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Richard Roberts

Richard Roberts

Mechanical Clerk of Works (hospital construction)/Healthcare Facility Manager/Engineer, ex Sapper, working wherever I am sent. E.g. Austria, Malaysia, Thailand, UAE, Libya, Saudi Arabia, PNG, Germany

Location Chester, United Kingdom



  • This course opened my eyes to what has been happening in the construction industry and how it is going about fixing it, hopefully I can assist in working towards that goal.

  • I really like the idea of having an example of all the CORRECT fixings or anything else somewhere on site so everyone can refer back to it during the project. Also checking the checkers so that everything is checked and checked again to ensure quality during the construction not putting it right afterwards.

  • What are the key things you’ve learnt?
    Construction quality went down hill some time in the past for whatever reason, most probably short sightedness (short term gain long term loss). It took some absolute disasters for the industry to push to get a decent quality standard back. It is trying to put into place regulated procedures that will bring up the...

  • The construction industry should have very good standards of communication because there are so many levels to communicate through to achieve a satisfactory quality result. Going from client through architect etc, etc, to the person building the final product, if communication is bad, the client will want a horse but end up with a three legged giraffe.

  • We did have weekly quality meetings with the main contractor's head of quality and their civil, mechanical and electrical heads where construction quality and standards and any difficulties are discussed. These meetings generally result in improvements and the sorting out of snags.
    I think if I was running a toolbox talk with tradesmen I would try and hold...

  • I have seen a couple of companies embrace quality and a quality policy purely as something to show not something to follow, its a smoke screen, paying lip service to quality. Others it is their creed, everything has to be done to the highest standard and the funny thing is the ones with the most detailed and effusive quality policies are the ones that don't...

  • Company C, because it mentions quality standards (measurable) in its quality policy.

  • This surely was and is the job of the Clerk of Works, to ensure the product was the one required and it was put together/constructed correctly, to comply with the quality, regulatory and statutory requirements.
    What Happened?

  • How can you embed practical quality change in your organisation? By ensuring it is part of the culture of the organisation through training and quality supervision.
    What are the challenges you face in your organisation? Changing the culture from doing enough to taking pride in the completion of a quality product.
    Are your challenges typical of the whole...

  • Everyone understands what you are trying to achieve and how it will be achieved. It also needs to be practical and achievable, everyone wants to work on a quality product, something to be proud of, so if that is possible with a bit of effort and training everyone will be on board.

  • I find this strange, most trades have a regulating body that stipulates how the job is to be carried out using what materials to what standard. For example the IET (used to be the IEE) and their regulations, the CIBSE and their standards the NHS HTMs and HBNs. All of which are used all over the world as the quality standards to work to, what happened to...

  • For the last 20 something years I have worked where Quality and Health and Safety have been sperate, crossing over when each department "audited" the other in some way, so this seems normal to me.

  • I think some parts of construction have regulations but others have just guides i.e. the regulations for fire protection, but most of the rest of it is guides or memorandums for example Hospital Technical Memorandum (HTM) and the CIBSE guides for building services. These are mainly complied with but are not laws, which would legally bind standards.

  • I suppose after the recent construction disasters in the UK and all the publicity, hopefully the quality rules and need to prove quality will have improved. Not sure where we stand in the world but from recent experience of a construction site I have noticed high quality construction being carried out.

  • 1) What have been your experiences of training in construction?
    Very little in construction itself but I completed a mechanical engineering apprenticeship followed by qualifying in building services engineering and experience in hospital engineering.
    2) How do you think this compares with training in other industries?
    I am not sure but I imagine it is very...

  • I am not sure exactly what happens in all of the construction industry now, but what happened to apprenticeships. They used to first teach safety, theory then practical with constant reinforcement of safety and theory over the years of the apprenticeship. The theory would include the regulations and quality standards required and every step of the practical...

  • Ensuring that the tradesman was fully trained in the standards that are required and the consequences of not complying would be the first step.
    I would hope if the bricklayer mentioned in Week 1-07 knew that according to regulations x number of ties were required and if they weren't in place the wall would collapse on schoolchildren he would have done the...

  • I haven't attended any of the above courses only the CITB course to obtain my CSCS card.
    I am sure the NEBOSH, VQ, IOSH offerings are fine as I don't know exactly what they teach.

  • I think that construction quality, materials used etc can be specified by the designer but the actual construction quality is produced by the tradesman and whoever is supervising the construction. The site Supervisors, Foreman and Clerk of Works has to have had hands on experience and then attended some of the above courses to ensure construction quality that...

  • For the last 23 years I have worked in hospitals/healthcare and when I first started, quality was just expected to happen and generally it was. Then the hospital I was working in, it was decided that we should have some official body to prove the quality. So we worked towards and achieved ISO 9000 accreditation. When I left, the next place I worked wanted the...

  • On the site I am working on, there is a quality department who ensure, monitor and record quality inspection and control on the site. In my case within construction, quality and standards are regulated and maintained by the institutes eg CIBSE, IHEEM, IET etc.

  • The big thing that this week has shown I feel, is the short-sightedness of planners etc cutting costs, training and supervision at the beginning that they has to spend at the end to put right the poor quality.

  • Surely this is all just what correct Construction Project Management is all about, maybe using different words but applying the same principles "Stakeholder Involvement" "Critical Path Analysis" etc

  • The costs and getting funding has always been a big part of completing construction projects, but at sometime in the past a lot of construction became speculative. Buildings were built because someone thought they could make lots of money from them, not because there was a great need for them. So buildings were built a cheaply as possible and a tradesman was...

  • In the office/on site tea room is where the best chats are had and often the best decisions are made.

  • 1 Is quality free?
    Yes, because of 2 below
    2 Does quality pay for itself?
    Yes as using the ISO 9000 mantra “do it right first time, every time” ensures none of the repairing snags at the end.
    3 Why does construction struggle with quality costs?
    Short sightedness, they only see the upfront costs of quality not the costs at the end to put it right.
    4 Is...

  • If the lender of the money to buy the houses appointed clerk of works to be on site during the construction of the housing and picked up the snags, once completed there wouldn't be snags.

  • All the points made contribute, but I feel that time constraints, cost cutting and poor supervision contribute to all the other points.

  • I agree and also the person who is inspecting and accepting the piece of work, if they don't have the knowledge or experience of the work, the job could be completed below standard.

  • Construction Quality is constant checking to provide a building that is as per design, fit for purpose and complying to statutory and regulatory requirements.

  • Richard Roberts made a comment

    I am starting a bit late as I have been busy, but now stuck at home. I am a M&E Clerk of Works but also interested in construction quality.

  • Hopefully when I am next on a site that has the requirement for a call centre, I will be able to get the call handlers together and develop relevant questions and the different methods of asking them. This will allow us to input good useful information into the CAFM saving time, money and frustration on both sides, requestor and call handler.

  • I am at present not working on a site where there is a call desk but have been and most probably will be shortly where I will have to set one up. From previous sites my experience has been:
    That the call handler has a set of questions some that must be answered and some that would it is preferable to have an answer to in the first instances of the call. These...

  • I think the software didn’t have enough answers or ones slightly different than the main ones which could make the questioning easier or having the clearer answer to input, but then again I suppose the database would have to be huge. The Nurse was asking questions that fulfilled the criteria of the software not necessarily from what she thought could be the...

  • The initial questions the nurse has to ask are logical and asking the red and orange questions is obviously assessing the severity. The follow up questions seem to be limited and limit the nurses ability to diagnose the problem. The questions to an extent seemed to be getting at what was wrong and as the patient couldn’t see what the questions and expected...

  • A few years ago our company was working on a project that would have required a call centre for the equip-ment service requirements of 115 locations. That would have had call handling hardware and software which I was looking forward to setting up and running but it never happened as the project was called off. The software, as I remember it being described...

  • In the case of a technical call centre it’s good for the operators to have a list of set questions that could be used for the complete conversation in many cases. Using this on a medical triage call line could be useful for the initial part of the conversation (personal details medical conditions etc.) but I think it wouldn’t the best as it’s also dealing with...

  • Looking again at the patient nurse conversation regarding the possible ear infection has made me very unsure of the questioning, I was beginning to think that the Polar Declarative questions were possibly leading the caller in one direction, but they are actually pushing the patent to look deeper for the answer. I am not medically trained but from experience...

  • Wow that was enlightening, the nurses questions could have led to a wrong assumption because she asked a leading question. That will work in all situations so a technical call centre could make the wrong assump-tions and delay a repair or sent the wrong technician or spare part.
    It has changed my thoughts on the previous patient nurse conversation as some of...

  • Interesting I got a bit confused between Interrogative and Declarative at times but altogether i think I did ok.
    I still think Ri::::ght and Mm:::::::: are really great, very open questions that are Interrogative, Declarative and Content WH questions. :-)

  • That is quite interesting as some questions could be asked just by saying Ri:::ght or Mm::::. :-)
    Polar questions -
    Interrogative - Is she teething?
    Declarative - Okay but in herself she’s okay?
    Content WH - So she’s had it for how long how many days?
    Alternative - Okay but in herself she’s okay?
    But I still think the best questions are Ri::::ght and...

  • I think the nurse’s reply of “Right I just need to ask you a few questions if that’s alright.” will produce a continuation of the “racetrack” nice and calmly to conclusion, whereas “You might not need an appointment actually. I need to ask some questions so that I can decide.” Will very possibly escalate the conversation to “How can you decide over the phone...

  • I think it would be a good idea if we recorded calls and then discussed and analysed how the calls went with the operator for training purposes oh woops. :-)
    Not just seeing what was said from both sides but looking at it from the way it was shown on the video with the racetrack analogy.

  • Conversations are normally started by the operator identifying that the caller has reached the FM call or help desk, the name of the operator and then how can we help you.
    There are certain questions that we like to have answered to assist us in how we respond and we have procedures for classifying different types and the urgencies of requests.

  • I work for a company that provides, among other things, hospital and healthcare facility management. The help desk we provide is for technical problems and the like, but the people who phone are not technical and because I work mainly overseas, both the operator and the caller are not speaking in their native language. Therefore trying to get some idea of what...

  • I could have sworn East Anglia was in the UK.

  • A project I was co-opted onto that was very rigidly controlled, traditional organised and linear could have been really improved by changing to the Agile methodology by:
    The project being all about customer satisfaction, not hiding past mistakes.
    All the stakeholders collaborating, or at least talking to each other closely on a daily basis, rather than...

  • Looking at the guide I feel we are using many of the principals of Agile already, as customer satisfaction is surely everyone’s highest priority, we already mainly work alongside all of the stakeholders including the client or their representative or the project team could even belong to the client. Meetings are regularly held with different team members,...

  • Slap them round the head and tell them to get a grip, or else. :-) ;-)
    Speak to the person concerned and let them know their poor “whatever” had been noticed, ask if there was a problem and try and to find a solution with them, if possible.

  • A branch or department within a company may have multiple project teams and more than one operations manager.

  • I always thought all projects were iterative or adaptive, with most if not all engineering projects Murphy’s Law has to be allowed for, something or other will not be as planned so projects need to be to some extent flexible and the plans will need to be altered or completely changed. On construction projects, as from conception to start of the construction...

  • I once got Primavera in the late 1990s and put it on my personal computer to use on some small construction projects that I had going and found it useful. Since I joined my present company they provide any software we require.

  • Maybe paper spreadsheets were better because the expert (like your Grandpa) had to compile it. :-)
    We used to use paper spread sheets for all sorts of things e.g. estimating materials and costs as well as project management timelines and critical path, the were great. Never as good as an Excel sheet or project management software, especially when changes or...

  • Richard Roberts replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    That's a shame, not having the correct or even adequate tools for the job makes life difficult and a good outcome not guaranteed.
    With regard to the different languages and scripts, this seems strange as we use Microsoft and we often use split page format with for example English on the left (left to right) and Arabic on the right (right to left) also...

  • Richard Roberts replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    @SiriSt The problems you mention depend on the company involved, the company I work for now has staff working in 80 countries on 850 projects and I am not certain in how many different languages. Everyone has the same type of computer all connected to the central network in HQ all systems and individual computers updated regularly.
    This seems to work.

  • I remember using critical path analysis to plan projects on paper spread sheets many years ago. :-) :-) showing my age now.

  • Thinking about a scenario to reduce the time on just about all of the projects I have been on would involve adding some combination of staff, materials and services, if possible, which could require an increase in budget to maintain the quality required. More staff over a shorter time may balance out, having materials delivered sooner may be possible and may...

  • I would have thought that your work would end at when their information is ready to submit, but wouldn't the project end at when they receive certification. What happens if after all your work they don't get certified, they aren't going to be very satisfied, unless it is somehow written into the contract.
    Nearly 20 years ago my wife consulted to the company I...

  • I agree, a project should be continuously reviewed to ensure all targets are constantly being achieved.

  • I really like the idea of the end of project questionnaires especially as project team members can be asked to complete it before the handover. As well as highlighting anything that could have been done better and good and bad parts of the project, it may also pick up something that may have been missed, incidental things that may have not even been in the...

  • Isn't the Closure Plan, Closure Checklists and spread sheets all part of, or covered in the project software eg. Oracle Primavera or Microsoft Project?

  • As I had been thinking about that project again I contacted some of the other project members. The consensus of opinion, after we concluded that we had never been fully informed of all we were supposed to be doing, that he thought as he had all the information and no one else did he had control.
    A couple of the team mentioned that they felt really stupid in...

  • I definitely agree with many of the other comments as I very often wonder why have I received this information, why am I on this mailing list. Then I tend to ignore or just glance at information and may miss something important.

  • I was a member of a project team and we were about a month from the completion date of the project when the project manager informed us of all of the deliverables. We had been cruising along thinking we were going to finish quite easily and suddenly we had heaps to do and very little time to do it in. No one could think of a reason why the PM hadn’t informed...

  • The project could have a central server/database with all members having access with permissions, only allowing them to see what is relevant and useful to them. With some way of keeping everyone up to date when new information is added timelines meetings etc.
    Maybe one of the project management apps would help with keeping everyone up to date/informed with...

  • Wouldn't that be great!

  • I think that we only you need to check through everything, a quick scan, but disregard irrelevant information and only gather and store relevant information so you don’t confuse the issues.
    Or we will all end up talking like Bernard.
    Humphrey is supposed to be the Prime Minister so he is the ultimate need to know, we are just Project Managers.

  • You look at and check as much information as possible but only gather the relevant information, as too much information starts to get confusing and Information Overload occurs, also the really relevant information becomes difficult to find and refer to.
    You can’t see the wood for the trees.

  • I normally find that we are given the Project information and that is usually pretty much fixed, it’s usually the Management information that gets mucked around with by some of the stakeholders such as the completion date gets moved around and the budget reduced.

  • Sounds like a normal project :-) :-)

  • Project Management is:
    Deciding what is required to achieve a product or outcome, in a set time, particularising the steps, resources (including staff) and budget.
    Managing all of the above, to realise the product or outcome expected, within the time and budget allocated.

    My understanding changed because I now understand that just about everything we do...

  • Tesla/Elon Musk are noted risk takers, Panasonic are noted for their quality and were noted for their innovation (I personally haven’t noted any lately, but I haven’t been looking) but are also a large successful company. I think that any risks Elon Musk is taking will be offset by the stability and reliability of Panasonic.

  • • What are the main risks that need to be managed?
    The new relationship changing from supplier and customer, to a partnership is something “quite new for business,” which could cause problems because who leads who?
    Can the new Silevo technology become economically viable as traditional silicon solar panels have taken many decades to become as cheap as they...

  • • For Tesla, what were the main drivers behind the alliance with Panasonic?

    Panasonic already plays a major role—in regards to both battery manufacturing and investment—at Tesla’s huge battery factory.

    The Tesla SolarCity acquisition, which includes/uses Silevo technology is not yet ready to make solar cells at large volumes and at a commercial scale;...

  • @nicoleptolomey Very true, an over controlling Project Manager, without some very good reasons breaks the moral of the project team. In situations like you mention people go into meetings and play on their phones and doodle anything to relive the boredom.
    If there is a reason for there to be strict control then that should be made very clear to all the...

  • Example of taking no risks and winning:
    On one project I was added to, I thought the risks had been exaggerated as I was sent to it as a second project manager. Officially to assist the existing PM but mainly, I was told, to watch what the existing PM was doing, which I thought was wrong as he was a good PM.
    Once on site I found what the actual position...

  • A Risk Assessment Matrix is useful for deciding the what and how of risk management.

  • No, not during the life of the project, unless you have allowed extra buffer time in the project planning stage. Compressing the time would only be possible by carrying out the tasks faster than ideal, which would probably result in lower quality.
    As time is generally a cost element of a project, reducing a task by a day/week/month by doing overtime would...

  • Just after I left my subordinate was forced by the director into starting the project with the few materials we had on site, the directors logic being get started early finish sooner. So department staff were moved around, areas were sealed off, walls were knocked down, air conditioning was dismantled, then everything came to a grinding halt.
    On my return I...

  • A few years ago I had planned a project to change the layout and refurbish a department. One of the main considerations being the basic operation of the department should be able to continue without too much disruption. This involved moving sections into temporary (cramped) spaces, carrying out work then moving the sections back. One of the very critical...

  • What about "Fail to Plan = Plan to Fail."
    Planning is what you do to produce a plan, so you carry out planning to produce a plan. Maybe I am miss-ing the point of “Plans are worthless. Planning is essential.” so to me the expression means nothing, as you won’t have a plan unless you have done the planning.

  • Thinking about project management from a broader outlook, all sorts of things are project managed.
    A simple project:
    Going shopping - deciding when and where, what to buy, how much to spend, how to get there and back, who needs to be involved etc.
    Short term:
    Installation of a new piece of equipment - that needs locating with all sorts of...

  • I find that I am often working on a project that has the same planned outcome as we have carried out previously and initially the project is planned in a similar way, until the project plan starts to be developed and people outside the project have input.
    Once the project is underway the project plan needs to be changed regularly due to changed...

  • I have worked on projects that could have covered all three definitions but most of the projects I have worked on recently have best been best described by the APM definition. For example we get projects where the initiation of it starts with "there is too long a waiting list in X department" so the project first needs to decide how we achieve the reduction of...

  • I read somewhere recently that processed white flower bread was like eating a slice of sugar.
    I haven't eaten any bread for months, but I do crave a nice thick slice of home made whole grain bread with some of the soups I have been making.

  • Stilton is a especially flavourful blue cheese that is not quite a hard cheese, but not a soft cheese, it is especially nice as an after dinner cheese with a glass or three of port. Ordinary cheese even a very mature proper Cheddar vintage cheese hasn't got the flavour of a really good Stilton, that is why it is so good in the broccoli soup. (...

  • A question rather than a comment.
    What about Spelt bread? Is it as nutritious and does it contain things that are good for you like other whole grain breads?

  • Sounds like a good idea Tracey, I will have to look them up.

  • Yes, and it is so easy to make.

  • @EvaHoare Not if you nip to the local Zoo at night :-) :-)

  • I started this course as my wife and I had just started to diet to lose weight, reduce cholesterol and lessen our chances of type2 diabetes. This course has shown me that we can have a much greater variety of foods than was our original diet and even bad for you food can be eaten not very often and in small quantities (red meat). One of the things I missed...

  • My wife and I are now eating much more fruit and vegetables with every meal, but we have to get everything from a supermarket and 90% of it is imported from other parts of the world.
    We are also making most of our meals from fresh ingredients with just about no processed food.
    We go home shortly and there are a few farmers markets near to where we live, so...

  • Broccoli and stilton soup.

    4 or 5 big bunches of Broccoli separated into smaller pieces
    ½ an onion finely chopped
    Big lump of Stilton broken up into small pieces
    Splash of Rapeseed oil
    Salt and pepper to taste (note salt most probably won’t be needed as the Stilton can be salty)

    Splash some rapeseed oil into a pot and add the...

  • Seems like a hospital prepared healthy diet, bland and tasteless.

  • Amazing!
    We must start eating wholemeal grain products.

  • What is rutabaga?
    It looks a bit like a small turnip or swede on the video.

  • I get fats from meat, fish and dairy products, dairy also provide a small amount of carbohydrates, but I mainly get carbohydrates from fruit and vegetables. At the moment I am not eating bread pastry or cakes etc. as I am trying to lose weight. I eat at least one fruit per meal and a lot of vegetables and mainly chicken fish or cheese with them. A couple of...

  • I don't like camel very much, it tends to be a bit fatty and needs to be cooked for a long time slowly on a grill or barbecue; which doesn't normally happen, but is mostly cooked in a stew type thing which ends up swimming with fat. Possibly I have been to the wrong places to try it.
    I think the fat isn't to saturated so it is quite healthy, but it is just...

  • I am not sure if it is my favourite recipe but it is something we had recently that was very nice and I think healthy. The fish that seems to be the most common here and is caught locally is Hamour or Brown Spotted Reef Cod.
    The recipe is very simple:
    1 Hamour fillet enough for two people
    6 spring onions finely chopped
    1 big handful of finely chopped...