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What is Low Productivity Really Costing You?


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Tracking productivity on construction projects is a game changer. However, getting it right is not instantaneous. It's time-consuming at first, and there's a learning curve to be considered. Sadly, many contractors do not realize how much low productivity costs them. 

Does any of this seem familiar? 

  • Crews are often idle, waiting for instructions, materials or equipment.
  • Your projects often miss the mark on labor costs because of inaccurate estimates.
  • You had to scramble to find the information needed for a labor department audit or investigation.
  • You miss out on claims because you can't prove employees were delayed by factors beyond your control.
  • Someone has to collect handwritten timesheets and enter data into the payroll system.
  • Someone spends too much time fixing paycheck inaccuracies.
  • Employees record their working hours from memory at the end of the week.
  • Your employees always report being on the job at exactly the times they should be.
  • You have a lot of "buddy punching" going on.

While it might be tempting to just start calling everyone "independent contractors" and pay them a set amount for each task, you're navigating dangerous waters. The federal government and the states are increasingly challenging contractors who do so and will require you to prove those independents aren't actually employees. The scenario gets even more dire if any of them gets hurt on the job, and it's found you should have classified them as employees. 

The Productivity Bucket

Labor productivity has two aspects. One is how effectively you manage labor, and the second—how efficiently the labor performs. So, just tracking employee time is only half the equation. You must also create an environment where workers can perform efficiently. If your scheduling, information management, job analysis, and quality controls aren't creating an environment where your labor can excel, then all the time tracking in the world won't improve productivity. 

The biggest indicators of poor planning and execution are people waiting for approvals, materials, equipment or instructions.

Stacking trades, inefficient crew sizes, stacking your own workers, reducing supervision, joint occupancy, poor site access and excessive overtime are a few of the productivity-robbing inefficiencies that creep into the schedule. The biggest indicators of poor planning and execution are people waiting for approvals, materials, equipment or instructions. For instance, inconsistent, missing and ambiguous information were found to waste between 60 percent and 74 percent of the actual time used on a task with those information shortfalls. Today, you can address a lot of these productivity limiters by adopting cloud-based project management software.

It Gets Complicated

Once you remove systemic blocks to better productivity, it's time to turn your attention to getting deep insights into employee time. Although the Bureau of Labor statistics has recently debunked the idea that the entire construction industry suffers from decades of low productivity, the picture can be quite different at the individual contractor level. Many contractor jobsites suffer from pockets of low productivity that come and go across projects. And a chief culprit—not tracking enough data on worker time.

It's hard to estimate anything accurately when you don't actually know how crews typically perform.

First, you have to get a handle on the accuracy of when your employees start and stop working. But, what about how long they spend on each task? It's hard to estimate anything accurately when you don't actually know how crews typically perform. Time tracking at the task or activity levels helps you to future-proof your business against low estimates and bids.

On an even larger scale, how will you know your project's labor costs won't reduce your profits? Will you simply rely on faith in your estimates? Are you relying on hope and wishful thinking to keep you in the black? Well, it used to be complicated to get that level of detail about your projects. However, there are new tools that change all of that.

Improving Field Productivity Just Got Easier

Procore Labor Tracking is the first product in the company's new Field Productivity line. This solution includes Crews and Timesheets, two tools that work together giving you a deeper view of your labor productivity. Once you start to see the big picture, you'll notice some interesting and beneficial changes. Surprisingly, many of those changes will often show up first with field workers.   

If they find a worker spend half their time getting materials and finding instructions, they can also help you figure out how to improve that.

The superintendents and foreman want to know the crew’s performance is on par with where it should be and time tracking helps that. Most are surprised when they start using time tracking software and see how they spend their time. Besides improving crew performance, they get insights into ways to improve processes. If they find a worker spend half their time getting materials and finding instructions, they can also help you figure out how to improve that. 

They enter time data and unit production data on mobile or web while tracking the labor budget in real-time against the actual numbers. Once you have the data, you can use analysis tools to gauge performance over short and long durations. This gives you the insights needed to more effectively adjust crew sizes and get the right mix of skills on the job. It helps in scheduling, estimating and quality control. It also opens a window on efficiency so you can see where crews are having difficulty keeping up.

It's not really necessary for you to simply accept low productivity as a necessary evil. By adopting cloud-based project management and using Procore Labor Tracking, you begin making productivity a competitive advantage. To learn more about it click here.

If you liked this article, here are a few webinars you may enjoy: 

Benchmarking Productivity on the Jobsite

Bringing Tech to the Field

Go Lean this Summer: Cutting Waste and Increasing Productivity on the Jobsite

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