Up to 66% of the day on a construction-site is dedicated to anything but actual building work. These are the alarming findings of the latest construction research conducted by Aarhus University in Denmark.
As reported by the National Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR), the researchers followed craftsmen in renovation projects on four different construction sites for more than a thousand hours to measure their productivity.
The results show that two-thirds of the day on the field goes to waste as workers instead of focusing on their tasks, such as plumbing and putting new windows up, they have to spend a significant amount of time on transporting, cleaning and waiting in the site.
‘It can be that we have to go and clean up after the mason. Or the carpenter, where we need to remove wooden pallets or floorboards that they have been thrown around’, says Andreas Christensen, who works as a contractor in a construction site in Aalborg.
Jesper Andersen, who works as a mason, explains also at DR that a lot of time is wasted in either cleaning the construction site or waiting for the others to complete their tasks.
Clean versus necessary waste
In the study, there was an explicit distinction between the type of waste encountered in a construction site. More specifically, it was divided into what we could call necessary and clean waste.
As far as the necessary waste is concerned, the term refers to logistics in preparation, cleanup and other forms of preparation for the work that needs to be done on-site. To the contrary, clean waste has to do with waiting time, things that have to be removed or replaced and in general anything that could be seen as an obstacle for continuing and eventually completing the work on the field.
While it can be tough to reduce the levels of necessary waste, there is a lot of potential with clean waste. With the right plan and tools in place, there is an opportunity to reduce clean waste by 25%.
‘The planning and coordination on construction sites today is insufficient. This means that the craftsmen who are in the field and have great professional pride can’t work as they want to’, underlines Hasse Højgaard Neve who is part of the study and PhD student at the Department of Engineering in Aarhus University.
A good way to avoid time waste is by making sure that the different craftsmen don’t interfere with each others’ tasks and that there aren’t too many people on-site working on solving the exact same issue.
As Hasse Højgaard Neve suggests based on his personal experience:
“It is smarter if there is one man in charge instead’.
And he added:
“I followed a carpenter team which was going to do some facade work, and the work was started without the drawing. The team just stood there and guessed how to do it. But they could have done the drawing before they had to solve the task’.
Great potential for increasing productivity
The researchers examined 15 distinct specialties in the field of construction and found notable differences in the productivity levels of each group.
For instance, the productivity rate of floor-layers was just 18% while the productivity rate in the plumbing sector was almost 50%. It becomes evident, then, that there is plenty of room for improvement for the whole industry.
As Søren Wandahl points out, while talking at Fagbladet 3F, increasing productivity of renovation work in the building sector by 50% or even 60% can be possible.
For this to happen, though, both management teams on the construction site and individual companies should upgrade their efforts, as Hasse Højgaard Neve suggests. According to him, the Lean model approach could be extremely valuable for boosting productivity on the field.
‘It’s about management, coordination and communication. There are very specific tools known to the companies, but they are not used’, says Hasse Højgaard Neve.
As far as the reason why the industry avoids to use these tools so far, he adds:
“I think one of the reasons is that many in the sector don’t have a proper understanding of what it means and what consequences it has. That is what we are trying to show here’.
Up to 7% savings on construction projects run using LetsBuild
Based on another report on the importance of using digital solutions in construction published some months ago by the SBi (Statens Byggeforsknigsinstitut), the Danish National Building Research Institute affiliated with Aalborg University in Copenhagen, the use of LetsBuild can lead to savings of up to 7% in the course of the construction process.
‘The total gain for the entire project has not been investigated here. But assuming that there is the same process efficiency for the whole project apart from a slight effectivity drop in the last months (a common thing in construction), you can potentially end up with seven percent savings’’, says Jan Fuglsig Lambrecht, author of the SBi report.
All insight collected comes from three major Danish construction projects where our real-time project management platform was used – the ‘Niels Bohr Building’, the ‘Mærsk Tower’, and the Danish Defence Estates and Infrastructure Organisation (FES). The report reached some truly thought-provoking conclusions, concerning the future of construction that included “measured benefits for the clients”, “opportunities to achieve significant efficiency gains” and “better insight into the status of ongoing construction activities”.
It is, of course, an outcome which makes us very proud and proves that there is tremendous potential in the industry if we learn how to work smarter and more efficiently. To achieve this, data is the only way forward.
Data is the means through which the sector can accumulate valuable project knowledge and enable the managing team to make the right decisions and to empower the connection between the office and the site.
That’s why digital tools should be seen as an investment to improve current work processes and fix a problem. They can be a catalyst for change but they require support, solid planning and dedication to provide results.
How construction software can boost productivity on site
SBi report describes in detail all the ways in which digital tools (and in this case LetsBuild) can be helpful for the entire building process. The points listed below can be seen as excellent solutions for the problem described by the Aarhus University study.
In short, here are some of the most notable ways in which construction software can boost productivity on site:
Project monitoring that’s up to speed
During the generation of the SBi study, the Danish Defence Estates and Infrastructure Organisation reported that the use of a digital solution, such as LetsBuild, helped them minimise the administrative burden and provide everyone involved in the project (from clients to subcontractors) with an accurate overview of the whole process.
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In other words, the numerous project agents didn’t have to waste their time anymore wandering around the construction site or working on outdated progress reports. Thanks to this, everyone remained in the same page and could be the right moment at the right place fully aware of the current and upcoming needs of the project.
The secret behind this substantial productivity breakthrough was the combination of comprehensive documentation and the unhindered communication flow across the value chain as a result of the use of digital solutions.
Strong task management
It goes without saying that coordination is an essential factor for the success of a construction project. That is yet another area where the use of digital tools can be fundamental.
Going back again to the SBi report, after the introduction of LetsBuild in the Niels Bohr Building project, it was observed a substantial decrease of project interruptions in the course of the building process. This, of course, resulted in fewer delays and a lower rework rate.
It becomes clear, then, that using a reliable real-time project solution can assist the entire team with communicating better and feeling confident that everything proceeds as planned. When this happens it is anticipated that fewer costly mistakes and delays will eventually emerge.
Cooperative environment between trade contractors and the project team
The ‘Mærsk Tower’ project provided some valuable data in regard to the ways in which digital tools can enhance the communication between the team managing the project and the trade contractors.
It was observed that LetsBuild made it easier for the two sides to exchange detailed updates and qualitative insights in regard to the progress of the project. More specifically, after the implementation of LetsBuild both parties became better in understanding the various interdependencies between their tasks and in planning their next moves accordingly.
By extension, this improved workflow led to a more intelligent allocation of resources and more efficient workforce utilisation. Simply put, placing materials and construction workers where they were supposed to be at the right time became much easier.
Being able to report the progress of your work from the field in real-time is powerful. No need for time-consuming calls and meetings that never end. Without exaggeration, this is one of the most vital services that construction software can provide.
Either you are a field worker or a person working back in the office, mobile field reporting can help you remain connected with other project agents and request for immediate feedback when necessary.
On top of that, the ability to upload photos that explain a project hiccup or prove its completion in real-time and with the click of a button can contribute to remarkable budget savings and boost of productivity rates.
Digital maturity is the key
The construction industry is at the moment under a phenomenal paradigm shift. Nevertheless, productivity on site is still one of the sector’s’ biggest nightmares. Digital tools can be a valuable ally in the effort to boost productivity in construction but they should not be perceived as the cure for everything.
We are talking about systems which require a lot of work and dedication in order for the project team to get the most out of their use. This is where the issue of digital maturity enters the scene.
Namely, it all comes down to a shift in mindset. Construction has to see digital software solutions as tools to bring efficiency in construction projects. Nothing more or nothing less than that. The ConTech sector seems already to be very active as there are a plethora of digital solutions which can be used to bring order to all the chaos.
‘The industry is ripe for change and is looking for technology developers to deliver efficiency but in general, today’s providers focus on their own applications and don’t look at the wider picture. Each business will be using 10’s or 100’s of different applications and therefore it’s important that a common approach to reporting at c-level is fundamental to the success of the organisation’, explains Jason Ruddle, UK MD at LetsBuild.
Through real-time technology, managers can update schedules instantly, work in a central system and make data-driven decisions. It can be a true game-changer for construction and play a considerable role in stop wasting so much valuable time on site.
People in construction don’t need to work harder but they do need to work smarter. And this is where digital tools can help with.
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