Posted on: October 25, 2019 10:21 am
Your crews’ productivity on the job site can affect whether you gain contracts in the future. Doing more work in less time makes your company more appealing to potential clients. Additionally, finishing work early frees up your time to take on more jobs and increase your profits over the year.
Raise your construction site productivity by both reducing efficiency-stealing habits and finding ways to work smarter. Recognizing the causes of reduced productivity allows you to find solutions and make your workers more efficient at their jobs. Keep your projects on schedule by using these tips to improve construction productivity.
Common Causes of Low Productivity on the Job Site
The construction industry is one of the few sectors that has not gotten more efficient with better technology. Overall, productivity in this sector has only risen by 6% since 1947, making the industry even less productive today than it was in 1968. Compare that information to the growth of agriculture’s productivity over the same time period of 1,510%. Because construction has seen few gains in efficiency over the years, investment in this sector has decreased. For construction crews, this might mean more competition for contracts. If you want to remain competitive in this sector, you have to increase your crews’ productivity.
Several factors lower productivity on construction sites. Identifying these and reducing their impacts will mitigate the damage done. Low productivity cuts into the work schedule, causing delays and lost profits. In 2018, researchers reviewed studies on construction productivity over the 30 years from 1986 to 2016 and found several common issues that dropped production. Examine your operations to see if you see any of these factors affect productivity at your construction site.
1. Lack of Proper Equipment and Tools
Not having the right equipment or tools prevents workers from doing their jobs efficiently. The same is true of those who must use old, poorly functioning equipment. Breakdowns can steal time from your operations by requiring immediate service. Older equipment can work less efficiently than new models. Failure to have the tools needed will drastically reduce job site productivity.
Cat® equipment has the durability and reliability to last, even in older models. If you need better equipment, consider upgrading to something that will last for years to come.
2. Inadequate Supervision
Workers without enough supervision may become slack in their efforts. The jobs that they do may not meet your standards, or they could take longer to finish their required tasks. These types of issues can lead to delays that could set your production schedule back by days.
One way to increase productivity is to have a supervisor on-site and available at all times. A supervising manager will ensure others do not slack off. A supervisor can answer any questions employees might have without the workers needing to wait for an answer or a decision. For example, if workers need to know what part of the job to start on after completing one section, a supervisor can get them on the task immediately without delay. Keeping regular tabs on workers and requiring frequent checks might help reduce the effect of inadequate supervision.
3. Material Shortage
Just as not having the right tools can cause problems with efficiency, so can not having enough materials. Running out of building materials requires your workers to stop until more supplies arrive. Depending on the project, they may not be able to work on another task while waiting. For example, running out of roofing tiles will halt a roofing project. Not having enough nails will stop woodworking. Stocking only one or two nail guns will allow only a pair of workers to install siding or roofing, reducing the rate at which the job finishes. Not having adequate concrete mix stops any foundation pouring projects. The resulting work stoppage will negatively affect the workflow.
Check your stocks and keep supplies appropriate for the project ready for when workers need them. Order supplies based on the project specifications such as the building size and number of supplies you use per square foot. Also, have some extra supplies on hand in case of broken tiles, damaged boards or other problems with the materials that keep you from using them. The supplies should wait until the employees require them and not the other way around.
4. Skills Shortage
A skills shortage occurs when you cannot find enough people with construction experience to hire for the job. Personnel shortages are more common in some job markets than in others. As more people seek out careers requiring college degrees, fewer go into construction. Only one in five students today has earned at least three credits in occupational education, indicating trade career interest, such as construction. This lowered interest, a decrease from one in four in 1990, plays into the shortage of construction workers. Between 70% and 80% of contractors today have difficulty finding the skilled craftspeople they need for their construction projects. While challenging to overcome, you can keep productivity up even with fewer workers.
Better, more efficient equipment can increase the amount of work each individual does, so you need fewer people on your job site. With the technological features of many Cat models, you can have more efficient employees who get more work done in less time.
What Are the Benefits of Increased Productivity in Construction?
You will reap several benefits of high productivity in construction. By wasting less time, your crews will finish more work on time, freeing you to place more bids for work. Your record of consistently staying on schedule will become a benefit when bidding, making you more competitive.
Additionally, by finishing projects faster, you will be able to complete more jobs throughout the year, increasing your annual income. More income means higher profits you can put back into your construction business or use for boosting your workers’ wages, which can mean you can hire more skilled construction workers.
The key to a successful construction business is improving efficiency. There are several strategies to boost construction crew productivity to use on your work sites. Using these will help you raise both the number of jobs you take each year and your annual profits.
Ways to Boost Crew Productivity on the Job Site
If you want higher profits and more jobs, you need to find ways to increase construction productivity. These tips will help you to overcome obstacles that waste time at your job sites.
1. Replace Aging Equipment
Exchanging old for new equipment reduces the frequency of maintenance you have to perform on your construction vehicles. By not needing to stop work to make repairs on older backhoes, excavators and similar equipment, you can continue working at a steady pace to finish the job on time.
When your equipment breakdowns regularly interrupt work, you need to consider replacing the aging machinery. If buying a new piece of heavy equipment doesn’t work with your budget right now, rent it until you have enough money to buy. Avoid forcing your crews to work without functioning machinery they need to finish the job. Rent or purchase replacements for old or worn-out equipment to maintain high productivity levels.
2. Communicate Expectations
You need to set expectations for your crews. Host regular meetings to communicate your expectations and to get feedback from the workers on what you need them to do each day. For example, workers may need to finish a specific number of tasks or clear a given square footage of land. You should present these individual goals to people, along with the consequences of not meeting them. How will you respond to workers who fall behind? Whether you reassign them to a less critical task or cut their hours, you need to clearly communicate what the consequences are of failing to meet expectations. When everyone knows what they need to do on the job site, they will be less likely to get off task.
Have constant supervision available, too. Having a supervisor to go to with questions reduces delays in work if an employee has a concern. Supervisors can also ensure workers adhere to their required expectations.
3. Set Clear Goals
Just as workers need to have expectations, you must also set clear goals for the project. Goals differ from expectations in who they apply to and their timelines. Expectations are what you want each worker to do daily. Goals are long-term project checkpoints that apply to the entire crew. For instance, you may want a construction crew that is working on blocking a section of the nearby street to finish within a specific time frame to clear the blockage for traffic. Another type of goal may be topping out the building by constructing the frame to its final height. When the team knows the goals that you have in mind for a specific date, they can work together to help achieve those goals.
As with anything you want your crews to do, you must have clear communication with them. Set the goals in writing and post them in an accessible spot, such as a break area. Also, verbally communicate the targets with your crews regularly. As the date of one of the goals nears, remind the teams more often of the impending deadline. Offer rewards for crews that finish parts of the job on time or before the deadline to further entice them to work toward the project goals.
4. Maintain a Site Inventory
To avoid running out of materials that your crews need to work, maintain an inventory for your site. To keep the inventory updated, require workers to log any materials they remove. For reusable goods, track when employees return the items.
When you know precisely what you have in your inventory, you can plan to reorder materials, so you don’t purchase too much or run out. Having an accurate listing of the goods you have onsite will reduce your chances of overspending on extra materials or losing money from wasted time because a certain material ran out. Look at how much your crews typically use per square foot. Many pieces of wood, nails, screws, insulation and other materials often have specified amounts per square footage, depending on the project. For instance, a wood-framed house will have different requirements for wood than a steel-framed office building. Use these values to estimate how much you need to purchase.
Remember that one of the top causes of falling productivity is running out of necessary materials. Whether your crews need lumber, tools, paint or other materials, you must have enough for the project. Maintaining accurate information on the materials you have will save you money and keep your crews operating at peak efficiency.
5. Reward Good Work
Encourage your crews to push forward on projects. Reward employees who meet their expectations or teams that reach group goals for the project. You may choose several rewards, but offering bonuses on paychecks is one option.
Using positive reinforcement has been proven in studies to be more effective than threats of punishment. In one study of a hospital that displayed a board with positive phrases after employees washed their hands, compliance with hand-washing policies went up from below 10% to 87.9%.
If you don’t have money to offer financial bonuses, positive reinforcement by telling your workers that you genuinely appreciate their efforts can be just as effective. Another option is to offer your workers pizza. One study showed that workers who had pizza provided by their employer performed better than those who got cash bonuses.
Since you will increase the chances of finishing projects on time with the more goals your crews reach, you will make more money over the year. With more projects over the year, your construction company will make more money to allow for employee bonuses.
6. Keep Equipment Maintained
The equipment you use must operate at its peak. Keep to the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule to prevent excessive wear. For example, failing to change oil can make the engines of heavy equipment work harder, reducing their efficiency and shrinking times between repairs.
If you own or rent Cat equipment, discuss service or repairs with your Caterpillar® dealer. You have the option of choosing in-shop or field service. Having Cat equipment experts service your construction machinery will give the vehicles the top care they require. Services include inspections, fluid analysis, mileage reporting and more. These maintenance chores provide you with insight into how your use of the equipment affects its operation. You will also help increase your equipment longevity through regular service.
With well-kept machinery, your workers will experience fewer breakdowns while on the job, which results in more efficient work from everyone.
7. Invest in Technology
While you may spend a little extra for high-tech features on your construction equipment, these additions can help boost productivity. For example, Cat Connect Payload monitors load weights on the go to keep track of operational productivity. The numerical weights make it easier for operators to know how much work they’ve done in a day.
Another technological service that helps productivity is Cat Grade Control. This technology uses multiple sensors on heavy equipment to give the operator precise measurements for digging, grading and cutting. Using the provided information, the operator becomes more accurate on the first pass and reducing the need for multiple passes to achieve the desired grading or digging means faster completion times.
Your workers can achieve even more productivity advantages, up to 40% better, by using equipment integrated with the Cat Accugrade Grade Control System. Technologies used for this upgrade include GPS, sonic, laser, ATS and cross slope. These tools help the operator to create consistent grades throughout the working area. In many instances, you will no longer need survey stakes when using this system on a dozer, excavator, motor grader or soil compactor.
8. Train Workers
Regardless of the experience that your workers have, training them in high-efficiency operations can give them new ideas on how to work more productively. Training is especially crucial if you implement technology on your equipment that older workers may not know how to use. During training, emphasize rules you have to combat time-wasters—taking breaks, what to do if machinery fails, how to deal with material shortages and where to get questions answered. Tell workers how to find a supervisor, who should be on-site at all times, to find materials and answer questions or to change tasks.
9. Enforce Safety Rules
Never sacrifice productivity for safety. In fact, maintaining safety on your work site will reduce downtime. When an injury occurs, you will lose the worker while he or she recovers. You’ll also need to spend time investigating the incident. Remind workers of the importance of safety for their well-being in addition to your crews’ productivity.
Have safety checks of personal protection equipment and safe practices on the work site at regular intervals. For instance, have a supervisor make sure all workers have hard hats. Those who are cutting materials will need safety goggles and gloves to protect their eyes and hands, respectively. Personal protective equipment can save lives on a job site but only if everyone wears the required gear when needed.
10. Know When to Rent Equipment
Providing your crews with the equipment they need to do their jobs well does not have to cut into your profits. If you have a job that requires special equipment, instead of buying it, rent it. By renting construction equipment for temporary use, you avoid the costs of purchasing and maintaining it. Renting costs less than paying the full purchase price of a tool or piece of heavy equipment.
You should also know when buying equipment will be better for your business. If you have frequent need of equipment, buy it instead. Calculate the number of times you predict that you will use the equipment. Multiply this by the rental cost to see if it costs less to rent or buy. For most staples of construction work—backhoes, dozers and loaders—you may need to buy the equipment because you will use it regularly for almost every job you take.
The Alban Advantage
When you choose to partner with us at Alban CAT as a way to maximize job site productivity, you also enjoy the benefits of our experts and Cat® equipment. We aim to make both our clients and employees successful daily. We do this by creating strong relationships between our team and yours. Our company’s principles guide us daily on how we interact with our clients. Our core values include the following:
We strongly believe in these standards. They guide every action our employees make in being partners with each one of our clients.
If you would like to partner with us as a resource for Cat equipment, contact us at Alban CAT. When we work with you to get you the Cat equipment you need, you will have the tools your workers require to improve productivity on the job site, reduce setbacks and increase profits. We serve as a one-stop source for equipment, including sales, rental, service and parts. Feel free to give us a call at (888) 492-6337 or visit us in person at one of our locations.