Pushing for Productivity – Many Hands Make Light Work

Added: 11/03/16 Author: Mark Tomlin

“Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”, that’s probably a phrase that you’ve heard before, possibly in your youth from an older family member, but as anyone who collects retailer reward points knows, there’s an element of truth to it.

Of course, this idea of small savings leading to larger ones isn’t just limited to finances.

Recently conducted by Constructing Excellence, the ‘Unlocking Productivity’ survey found that of the construction industry workers questioned, the majority believe that the sector’s productivity stands at only 60% of where it should be.

So, how do we improve productivity by that remaining 40%? According to Constructing Excellence, more than 200 organisations from across the supply chain took part in workshops part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and gave their thoughts.

One common theme linked the attendees’ answers, the idea of ‘micro ideas’, small changes which can be made easily, but which can add up to make a major difference to productivity.

Now, this isn’t a new idea. Toyota is famed for its development of lean manufacturing, a concept which aims to cut small amounts of waste at each stage, and which has now been widely adopted worldwide. Similarly, another Japanese automotive giant, Honda, routinely calls upon its staff to suggest productivity-boosting changes, and has previously received 2,000 suggestions in one year.

While the idea of sorting through 2,000 suggestions sounds tedious, and it probably is, if only half of these ideas provided a 9 second time-saving, that would add up to 2.5 hours per day, which I’m sure you’ll agree is a substantial efficiency improvement.

But how do we make these savings in construction? We’ve all seen delays of varying severities at work, and in our industry some of these are quite well known. Materials shortages can lead to work being held up, as can a lack of skilled workers, but even having to wait for the right advice or hunting around suppliers for the products you need will have an impact on a project’s efficiency.

This brings me to another one of Constructing Excellence’s survey findings, that most of the respondents want more collaboration, and feel a need to develop culture and behaviour.

Unfortunately, in any industry, it’s common for workers to look out for themselves, or the needs of their employer, unaware of how this impacts on others further down the line. By working with the needs of not only bosses and immediate customers in mind, we can all help to iron out the wrinkles in the construction industry’s productivity, we just need to start discussing it.