December 20

What Causes Poor Construction Productivity? How We Can Work Smarter and Boost Profits

Construction supervisors, business owners, builders and contractors: What are your biggest problems right now? Cost overruns, schedule delays, rework, and labor shortages? Those all eat into productivity, which means they eat into profits. The real question is, what can we do about it that really works?

In 2015, McKinsey sounded the alarm about construction productivity. (You may have heard.) They said that we’re going to see more large-scale mega projects around the world, but the industry can’t deal with them: 98% of large projects see cost overruns of 30%; and 77% of large projects are at least 40% late. Why do we have those double-digit failures? Because construction productivity has remained flat for decades. (In contrast, manufacturing productivity doubled.)

That was a big problem, but it’s worse now. In 2015, investments in infrastructure (construction) around the world was projected to hit $13 trillion by 2030. Today, estimates are that the world will need a $97 trillion infrastructure investment by 2040.

Big growth is coming to the construction industry and few of us are ready to take it on. We need to get ready. There are projects to do and profits to make. We’re all leaving money on the table if we don’t tighten up our productivity.

What causes poor productivity?

According to Fieldwire, as much as 70% of a worker’s day can be spent on preparing for tasks, gathering equipment or materials, or waiting for information. That leaves only 30% of the day to do actual work.

McKinsey’s list includes:

  • Poor organization that slows down decision-making
  • Inadequate communication between subcontractors, contractors, and owners
  • Flawed performance management keeps issues unresolved
  • Contract misunderstandings – complicated contracts get in the way of easy understanding and quick problem-solving
  • Missed connections, meaning that schedulers and crews don’t hear about delays or updates
  • Poor risk management causes onsite accidents

A lot of these things simply boil down to lack of communication.

How can everyone in construction boost productivity right now?

When you solve jobsite communication issues, you boost productivity quickly. And it may be easier than you think. 

Flatten communication at the jobsite

Just taking the time to make sure everyone knows they can ask questions and knows who they should ask will do a lot. Distribute a contact list of every person in a supervisory role so workers can save time when they have a question.

Take a few extra minutes in meetings to make sure everyone’s on the same page (without yelling at anyone for not paying attention). It will prevent a lot of mistakes and rework.

Master good communication skills

Maybe you think you don’t have time to stop and talk to the crew, but you need to make that time. Share as much information as possible about your objectives, expectations, and new developments, and listen to their feedback.

When you’re finished giving instructions, go over a summary of what you said. Or ask them to. It’s just making sure that everyone understands each other and haven’t misheard or made assumptions.

Be respectful of everyone and maintain a positive culture onsite.

Use more photos and videos

Whenever there’s a problem at the jobsite, instead of describing it in an email or report, it can save tons of time to take a picture or a video of the problem. If you happen to have any language barriers between crews at your jobsite, pictures and video can be essential to clear communication.  

Photos and videos also document more of what’s happening at the jobsite, which will save time resolving any disputes later.

Adopt digital technology

In America, construction has been very slow to adopt technology. As many as 40% of construction companies still use pen and paper on the job. Why is that? Smaller companies think they don’t need it or can’t afford it. Larger companies may not realize what an impact construction technology can have on productivity.

User-friendly apps that can be utilized on site to help crews communicate in real time solves a ton of problems. They speed up and streamline communication for everyone because they eliminate the fractured messages you get using emails, texts, and phone calls.

When you can use an app to communicate in one spot, you can make better decisions faster—that means fewer delays. You make fewer mistakes due to lack of information—that means less rework. RFIs, updates to punch lists or blueprints, or any of the other thousand things that come up on a jobsite can get resolved faster and communicated to everyone quickly and efficiently.   

We created IntelliSpeX to solve these productivity issues and boost profits. If you’re ready to improve your jobsite communication, learn more about how IntelliSpeX delivers simple, effective solutions. Watch this short video demonstration


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