The construction industry is seriously big business. It has more than 680,000 employers with more than 7 million employees building $1.3 trillion worth of structures each year, according to the Associated General Contractors. So why is it lagging in productivity? While manufacturing’s labor productivity has increased at an average of 3.6% a year over the past two decades, the yearly growth in construction productivity has only been about 1%. The construction industry’s stunted productivity has been attributed to many factors, not the least of which its inability to quickly digitize.
Construction lags significantly behind other sectors in its use of digital tools and is slow to adopt new materials, methods and technology. By improving communication, automating processes and making training a priority, construction companies can start boosting productivity today.
Get Everyone on the Same Page
Taking a construction project to completion involves many pieces that have to fit together as seamlessly as possible to ensure the entire project gets done on time. For example, companies must communicate with their own employees plus all of the third parties they’re partnering with, like project managers, owners, designers and other key stakeholders. So if you’re still using a paper system, you’re sending documents like designs, RFPs and contracts back and forth between all these parties, increasing the chances of outdated versions being circulated or things getting lost, tampered with or even thrown away.
To help get everyone on the same page, use cloud-based tools like Google Drive and PlanGrid which all allow you to store, share and manage files between all parties involved in the project. Since everyone has access to these tools, no one is left out of the loop, providing digital transparency. You can also see who has viewed documents, helping to eliminate any excuses subcontractors or supervisors might give for dropping the ball.
Ask Yourself, “Where Can We Automate?”
There have been significant advances in construction technology that can make several processes more effective and efficient. For example, many of ExakTime’s customers have adopted some type of digital technology like smart equipment, smart technology, document management software, project management software and time tracking software. When looking at areas to automate, look for processes in the office or field that either eat up your time or are subject to human error to help you figure out where to start automating your business.
- Equipment usage. Smart equipment is construction equipment that’s equipped with tech that allows it to tell you its location (GPS), what the terrain looks like (3D mapping), how much fuel is used and more. Smart equipment was developed to help construction companies be more productive on each job site. As with any new piece of construction equipment, it is expensive. You can find some middle ground by using equipment tracking software, which tells you how often employees are using each machine, helping you determine wear and tear costs.
- Pre-planning. Smart technology helps construction companies not only interact with their job sites, improving safety and increasing productivity, but is critical for the pre-planning stage. Consider bid management software which streamlines the bidding process so you can easily bid on more jobs. You can send a bid out faster and track all of your bid packages and communications in about 15 minutes. Smart technology also includes wearables like Spot-r that helps detect falls, AR goggles used for project estimations and drones that map job sites.
- Project Management. Project management software keeps everyone on task over the duration of the project. It provides a roadmap of tasks and priorities, helping companies finish projects close to their original deadlines. Software like Procore’s Project Management enables project managers to keep their crews on track, and easily communicate with other decision-makers to provide real-time updates—increasing overall productivity on the construction site.
- Employee attendance. Not only does time tracking eliminate time theft, but it also helps keep employees accountable for their scheduled shifts, automatically. Solutions like ExakTime’s GPS-powered mobile app with photo ID verification ensure you have a handle on what’s really happening at your job sites. Time tracking and scheduling software also helps you increase profits by monitoring overtime with real-time oversight, with time worked easily synced to payroll to ensure checks are accurate.
Improve Your Training
Maximizing productivity the right way never comes at the expense of safety. The right education and training can actually keep projects on schedule by minimizing setbacks due to accidents. Preparing your workers happens when they start the job and throughout their employment.
Develop a safety plan for new employees that includes OSHA-provided materials and checklists for common citation areas like bodily protection, forklifts and scaffolding. Make it a mandatory part of your onboarding process and make sure employees have to sign off on completion before they start.
Host regular training updates and weekly or bi-weekly toolbox talks. Just as new employees need safety training, so do your seasoned workers. Safety protocols can be forgotten or even dismissed about a period of time and regular toolbox talks ensure clarity and keep safety at the top of your employees’ minds. Regular safety training on either a quarterly or biannual basis is another crucial way for workers to get a full refresher and be held accountable with a quiz or a quick Q&A.
Collaborate with a Trusted Partner
Rome wasn’t built in a day and your tech upgrades shouldn’t happen overnight either. A trusted partner can advise you on what software will work for your system, pointing out those areas that are a must to upgrade and which can wait. ExakTime offers solutions like a time clock app, payroll syncing and reports that work together to help you make informed decisions that will affect the outcome of your finished projects. When you can track how much your employees are working, which job sites required the most labor and how much your machines are used, you can accurately estimate and bid on new jobs knowing you’re maximizing your productivity.