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7 Steps to Increase Productivity

Oct. 23, 2019
Increasing productivity in the field is a constant quest for managers and supervisors.

A common source of concern for owners and managers in the construction industry is the productivity of the workforce. Every rework job, every additional 5 to 10 minutes in breaks are costs that are not recovered and lower the profitability of a project. Small and medium-sized businesses need to be very efficient in the use of their resources to make a profit consistently. In times of economic growth labor force skills are not readily available, so owners, supervisors, and foremen need to make use of other strategies to maintain and increase the productivity and profits. 

Increasing productivity in the field is a constant quest for managers and supervisors. Business owners should rely on supervisors to manage the different crews while using technology for reliable and timely data, which is crucial for maintaining costs at a reasonable and controllable level. Constant training should be provided to the workforce too.

The productivity at the job site is related to how much one can build in a given period of time. The increase in production in civil construction, in most cases, is linked to the employment of a larger workforce and a consequent increase in spending. This spending increase can be minimized with gains in the productivity of the workforce. 

Here are some essential steps to increase the productivity of the construction teams.

1 - Work planning 

Planning is one of the most critical steps for the success of any work. A well-planned construction site helps to maintain a constant productivity pace, achieving the expected results, and avoiding delays.

Planning incudes such factors as: 

  • Definition of construction processes
  • Layout of the site
  • Identification of the necessary equipment 
  • Dates and delivery times. 
  • Preparation of all materials 
  • Scheduling all third-party suppliers 
  • Preparing the right quantities of materials, with minimum to none waste 

By following this planning, idle time decreases, reduced costs and excellent productivity are ensured at the site. 

Believe it or not, there was a time when some professionals considered planning a waste of time — either by knowing the type of work, or the need to start quickly or by believing that planning is far from reality. Nowadays, the profitability of a job is tightly related to the planning of the job. Some perform this step without doing the most important: the control and monitoring of the execution of what was planned.

The control is done through the evaluation of productivity data of the work performed comparing this information with the initial planning. When they have a significant difference, for more or less, it is necessary to analyze the motives and implement corrective actions. This is a daily activity that needs to be performed by the Foremen and company managers, to quickly assess deviations from the plan and fix them if necessary. Record lessons learned and pass them on to other teams. Doing that step enables the achievement of higher productivity and higher quality within the estimated cost and time, and will also prevent the same mistakes to happen in future jobs.

2 - Choice of Supervisor and team selection 

The Foremen are fundamental pieces for those seeking to increase productivity in the construction industry. They are the leaders responsible for directing and instructing the workers to perform the tasks on the job site. In many cases, construction sites need carpenters to build the forms. It is critical that the Foremen has carpentry experience and knows how to read blueprints and drawings so that he can correct mistakes and teach carpenters when necessary. A Foreman that cannot read blueprints or does not have form building experience is a sure recipe for project delays, rework and consequently higher costs. It is also essential that the supervisor speak the workers' mother language or at the least understands it. 

Therefore, these professionals must understand the importance of meeting deadlines and have all relevant information, such as the transfer of inputs and materials, the delivery dates, the available machinery, etc.

It is also imperative that the supervisors know how to manage the entire team well. After all, they are responsible for dictating the progress of activities and, thus, the productivity of the construction site.

The hiring of the workforce should not be based on the lowest cost and, whenever possible, should favor trained and skilled collaborators. When there is no availability of such qualified workforce, training must be performed with the contracted teams, so they are capable of operating with quality and efficiency. A helpful tip: seek partnership with the suppliers, themselves so that they perform practical training of the application of their products and machines.

The exchange of information between leaders, workers, and others is essential for the environment to become more productive, avoiding delays, and resolving problems quickly. Therefore, there must be excellent communication between supervisors and their respective team members. It is also essential that these teams have experience working together so that the Foremen can identify strengths and weaknesses of each of their team members. As time goes by, there is a natural trend for the team to become more efficient, as the Foreman gains a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the team members. 

For this, managers and supervisors should be familiar with the activities, and organizational structure adopted, making sure they are aligned.

3 - Use of technology 

Technology has become an indispensable tool in people's daily lives. So why not use it at work too? There are countless applications and platforms in the market for mobile devices, used in construction. Through some of these applications, those responsible for construction sites can follow expenses related to the purchase of materials, monitor the progress of construction steps, and verify that each is in accord with the plan. Also, it is possible to register machines and even determine their use at each stage of the job process. By using these platforms, it is possible to have greater control over the service, avoiding delays, and increasing productivity at the job site. Costs can be more accurately estimated and controlled.

Supervisors and workers' timesheets are also logged using apps on mobile devices. One cannot stress enough the importance of appropriate training of workers and supervisors in order to record the information at the right times. Information output is only as good as the information input.

The success of a project is linked to the speed of delivery and the cost-scale economy. Thus, the entire construction company benefits at various levels and areas. Once again, it is essential to understand the critical role of the Foreman in this process.

4 - Good budgeting 

When products are purchased or chosen based only on the lowest price, without technical analysis, often more inferior quality products are selected, leading to compromised productivity at the construction site. Budgets should take into consideration not only the cost of a product but also its quality and performance, given the characteristics of the construction site and unit. Poor quality and low-price product can become costly in the end, if it does not meet the requirements of the job to being performed. 

It is essential to consider the ease of application or execution, the increase in productivity, and the amount of workforce required to perform the same task. In this way, it will be possible to compare the products that produce the best economy. Equally important, as mentioned above, is the labor allocation. Supervisors should be included in the decision as to which team members will be assigned to specific tasks because they know the level of skills that each of their team members has.

5 - Reduce Outsourcing Services 

Outsourcing work is not a bad thing, primarily when an activity or request arises, and the manager, at that time, does not have an employee who is qualified to execute it. However, when the company opts for outsourcing in a disorderly manner, the organization at the job site can be severely compromised, and costs can go up. 

By using outsourced employees, the manager loses the opportunity to train a full team for the proposed service, so the manager must review the planned conditions before hiring this service. The company must have appropriate criteria to outsource labor. Proper planning and monitoring of job sites will help determine the need for outsourcing. Companies should try to minimize outsourcing to maintain within their pool of employees the knowledge and expertise required for the job.

6- Invest in quality equipment and tools 

With a modern and quality machinery at the construction site, it will significantly facilitate the work of the construction team. Companies must always be looking to see what is new in the industry and what equipment is appropriate and useful to increase the efficiency of the workforce. It is critical to make sure the operators of such equipment are well trained, to minimize errors in the field and delays in the project. New machinery and equipment also tend to be more productive, bringing the total costs down. A careful analysis must be made, though, to balance the cost of a new machine with the benefits it might bring with increased productivity. The opportunity to utilize the same machinery on future jobs should also be considered.

7- Reward your teams 

One of the best tools to instigate the performance of the workers is through a rewards system. With this, all team members work more engaged and focused on completing the tasks within a reasonable time and with high quality. Rewards need to be carefully chosen. Many times, money is appropriate, and other times, different perks such as driving a better company car for a month, have a more significant impact. Among the main types of rewards, it is possible to include: financial subsidy, basic basket, reduction of working hours, etc. The ideal bonus varies according to the profile of the professional. The company needs to make sure the rules for the rewards system are transparent, fair, and easy to understand.

With all these initiatives implemented, workers will feel they have full support from the company and be more engaged in the process of increasing productivity. Higher productivity means more jobs, better pay, and better rewards. It is a virtuous cycle.

Henrique Dos Santos is a Senior Project Director with Cogent Analytics. Henrique started his own consultancy in Brazil for small and medium-sized businesses, where he has shared his experience and helped companies in the food, catering, packaging and services industries. Moving to the US, Henrique has continued his consulting practice for small businesses by developing go-to-market strategies, strategic planning and implementation and market analysis. Visit www.CogentAnalytics.com or e-mail  [email protected] for more information.

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