As we saw in our previous article Construction productivity, time is lost at every rest break and at the start and end of the shift. Project managers, foremen and supervisors must ensure that workers get to their work areas as quickly as possible and don’t start drifting off the job site before the start of the rest breaks and before the end of the shift. Construction workers will always take a chance unless working hours are enforced. The 5 minutes will become 10 minutes if nothing is said, and eventually 10 minutes becomes 15.
Locating stores, offices and toilets close to the work areas helps minimise the lost time.
A skilled construction worker is often more productive than a less skilled worker. How can you improve the skills of your crews? Well obviously employing a skilled person in the first place is a good start. It’s also important to train your team. This training can be in the form of on the job training and mentoring as well as more formal off-site training. I know we hate losing people for a few weeks while they’re at a training course, but almost always you will be rewarded with a more skilled and productive worker when they return.
Motivating people is important. A demotivated crew could be 50% less productive than a motivated crew.
Use the right tools
Using the wrong construction tools, or construction equipment that is underpowered or too small for the job, means the task will take longer and the operator will be less productive. Using blades and drills which are blunt will be slower and risk damaging the equipment. Obviously construction equipment that frequently breaks down destroys productivity.
Having insufficient tools or equipment may result in someone waiting for an item because someone else is using it. Of course, it may also be impractical for everyone to have their own machine. This would mean that there’re increased costs to purchase or hire the item, which will eventually be more than the potential savings which resulted from workers not waiting for the item. It’s a balance to maximise the productivity of both people and equipment.
Planning and organising your construction site
Of course construction crews need to be balanced. So for instance, if there’re insufficient workers to fix the steel reinforcing in place, then this operation could go slower than other operations, which could then delay the following carpenters and concreters – making them less productive. If the access scaffolding isn’t in place in time, then the carpenters and the steel reinforcing fixers may be delayed.
Work crews often wait for construction materials and equipment. Frequently materials have to be lifted in place with a crane. But cranes regularly have to be shared with other workers and other construction crews, even subcontractors sometimes. If one crew uses the crane longer than necessary because they weren’t prepared for the crane when it was their turn to use it, then it will impact others who are waiting to use the crane. It’s important to understand that if your crew uses the crane longer than they should, that this could impact another crew who is waiting to use the crane.
Skilled workers are paid more than unskilled workers. Often unskilled workers can be used to undertake regulation tasks and help the skilled workers. This will result in the skilled workers achieving more production.
Improving productivity on construction projects
Productivity on most construction projects is poor. It should be easy to improve productivity by 5 to 10%. Wages and salaries on most projects account for about 30% of the costs. If everyone is 10% more productive this could mean that the wages and salaries on the project are reduced by 10%, which overall is a saving of 3% for the project. A 3% saving might not sound much, but effectively this results in 3% more profit, which means if the project was priced to make 10% profit then the project potentially could make 13% profit. In effect the profit has increased by 30%. Now every manager would be very pleased to increase profits by 30%. But it’s often even possible to improve labour productivity by much more than 10%. Of course improving the productivity of construction workers has other benefits, which include that productivity of construction equipment increases, the project may be completed in a shorter duration, fewer workers may be required which will result in savings when the project is providing transport and accommodation for the workers, and fewer workers requires less personal protective equipment and company uniforms.
Planning the construction project properly will improve productivity. This means ensuring that you have sufficient workers with the right skills. It includes seeing that your construction crews have the right equipment. That there is proper access to the work areas. That preceding work is completed so that the next tasks can be done. That all the required construction materials are available, including all the fixings to fit the items. Selecting the right construction methods can improve production.
Good communication is essential to productivity. Workers that don’t know, or understand, what they should be doing may make mistakes, or they could waste time waiting for instructions or clarification of what to do.
Sometimes it’s worth paying more for special equipment (such as specialist formwork) which will simplify tasks, speeding them up or reducing the number of people required.
Where possible, don’t frequently move people from one task to another, since there’s lost time while they readjust to the new task.
In our next articles we look at construction equipment productivity
Do you want to learn how to manage construction projects successfully
Paul Netscher has written several easy to read books for owners, contractors, construction managers, construction supervisors and foremen. They cover all aspects of construction management and are filled with tips and insights.
Visit to read more.
This article is an extract from the book 'The Successful Construction Supervisor and Foreman'.
The books are available in paper and ebook from most online stores including Amazon.
© 2020 This article is not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission from the author.
construction management construction project management
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases
Copyright 2016 - The attached articles cannot be reproduced for commercial purposes without the consent of the author.
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.
"I have what I consider some of the best books on construction management."
Books are available from:
Other retail stores
Available in paperback or on Kindle
"28 YEARS OF CONSTRUCTION PROJECT MANAGEMENT EXPERIENCE, DEVELOPING SUCCESSFUL CONSTRUCTION PROJECT MANAGERS AND BUILDING SUCCESSFUL CONSTRUCTION COMPANIES"