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Boosting Construction Crew Productivity

Cynthia Cline
December 1, 2023

Large-scale construction projects can take months or even years to complete, with the involvement of many employees, contractors, materials, equipment, and project plans, not to mention the project budget. Project managers must break everything down to track progress at the fine-detail level to catch overruns and issues immediately. Once the project is completed, it’s too late to fix cost overruns, excess materials, poorly timed construction phases, and other common problems.

Managing productivity is crucial for the success of these projects, and it is an ongoing, daily discipline that requires structure and a team effort. Monitoring and increasing productivity can save money, produce better project outcomes, and increase worker enjoyment and engagement.

The following points illustrate 10 key ways to manage and boost productivity in construction projects. While some of these points are more applicable to larger-scale plans, management can apply them to virtually any construction project.

1) Start with Efficient Planning and Scheduling

Construction projects have so many details to manage, and while there might not be “an app for that,” plenty of software packages are explicitly geared toward construction project management. Regardless of the project scale and complexity, you can use software to plan and store budgets, purchase orders, project work schedules, work-in-process updates, milestone billings, payroll data, and more.

Aside from software, you can build lean construction principles into daily project work to boost construction crew productivity. These principles include minimizing waste, reducing wait times, and managing the supply chain of materials to mitigate costly surpluses. Focusing on planning the project details to address every eventuality, rather than reacting, also boosts crew productivity because when issues arise, they are dealt with quickly so the crew can get back on schedule with minimum disruption or downtime.

2) Build Skill Into Your Workforce

The workers on your construction projects may have great experience, but there is always more to learn. Consider offering additional training focusing on deepening skills relevant to your construction projects so employees can become more productive by applying what they’ve learned.

Another vital way to build skills in your workers is to cross-train them on different tasks so that you always have someone to keep the project on schedule and moving forward when employees take vacation or need to take sick days. Cross-training makes it easier for existing employees to take much-needed vacation time and return refreshed and more productive.

3) Integrate Technology

Technology for construction projects has seen exciting developments and a myriad of useful tools and applications. With the latest tech, the construction crew can perform tasks more effectively and efficiently than ever. Uses range from simple innovations like using cloud-based methods to improve and speed up communication to working with Building Information Modeling (BIM) software to create virtual buildings during the design and planning process. Wearable technology, such as GPS trackers and biometrics, can track workers’ movements. Crews can use GPS tags and other technology to track and monitor equipment, tools, and materials for more precise inventory and theft control.

Security technology tools such as advanced camera systems can protect construction sites by providing surveillance and remote monitoring. Some crews use drones for easier and faster site surveys, and virtual reality devices can help view a property from various angles. These innovations help streamline the work process, improve communication, and increase design and work precision.

4) Improve Communication

One of the more fundamental ways to boost construction crew productivity involves improving and increasing communication. Lack of communication, delays in sharing important information, and ambiguous or cryptic communications can lead to mistakes, misdirection, and other critical issues that trigger costly errors or, at the very least, slow the project down.

Explore ways to improve communication, such as regular team meetings to discuss updates and give and receive feedback. Assign a formal chain of command so that crew members know who to speak with about specific issues or areas of their work. Identify the key people who need to be involved in critical communication channels.

Create an environment encouraging open communication, so crew members feel comfortable discussing issues with their supervisors. Additionally, use concise wording and minimize unnecessary jargon so that all team members quickly grasp the point of the communication.

5) Optimize Resource Allocation

Increasing the effectiveness of allocating resources can enhance your crew’s productivity on the construction site. Allocating the right person and equipment to the right task saves time, reduces errors, and helps increase the utilization of these resources. Optimizing how you manage resources can reduce costs, such as cutting or eliminating the amount of time that rented equipment sits unused.

Allocating workers more precisely can reduce or prevent employee burnout because workers are performing tasks that fit their skill set, rather than assigning them work that creates stress and frustration because it is not aligned with their knowledge and expertise. It’s a balancing act, but while learning and expanding skillsets are essential for workers, they still need to be set up to succeed by doing work that fits their existing skillsets.

Equipment, personnel, and materials can all benefit from tracking and optimizing their allocation. Improvements in this area can significantly contribute to the project’s overall success.

6) Implement Measures for Crew Well-Being

A meaningful way to boost construction crew productivity is to provide a work environment that enhances crew members' health, safety, and well-being. When the crew has regular breaks, a healthy environment, and safety measures to protect from physical injuries, you can reduce accidents and ensure that workers show up rested, energetic, and ready to work productively.

Worker burnout is a frequent concern in construction, and fighting it involves treating crew members like they matter (because they do). Ambiguous job descriptions contribute to mental burnout when employees don’t have a precise work direction with clear outcomes. Stressful conditions, such as a worksite with safety issues, can increase stress and injury risk, significantly affecting work crews. Other important ways to improve crew well-being include paying a living wage and recognizing performance.

7) Provide Work Performance Incentives

Speaking of recognizing performance, incentivizing employees offers another way to boost construction crew productivity. Incentives include regular recognition, bonuses, training, and advancement opportunities. Incentives must be fulfilling, authentic, fitting within the company culture, equitable, and personalized to the employee to be effective. Incentivized employees tend to work harder and need a reason to look for other work, which reduces turnover, training new employees, and project interruptions. These benefits can more than pay for the cost of provided incentives. Incentive examples include:

  1. Career growth, training, promotion, and continuing education opportunities
  2. Bonuses for performance, project completion, or retention
  3. Profit or revenue sharing
  4. Attractive salary and signing bonus
  5. Additional paid time off
  6. Flexible schedules
  7. Gifts and thank-you awards
  8. Health insurance, 401(k) and other benefits
  9. Tuition credits

8) Use Real-Time Project Monitoring

Productivity must be measured and tracked over time to establish a baseline to measure against when looking for improvements. You can accomplish real-time project monitoring with technology and systems that take little time or effort. For example, using GPS monitoring to track equipment location and usage can reveal that expensive equipment is sitting idle or that crew members spend a lot of time moving equipment around.

This information can help optimize equipment location and timing of rental to reduce costs and minimize worker downtime by locating equipment closest to where it's needed. Construction project management software provides real-time monitoring, such as centralized communications and updates, easily updated workflows, and keeping all the essential project details in one place so you can check them quickly and efficiently.

9) Streamline Work Documenting Processes

Paperwork is one of the necessary evils of any construction project. You can boost productivity by reducing errors, enhancing communication, and other benefits using a digital system for storing and accessing project-related documentation. Using cloud resources or construction software, you can scan documents into a centralized online database. Workers in the field can use cell phones to photograph the work site, record essential details, and transmit them to the centralized software. Paperless reduces the chances of lost paperwork, miscommunication, and forgotten details.

10) Maximize Efficiency with Rest Periods

According to research, a rested crew is more effective, and there are ways for them to take better breaks. Increasing productivity doesn’t mean working more time, but taking longer breaks isn’t necessarily effective either. The problem, especially with a project schedule running behind, is that crew members grind through their workload, skipping lunch and working after hours.

This cycle leads to burnout, illness, and low engagement, hurting productivity. A team examined over 80 studies on workplace breaks and concluded that taking short breaks multiple times during the workday does not hinder performance and can help boost productivity. When crew members push through with minimal energy in the tank, it can cause a negative spiral of poor-quality work, mistakes, and time spent redoing work, with even fewer mental and physical resources left.

The studies showed that micro-breaks of just a few minutes in the morning for snacking, stretching, or sitting enhance productivity. Later in the day, longer breaks help recharge fatigued workers. Managers can help by keeping a positive attitude toward breaks, taking breaks themselves, and creating spaces in the schedule for breaks without making rigid break schedules, which can demotivate employees.

Optimize Your Construction Project for Improved Outcomes

The success of construction projects relies on a multi-faceted approach that includes efficient planning, integrating technology, and focusing on managing the construction crew to optimize and increase productivity. Implementing the above strategies can improve productivity and project outcomes while increasing worker satisfaction and performance.

It’s crucial to consider all aspects of the project when optimizing, including getting the best out of contractors such as specialized services firms. Collaborating with reputable contractors such as waterproofing companies, electrical workers, and other specialists can safeguard your project from setbacks related to issues with these types of work.

Elevate the success of your construction projects by boosting your crew’s productivity, and when you need the expertise of waterproofing professionals, look no further than West Coast Deck. Contact us today to see how we can help boost your construction project’s success.