Productivity on construction projects is often low. We frequently see people and equipment standing idle on construction projects. There is also often rework on projects, with tasks having to be redone because of poor quality, or even because tasks were done out of sequence before previous tasks had been completed.
We discussed productivity in our previous articles Construction productivity and How to improve construction productivity Even small productivity improvements, better use and utilisation of resources, can dramatically add to an increase in profits on your construction project.
In this article we look at how you can improve productivity of your construction equipment.
Improving productivity of construction equipment
Equipment is often hired or rented. Even equipment owned by the company is usually hired or rented by the project. The rental is per hour or day. But even equipment that’s rented per hour has to be paid a minimum number of hours per day – usually 8 to 9 hours.
Equipment is never more productive than the operators. So, as discussed previously, many projects only get 7 hours production from their workers in a 10 hour day. Therefore the equipment will also only work 7 hours. But, even then there are things that reduce equipment productivity even further.
Construction equipment teams
Often equipment works in a team. So with earthmoving equipment, there’s an excavator that loads trucks. If there aren’t sufficient trucks for the excavator then the excavator will stand waiting for the next truck. Obviously, if there are too many trucks then the trucks won’t be totally productive. The number of trucks required for an excavator to load depends on many factors. This includes, the size of the excavator and the size of the trucks. A bigger excavator will load trucks quicker, while large trucks will each take a bigger load. The time taken for the truck to travel from where it’s loaded to where it tips the load, plus the time taken to return, dictates the number of trucks required. This depends on the distance. So the shorter the distance the quicker the truck returns. It’s also dependant on the speed of the truck, which depends on the power of the truck – underpowered trucks could struggle to get going and battle up inclines. The speed is also affected by the quality of the road, so trucks travelling on roads which have lots of bumps and potholes will go slower. Obstructions in the road, other traffic (slow or stopped vehicles), congestion and other construction work will slow the trucks. Of course trucks usually must maintain a safe speed and keep within the project speed restrictions. It pays to maintain the haul roads (the roads trucks travel from loading to tipping) in good condition. Spending money to make good roads at the start of the project is often money well spent. Where possible, ensure the roads follow the shortest possible route and that loaded trucks are kept away from work areas and other vehicles.
The efficiency of the operation is also impacted by how quickly the truck can get into the load position and how quickly it can move off. If the truck has to make numerous turns, backing in and out, it could waste several minutes while the excavator waits for the truck to get into position to be loaded. Loading should be planned so that the truck can easily drive in and out.
Of course often the ground is being taken to a place where it must be levelled and compacted. This operation is part of the chain. If the grader, compactors and water trucks can process the ground quicker than the excavator and trucks can supply the ground, then the grader and compactor won’t be 100% productive because they’ll be waiting for more ground. But, if the grader and compactor can’t compact the ground quickly enough, then the excavator and trucks may be standing while they’re waiting for the compacting operation to catch up.
If the excavator breaks down, then the whole operation stands. The same happens if the grader breaks down. The Alarming Truth about Using Old Construction Equipment
The right size construction machine
But, it’s also about getting the size of equipment right. Small excavators take longer to load trucks. Small trucks are loaded quicker, so more trucks are required, and there’s more time wasted manoeuvring trucks into the loading position. But trucks which are too large might not be able to be loaded by excavators and loaders which are too small, or the excavator may only reach part of the truck, causing an uneven distribution of soil on the truck resulting in unused space on the truck, and the uneven distribution of the load could damage the truck suspension and the truck could even over topple. Equipment and trucks that are too big might be less manoeuvrable and unsuitable for congested work areas.
Read What Size Equipment Is Right for Your Construction Project?
Excavators can operate more efficiently with a skilled operator than one less skilled. An operator that can load a truck in say 4 minutes compared to one that loads the truck in 5 minutes is 20% more efficient. In an hour they could load 15 trucks versus 12 trucks the slower operator loads.
Read Are you employing the right people on your construction project?
In our next article we discuss construction equipment productivity further.
This article is an extract from the book 'The Successful Construction Supervisor and Foreman'.
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The opinions expressed in the attached articles are those of the writer. It should be noted that projects are varied and different laws and restrictions apply which depend on the location of the contractor and the project. It's important that the reader uses the supplied information taking cognisance of their particular circumstances. The writer assumes no responsibility or liability for any loss of any kind arising from the reader using the information or advice contained herein.
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