ARTICLE

Improving construction productivity: Focusing on job-site logistics can put projects on the fast track

by: Smith and Howard

March 25, 2015

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A concrete subcontractor noticed that he was repeatedly falling behind schedule on his projects. Sometimes this resulted in his being penalized financially for the delays. Other times it meant forfeiting incentives he could have earned for completing work early.

While he reviewed project records with his financial advisor, it became clear that deliveries of materials were usually on time, and late-breaking change orders rarely were responsible for delaying construction. Whatever the cause might have been, he knew that increasing overtime for his crews might get the work done faster. But doing so would also eat up any potential profit from his projects.

As one possible solution to the problem, the financial advisor suggested that the contractor re-examine his job-site logistical practices to see whether he could find more streamlined ways of working. She also urged him to research the principles of efficient job-site management.

Learn the basics of improving construction productivity

As he delved into the basics, the contractor learned a set of principles to follow that would promote efficiency and make his crews more productive. Essentially, a good job-site layout should:

  • Reduce equipment movements around the site,
  • Minimize storage of materials,
  • Decrease distances from storage areas to point of use,
  • Reduce bottlenecks to provide a uniform flow of materials, and
  • Eliminate duplicate handling of materials.

Of course, human assets on the contractors’ job sites also have a huge impact on project efficiency. So he needed to control waste, breakage and theft of materials and equipment. The contractor also had to place controls over worker tardiness and productivity, while maintaining a safe working environment.

Network with others

Because overall responsibility for job-site layout belongs to the general contractor, the financial advisor urged the subcontractor to proactively provide input toward helping jobs run smoothly and efficiently. As one of the first trades on a site, a concrete contractor often can influence the placement of access roads, office trailers, restrooms, and storage and other facilities.

To help matters further, the financial advisor referred the subcontractor to a general contractor client who was willing to share tips on job-site efficiency. One suggestion was to set up project peer reviews, in which a network of local industry professionals reviews a site for safety, quality and logistics.

Add and refine

By adding some researched best practices to his job sites and refining some of his existing policies, the subcontractor saw big improvements over the ensuing six months. He was able to complete tougher projects on time and easier ones early, all the while lowering his expenses and increasing his profitability.

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