There are many blogs, articles, and journals that discuss the lack of construction productivity. Productivity is the measure of the rate which work is completed, which in construction has historically been low. While most industries have increased their productivity since the 1960’s thanks to technology and digitalization, the construction industry has been slow to adopt these new techniques. Labor and materials cost continue to rise, so it’s difficult to find skilled laborers, and companies have a backlog of projects, so the price of unproductivity is rising. It’s imperative for companies to invest in increasing construction productivity.
How to Measure Productivity in Construction
In order to be able to increase productivity in construction, it’s important to be able to measure productivity. As with any aspect of business, to improve there must first be a quantifiable baseline to base improvements off of. In construction, it can be difficult to determine how to measure productivity. The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses the formula log(O/L) = a + b t, with O being output and L being labor. This formula can be rather intense. Another way to try to calculate your labor productivity is to look at output by labor hours. This can give businesses an idea of how productive their teams are.
How to Increase Construction Productivity
Once a business knows its productivity baseline, they can start working towards increasing it. Here are a series of tips that can help a company improve its construction productivity.
Data Driven Planning
With other industries, companies brought in operations officers and analysts to determine where they were efficient and where they could improve. They implemented more quantifiable data points in their business to be able to track efficiency and productivity. Construction has been slow to do that. There isn’t always accurate time tracking and other data points. Without actual data, it’s difficult to plan accordingly. Companies have to improve their input to improve their analysis. They also should look at historical data, old projects and such to better plan future projects.
Integrated Labor Delivery
Integrated Labor Delivery (ILD) model of construction labor delivery promises to improve construction productivity. In ILD, the stakeholders of the owner, architect, general contractor, and subcontractors come together into one agreement. The contract details the project and provides a shared risk and reward structure. So stakeholders forge a partnership to provide a better, more efficient project. Many of these projects have a contingency budget for cost overruns that can be used as a performance budget when projects are completed early or on time. This model can improve construction productivity.
Prefabrication and Automation
There is a limited pool of skilled workers, and with more people retiring every year it is challenging for companies to fill all of the positions in their company. The reduction in available labor means that companies are going to see a lot of cost overruns and a decrease in productivity. Unless companies invest in prefabrication and automation, the labor shortage will be difficult to withstand.
Recently, Gage Bros. Concrete Products in Sioux Falls, South Dakota built it’s first automated concrete pour. By implementing a concrete pour, Gage Bros. prepared for the skilled labor shortage. They are not alone, other companies across industries are looking for automated and prefabricated ways to ease the burden of the labor shortage.
This can’t be stressed enough because communication is the key to improved productivity. Many of the problems that derail projects could have been easily deterred through proper communication. When contractors don’t respond to RFIs and other documents quickly, it can delay projects. These delays compound on each other and can make sites unproductive. That’s why it’s so important to communicate.
Take Advantage of Technology
Scheduling, time tracking, and project management software are all important to construction productivity, especially since they can increase it. Software, machines, and other improvements to methods and tools have improved project times. Companies that don’t invest in these tools and software are risking profit and productivity.