The Single Biggest Construction Productivity Killer

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I’m going out on a limb here! I’m claiming to know the biggest barrier which is stopping construction sites achieving higher productivity. Hand on heart this is not intended to be any form of click-bait (although I admit, it is a bit sensationalist). I am also not going to make you read this entire blog before revealing the answer, so here it is.

From Mafic’s work the single biggest opportunity to improve productivity is to keep the tradespeople at their workface for longer. In drylining and on average, more than 2 hours a day per person is lost due to leaving the workface for a variety of reasons. These can be, fetching tools, materials, running out of work, looking for a supervisor and of course going for a wander. Fundamentally i believe this is one of the biggest advantages to offsite manufacturing where you take the workface to the individual instead of sending the individual (potentially minus materials) to the workface. However, before we get to 100% offsite (ahem….) there is much we can do constructing onsite to enable the individual to get the most out of the day and minimise the off workface time. 

So how do we know this? At Mafic we have developed the FairPay wearable device which attaches to the hardhat and from the movement of the head the system can understand the activity which is being performed. We use this to pay individuals and teams a bonus for going the extra mile whilst also using the data to understand inherent problems on the worksite with regard to health, safety and productivity. We understand if individuals are active or walking or how many screws they have put into a wall. By using this contextual information we can then understand if someone is at a workface, off it, on break or travelling to and from break.

The image below is what we call Chapters and describes a single person’s day and the different phases. We never report on individuals but use this data in aggregation to understand what is happening on site. From the image below it is quite clear that although this individual is working well and not spending much time off-workface in the morning, during the last session of the day they are less effective and this is likely due to a combination of fatigue setting in or completing their work and not being given the next piece by their supervisor.

When you aggregate this data over 10’s of thousands of hours we get the following metrics which clearly demonstrates the size of the opportunity. The chart below are the daily durations averaged over all people (about 200) and about 60 000 hours. The on-shift time is the difference between the first and last time the individual wears the hat (excluding break). Inside the shift time we have on-workface then off-workface and warmup and cool down at the start/end of the day as well as breaks. The yellow bars are considered opportunities which can be improved. I think it is unfair to say these yellow bars can be eliminated completely but it is always good to understand what a ‘perfect’ day would look like. 

If on average 145 minutes is being lost every day to off-workface, what is the distribution of this? What does good and what does bad look like? The distribution below shows how this lost time varies across the population. Achieving 0 minutes of off-workface is clearly not possible but then what is possible? Sub 100 minutes as an average is probably a good target to start with and even a high performing team could bring their average down to close to 60 minutes. So from 145-60 minutes is an 85 minute increase in on-workface time. This increase this from 263 to 348 minutes is a whopping 32% improvement, even achieving half of this number can have a massive impact on profit margins. 

So once we understand what the biggest problems are, the next question is “how do we minimise this lost time?” There are many levers on the table such as offsite manufacturing, kitting (ensuring all and only the materials to be used are in the space) as well as “single-operative-single-task”. These will all be the subject of the next post next week. I hope you have found this informative and please leave your comments in the section below if you agree or disagree.

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