and improve the client experience, we predict we will continue to see a rise in these technologies in the building industry over the next five years and are currently exploring the broader deployment of this technology within our expanding business model.