Many of the issues that make it hard for construction firms to stay profitable are external, such as increasing competition and fluctuating material costs. However, some of the most damaging factors are internal instead, including low productivity levels.
Productive construction companies tend to be profitable ones, yet for too many firms, delivering projects on time seems like an impossible pipe dream. It’s never as easy as implementing a one-time improvement or tackling a single problem. Productivity improvements in construction companies tend to require a top-down approach. To identify all the factors dragging out and interrupting the workflow, start examining the company’s internal processes for these common causes of lost construction field productivity among field team members.
Ready to take action on productivity issues within your construction firm? Make a plan of attack with the helpful tips packed in our ebook, “9 Ways to Supercharge Your Field Productivity.”
Not sure you need a guide to improve construction field productivity? Read below to learn more about common hurdles to efficiency addressed in our ebook.
Increasing Regulations and Legal Considerations
Each year brings new laws, building codes, land-use regulations, zoning changes and dozens of other local and national rules to keep up with. A single mistake in the legal planning stages of a construction project can cost tens of thousands of dollars. With each new edition of the International Building Code, the sheer length of the text grows longer, making it harder to find that one specific regulation that pertains to a specific design or system.
It’s no wonder that construction companies are spending more and more time on routine non-design and non-build tasks like planning, regulation research and negotiations with local permitting and approval boards. Construction field productivity drops quickly when team has to spend their days in the office instead of on the site getting things done.
Cycling Seasons of High and Low Demand
The global construction industry experiences some of the widest swings in demand, often on a very short cycle. Economic factors drive demand for new homes and buildings to swell within months or years, while recessions and other downturns suddenly halt otherwise booming growth periods. These swings make it hard to maintain a high level of construction field productivity, especially with field workers that may go months between projects during a downturn and have little for training in an upswing.
Committing Informal Mistakes
The construction industry is a very informal place compared to many other sectors. Many discussions between clients and construction firms take place in meetings and phone conversations that aren’t on the record, leading to lost details and miscommunications. Some states and countries even consider verbal contracts just as binding as written ones, so a throwaway comment during a chat with a client could become a legal agreement.
Make sure all communication about crucial project details is handled professionally and formally with clear record-keeping to prove both sides agreed to the terms in place. Arbitration takes months and costs thousands of dollars, so avoiding legal disagreements and endless change requests is an essential step for protecting a company’s field and office productivity.
Dealing With Fragmentation and Siloing
For decades, separating the various trades that all work together in the construction process made a lot of sense. It made training easier, helped set standards for pay and safety conditions and allowed subcontractors to manage their own businesses rather than acting as employees. However, this silo effect is now hurting the industry’s productivity rather than helping it, especially in the field. Fragmented approaches to complex building designs are leaving many skilled tradespeople out of the loop, resulting in designs they must request modifications for before they can begin or complete them.
Bringing everyone together on a project from the very beginning takes some advanced construction technology to improve communication, but it will pay off in the long run by reducing rework and delays.
Avoiding Stock Design Tricks
The healthy gains in productivity experienced by the manufacturing and industrial design industries over the last few decades were largely driven by automation and other tricks for cutting down on manual design and engineering work. The construction industry has the same tools at its disposal but so far hasn’t widely embraced them. Despite the ability to save significantly on design and installation time and labor, only 1% of construction firms report using prefabrication.
Even if a firm doesn’t want to buy prefabricated panels or framing units, they can still encourage clients to use stock designs and limit the need for bespoke construction that takes longer to build and increases the chances of a rework request.
Finding Skilled Labor During a Drought
Finally, the lack of skilled and experienced field workers is making it hard for the construction industry to keep up with demand. Turning to less skilled and temporary labor to fill in the gaps greatly reduces construction field productivity because managers, superintendents and veteran tradespeople must spend more of their time overseeing and leading the work of these very green and temporary employees. This is especially true when it comes to reading and interpreting complex drawings and plans for the most sensitive parts of the structure.
Relying on less-skilled labor increases the likelihood of mistakes that lead to rework, one of the biggest drains of field productivity.
Download Your Guide to Jumpstart Construction Field Productivity
Prepare to tackle these productivity-sapping problems head-on with the help of our ebook, “9 Ways to Supercharge Your Field Productivity.” It contains everything you need to identify what’s holding back the field team and how to improve their results without straining the organization.