The Productivity Problem

Construction is an industry obsessed with productivity – And for good reasons. The more productive our field operations, design teams, and management work is, the faster and less expensive the projects are. Unfortunately, construction has suffered from losses in productivity over the last decade, particularly at the field level. Major trades like framing, drywall, and concrete are slipping several percentage points.

This phenomenon is attributable to many factors, but several key ones include:

  • Changes in Scope and/or Project Expansion – No matter how well you plan a project, changes happen – And they slow things down. The Independent Project Analysis Group has estimated by a study that more than 35 percent of all construction projects will incur a major change. They’ve also concluded that any change puts the project at a 1 in 4 risk of schedule slippage by 20% and a 1 in 4 risk of cost growth by 30%.
  • Inefficiencies Caused by Poor Scheduling and Planning – When the construction manager doesn’t do their job properly, they directly impact productivity. This can be as simple as staging materials and dumpsters too far from the work, to as severe as scheduling to over-commit resources or improperly sequence activities.
  • Lack of Skilled Labor Force – The decrease in skilled tradesmen, particularly in those levels who are actually installing primary work, is not news to our industry and is affecting productivity for obvious reasons. Read more on the labor shortage at

It is important that construction managers take steps to combat this productivity problem with what they can control. This includes processes like The Douglas Company’s Weekly Review and Planning Process, where teams agree on detailed goals each week and prioritize them based on the schedule critical path; or our Project Kickoff Process, which includes developing detailed site logistics plans for handling deliveries and staging efficiently. It also requires more resources than ever on the planning side to ensure that changes can be handled properly when they happen, so the project management team must be staffed (or over-staffed) appropriately.

Statistics and Graphics Source:

Bruce Douglas, PMP, PMI-SP, LEED AP BD+C
Senior Project Manager
The Douglas Company

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