ConstructionPro Week, Volume: 1 - Issue: 8 - 06/29/2012

Researchers See No Quick-and-Easy Fix for Improving Construction Craft Productivity

By Steve Rizer


There is no quick-and-easy solution for improving construction craft productivity, but a series of steps can make significant headway toward this end, according a 368-page report that the Construction Industry Institute (CII) published earlier this month. The report focuses on the second phase of a six-year research project for finding the best ways to improve construction craft productivity.


“Direct work typically amounts to no more than 35-45 percent of a craftsman’s time on the job,” the report says. “To improve craft productivity, direct work time must be improved. To increase direct work time, the availability of materials, information, and tools at the workface must be improved. There will be no ‘magic bullet’ that will make this happen, but rather a series of innovations that together produce change. They will include a combination of broad improvements in practice and focused improvements in technology and process.”


A Research Team 252 (RT 252) rolling, five-phase program aims to inject innovations through a sequence of workshops, field trials, analysis, and implementation tool delivery. Each phase includes analyses of CII Benchmarking and Metrics (BM&M) data to pinpoint best practices for boosting productivity. In addition, each phase explores opportunities for bolstering productivity via craft information, technology support for labor, work packaging/organization, and human behavior. A third component of each phase solicits innovation input from structured workshops and team members’ expertise.


“Analysis of BM&M data in the second phase was focused on investigating the relationship between particular field practices and productivity of the electrical trades,” according to the report, entitled “RR252-11a -- Productivity Research Program -- Phase II.” “Significant relationships were found between improved productivity and best practices in automation, integration, materials management, safety, team building, and constructability. These practices, however, are not additive; they are highly correlated and interdependent. Projects that were advanced implementers of these practices experienced as much as a 30 percent average productivity advantage over projects that were weak implementers. Clearly, implementing these best productivity practices can make all the difference between a weak and a strong performer. But, it is natural to ask whether CII’s BM&M database includes all the best practices or primarily those for which CII has produced products, and whether relatively conventional best practices exist with similar impact.”


RT 252’s efforts in the first research phase additionally focused on a thorough search and definition of best productivity practices, the report states. After these practices have become “rigorously weighted and properly structured,” they will become part of a Best Productivity Practices Implementation Index (BPPII).


Researchers explained that the BPPII is being validated in this phase and the next, and will be delivered as an implementation tool in the final phase of the program. They asserted that no existing CII tool addresses productivity as directly as the BPPII will. Until BPPII is fully developed, however, exciting innovations will continue to emerge, and the program will continue to track them, they said.


“For this phase of the program, a thorough definition and review of the activity analysis process is outlined,” the report says. “The development of the structure for the process is discussed and validated through an extensive literature review. A step-by-step review of the process is outlined as well as the required calculations for the development of a final observable output. After the introduction, the team presents the results of the activity analysis for several projects. Recommendations are suggested, and then the improvements are quantified after implementation. A final look at the lessons learned is then discussed.”


Researchers believe that implementation of the best productivity practices identified in the project’s first phase will result in “significant productivity improvement” for projects and that more improvements will arrive via subsequent phases.


Chapter titles include “Key Management Practices Related to Electrical Productivity,” “Analyses of Project Practices and Labor Productivity in the Electrical Trades,” “Activity Analysis,” “Best Productivity Practices Implementation Index,” and “Conclusions.”


A CII spokesperson told ConstructionPro Week (CPW) that the organization is unable to provide responses to CPW’s questions about the research project at this time.


Construction Productivity Guide Released


In other news, Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority earlier this month released “Guidelines on Productivity Improvement Project (PIP) Scheme: Part of the Construction Productivity and Capability Fund.”


PIP primarily aims to encourage and facilitate Singapore-registered businesses to build up their capability, identify productivity gaps, and improve site processes to achieve better site productivity. To be eligible, a business (e.g. developer, consultant, contractor, prefabricator) must satisfy the following conditions: the project must be a Singapore-registered construction-related business enterprise; the project should involve significant improvement in building design, products, processes, and applications and lead to “significant site productivity improvement”; the project should develop new capabilities within the company and/or industry; and the deliverable of the project must aim to achieve an improvement in site productivity (reduced cycle time, reduced manpower, higher yield, etc.) of at least 20 percent.


The PIP Fund provides financial assistance to cover a percentage of the qualifying cost of a developmental project. The effort’s intent is to encourage technology adoption, site process re-engineering, and innovation in construction projects. Expenses in manpower, equipment, materials, professional services, and intellectual-property acquisition for conducting the development projects will be supported on a co-funding basis. As government grants are not meant to offset the tax liability of companies, GST is not a supportable cost.




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