Recently, we’ve been thinking a lot about jobsite productivity. When we read McKinsey Global Institute (MGI)’s analysis of productivity in the construction industry, we were a little shocked to discover that large construction projects typically take 61% longer to finish than scheduled and are up to 70% over budget. It seems that many of the issues affecting the outcome of a construction project are outside of an owner, contractor, or subcontractor’s control - including competitive pressure, increasing project complexity, and a shortage of skilled labor. However, there are also quite a few areas that can be improved without making major disruptions to teams’ current workflows.
Here’s a few tips to improve construction field productivity, and ultimately maximize project profitability:
1. Plan Ahead
Often times, productivity is stifled before a project even breaks ground. Errors made in the planning stages can negatively affect the overall efficiency of the entire project. By getting organized in the beginning you can avoid costly issues such as unexpected change orders, unnecessary schedule delays, or inadequate budgeting and finish a project by its deadline. One way that construction industry professionals make sure they are prepared to begin a project is by utilizing pull planning methods. Focusing on the end goal and noting important milestones along the way helps project collaborators to set realistic timelines, so there are less surprise delays along the way.
When planning a new project, it’s helpful to analyze data from the jobs you’ve completed in the past. This helps you learn from any mistakes that were made, especially if you have easily accessible historical project data. By planning ahead and doing your homework, you can proactively avoid wasting money, and even mitigate the potential for lawsuits later down the line. Analysis of data from prior projects means more than just reflecting on what went wrong - you can pinpoint the causation of delays and problems on prior projects, and make sure that you prevent them in the future.
2. Establish Communication Expectations
Communication between all members of a project is critical for construction productivity. Keeping the most up-to-date information in the hands of all project parties significantly reduces the chances of schedule delays. Establishing a process for all subcontractors can help ensure you’ll receive consistent, uniform updates throughout the duration of a project. When every subcontractor has a different system for tracking production, things have the potential to get messy very quickly. If your concrete guy insists on submitting reports by pen and paper, and your sheet metal team prefers a construction software that you aren’t familiar with, you may be getting your reports, but it may cause work on your end.
By adopting a uniform reporting system, you can receive and store all the information you need in one place. Streamlining communication helps subcontractors easily make note of hazards or delays so you can deal with them as they come up so they don’t turn into bigger problems later on. With this digital project data you can make decisions in real-time that have the potential to positively impact the outcome of your project. Additionally, having access to a living project document comes in handy when an owner needs to quickly see a photo or if a dispute arises later down the road.
3. Leverage Technology
Construction management apps can be loaded onto mobile phones that help record progress made in the field throughout the day. This is beneficial to everyone involved in a project. Jobsite supervisors can save time that has historically been spent in the trailer completing administrative tasks at the end of the day by logging project data as they walk the jobsite, using tools like talk-to-text on their mobile devices. Project managers can monitor labor productivity and materials in real-time, to ensure their project is running on schedule and staying within budget.
Many of the people involved in construction projects do not get the chance to spend time in the field. Technology helps bring the jobsite to life with photos and videos for those who aren’t physically onsite to see all the hard work that has been accomplished in the field each day.
Fewer Delays, Better Results
By following these tips, you can make strides in reaching the ultimate goal of finishing a project on time and on budget, without sacrificing quality. Staying on top of plans, streamlining communication, and utilizing technology will lead to more organized, more efficient jobsites.
By getting ahead of delays before they occur, you can save time, money, and headaches. Plus, when you use a standardized system for communication, projects can move along smoothly. Modern technology makes both planning ahead and communication easier - in addition to simplifying formerly clunky processes. The journey to improving your construction field productivity doesn’t need to involve tweaking your entire workflow. With a few minor changes, you can beat the odds and get projects finished faster.
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