Productivity in Construction: The Elephant in the Room Needs to be Addressed

25. February 2021 Written by Eric Crawford
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Construction productivity has been a topic of discussion for years. However, the industry remains one of the slowest to adapt. With automation, our world economy has grown immensely, leaving the construction industry, one of the largest industries in the world I might add, in the proverbial dust as it relates to effective production.

Construction has only grown labor-productivity by 1% per year over the last 20 years as compared to 3.6% in manufacturing and 2.8% in all other industries combined. These productivity issues have caused major increases in cost to build, making it more expensive to own a home, rent space for your business and ultimately increasing the cost of living for all of us as consumers.

Only 35% of a construction worker’s time is productive (time-on-tool). This lag in productivity is costing $1.6 trillion annually to the global economy. Manufacturing on the other hand, is becoming more efficient and streamlined, causing their line to trend in the opposite direction. A lot can be learned from this for our industry. Rethinking processes, improving onsite execution, infusing new technology and automation can all tip our scales in the right direction.

The industry is in a stare down between the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality and the rest of the world evolving around us. Too many of us are resisting the change to a more tech-forward process. However, with pressures from owners and more government regulations, the demand for technology that increases efficiency and productivity is on the rise. More technologies are available to us than ever before, making it more affordable to pick the platform that works for you. Finally, with the decrease in the available workforce and the increase in wage demands, software and technology just might be the way to go to keep your profit margins bearable, and even watch them rise.

We have to remember that we are in this together, building the future for our society and our communities. I would like you to reflect on your processes and ask yourself seriously: could we benefit from a technology of any sort? It is a part of our daily lives now. The internet has changed the world forever. Snail mail is no longer an option for daily communication. Neither is being on a job site without your own tool to track and control your progress. When technology rolls down the road, will you be part of the steamroller, or part of the road?

To my subcontractor friends, what are you doing to cover your bases? How are you documenting the hard work of your crews? What will you do to protect yourself when conflict arises? Take back control of your operation, perform better on site and see your awarded jobs increase.

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