PlanGrid Construction Productivity Blog
Civil Construction Projects Have a Productivity Problem: Here’s How To Fix It

Civil Construction Projects Have a Productivity Problem: Here’s How to Fix It [Ebook]

The High Cost of Low Productivity in Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction and Infrastructure

In July 2017, civil construction work was permanently halted on the massive V.C. Summer nuclear power station in South Carolina. Only one-third complete, the project’s original 2018 completion date was already pushed back by more than 6 years and original $11.5 billion budget had exceeded $25.7 billion, a cost overrun of by approximately 123%. The project’s highly visible nature created huge backlash once construction ended, and even spurred a federal and state investigation and bankruptcy for its principal contractor. Although the plant’s developers cited enormous schedule and cost overruns as the primary reasons construction was abandoned, questionable purchasing decisions and poor designs were also key components for the failure. But, at the root of the project: a fatal productivity problem.

The V.C. Summer is far from an unusual story in civil construction project. In fact, the IHS Herold Global Projects Database estimates 80% of large infrastructure, mining and oil projects cost more than predicted. And these projects are not just important for keeping construction companies flourishing. In reality, our world has a serious infrastructure deficit that can only be met with increased construction output. The problem is so serious that the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the US infrastructure a D+ or “poor” rating in 2017.

2017 infrastructure grades - how to improve heavy civil construction projects


To bring the rating up to a B, or what’s considered a “good” rating by 2025, an estimated $4.6 trillion will need to be spent in the heavy city sector on enhancing infrastructure projects. Even just to meet basic human needs, an estimated $3.3 trillion per year will need to be spent on infrastructure through 2030. So, at the end of the day, underperforming or failed civil construction projects could inhibit a city’s access to energy, water, schools, roads, and much more.

However, there is some good news. To meet our world’s modern infrastructure needs, the heavy civil sector just has to improve productivity. But to change the cyclical nature of unproductiveness, companies need the right tools and plan of action. Below, we’ll discuss why projects fail and how our new ebook, “7 Ways to Boost Productivity in Heavy Civil Construction” can help companies in heavy and civil engineering improve their efficiency.

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Why Civil Construction Projects Fail

For the heavy civil sector to truly improve efficiency, it’s important to understand why many projects fail in the first place. Indeed, construction is complex, but the tools and processes to manage this complexity have failed to keep up with the modern times, with productivity suffering as a result. Outdated procedures for reports and communication are often worsened due to unexpected weather conditions, inconsistent lack of an internet connection and disjointed teams working from multiple locations. In reality, when field workers don’t have accurate communication and access to timely feedback from engineers and designers, the entire project is doomed to underperform or fail.

Think about it. Just to build one house requires a considerable amount of communication and collaboration to get right. Imagine the level of coordination it takes to build a bridge, dam or highway. Projects in heavy and civil engineering construction face insurmountable obstacles due to the level of teamwork they require. Without the right planning and access to the right tools and resources, problems like change orders, scope creep, cost overruns and delays are a dime a dozen, and before you know it, your project is headed for the same path as the V.C. Summer and many others.

How Heavy Civil Companies Can Start to Complete Jobs on Time and on Budget

Construction isn’t about to get less complicated anytime soon, but the management of all the complexities can be streamlined by bringing technology on board. To start fixing the failure rate of large-scale and megaprojects, it starts by putting the whole team on the same page. With the right software, engineers, designers, contractors, subs and more can all work from the same set of documents with accurate information. By integrating the same communication system and updating documents in real-time, productivity will improve exponentially.

The construction industry’s transition to the digital world has been slow. On average, it’s estimated that the industry loses $15.6 billion each year by not using technology platforms that make communication and data sharing easier. Although construction has traditionally resisted technological change, civil engineering companies that want to excel and compete, can’t afford to ignore construction’s “elephant in the room” any longer. It’s time to get serious about technology as a productivity tool on jobsites. With the right construction productivity software, your company can get back some of the profit lost to inefficiency and start making significant improvements to your bottom line, not to mention completing projects actually on time.  

After reading our ebook, “7 Ways to Boost Productivity in Heavy Civil Construction”, you’ll be one step closer to improving your company’s productivity and help to be part of the solution to fixing our broken infrastructure system.

What’s Inside

7 Simple Steps to Improve Productivity on Heavy Civil Construction Projects

Surely productivity software will boost your productivity, but where do you begin implementing the technology and creating a comprehensive strategy to improve efficiency? In our ebook, we’ll provide you with simple steps you can take to adopt new technology as well as how your teams can improve collaboration and efficiency. From bringing the right technology on board, improving training, mitigating risks like safety issues to partnering with government agencies, our ebook will help provide you with a solid and actionable strategy you can use to improve productivity in your civil construction company.

4 Technology Features to Look For in Construction Productivity Software

Heavy civil construction projects are unique in the common complexities and subsequent dysfunctions that they face. Therefore, your projects need software that has experience addressing and solving these issues and complications. Our ebook will help you identify the top features you should be looking for and why, including:

  1. Field reports
  2. Markups
  3. Issue tracking
  4. Documents

Productivity Software in Action: A Case Study

Need help visualizing how exactly construction productivity software will help address your needs? As part of our ebook, read a case study of how technology helped Granite Construction save both time and money, including avoiding a $500,000 in rework in a civil construction project. With a real-world example of how construction productivity software improved the ROI of a large company like Granite Construction, you’ll be inspired to adopt new technology on your next job.

Take the Steps to Improve Productivity Today

Before surrendering to cost overruns and schedule delays as just a normal part of civil construction projects, think about all the ways productivity can be improved and streamlined with software. If you don’t have a comprehensive technology solution and commitment, you aren’t truly maximizing your time, resources and workforce. A strategy to improve productivity will also do more than just help your company maximize profits. Improving productivity on just one project ensures our world gets access to the infrastructure they need. So, step up and download to read how you can start improving productivity today.

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Grace Ellis

As a Content Marketing Manager at PlanGrid, Grace is the managing editor for the PlanGrid Construction Productivity Blog. With over eight years of experience in marketing, communications and PR for technology companies, she is specialized in high-quality content creation across both traditional and digital media platforms.

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