Boosting Construction Labor Productivity
A wealth of information exists on how to improve productivity in the workplace. While these ideas can be helpful in increasing productivity, applying industry-specific ideas can be even more helpful. Productivity measurements should match the purpose, and a predictable work flow can be central to maximizing productivity in the construction industry.
In general, productivity can be defined as the number of work hours divided by the units of work completed. The sum of this equation is also known as the unit rate or physical labor productivity. Many different models for measuring productivity are available such as economic, project-specific, activity-oriented, and others. It is important to choose the model that fits the purpose. For example, Congress, the Department of Commerce, and other government agencies use the economic model while contractors typically use the activity-oriented models.
The route to improved productivity is a predictable work flow. With a predictable work flow, the work hours (capacity) can be matched to the available workload. This can be a much more effective way to boost labor productivity than other ideas. Rather than focusing on maximizing the workload, work hours, and work output without sticking to the work plan or finishing as many tasks as possible, the focus is on matching workload with work flow.
With a predictable work flow, the cause of variations can be more easily identified. A variation is defined as the difference in time between what occurred and what was planned measured by the starting time of the task and the duration. Variations should be reduced because they negatively impact labor productivity.
Identifying variations and their cause(s) can help save money and time. Those responsible for variations in work flow can also be responsible for a decrease in productivity. For managers, this can be an opportunity to correct the variation and further refine the work flow. It can also be helpful in labor productivity claims where the owner may be upset with decreased productivity. The information on who is responsible can help owners and contractors come to an agreement of who is responsible for losses.
A predictable work flow and the use of an appropriate productivity measurement model can be key in boosting labor productivity in the construction industry. Measuring productivity and work flow can help match capacity with workload, identify those responsible for reduced productivity, save money and time, foster agreements between owners and contractors over responsibility for losses. Along with other, non-industry specific ideas for improving productivity, creating a predictable work flow is an idea worth consideration.