Analyzing where your workers are wasting time can yield some game-changing insights.
According to a report from the nonprofit consortium Construction Industry Institute, based at the University of Texas at Austin, direct work typically amounts to only 35 percent to 45 percent of a craftsman’s time on the job. That’s a mind-boggling statistic with an enormous potential impact on a construction project’s schedule and costs.
So, you’re likely wondering, what are your workers doing the rest of their time onsite?
That’s what an activity analysis aims to find out. And in performing one, contractors can move that percentage of time spent in direct work higher and add lost costs back to the bottom line.
What is an activity analysis?
An activity analysis is meant to help you better understand how your workers are using their time onsite. That clarity allows you to schedule projects more accurately. An activity analysis can also reveal the need for specific logistical improvements that will help employees work more efficiently so you can complete jobs faster.2
Today you might be roughly measuring your labor productivity onsite as labor hours per quantity of material installed.3 But an activity analysis digs deeper.
The first step is to collect data on the activities being done within a certain timeframe. For a set window — say, four to five hours — gather information on how each employee spends time onsite. How often are people moving across the yard to gather tools or materials? How much time is spent waiting for a foreman to provide input on a question? How long is your equipment operator waiting to do his job? If the task at hand is supposed to be erecting a wall, create a record of every single action that can’t be directly defined as “erecting a wall.”4
Analyzing and acting on the analysis
The next step is to analyze the information gathered and create a list of inefficiencies. For example, if you’re seeing multiple breaks in direct work spent gathering tools, you might explore the use of pre-stocked rolling job carts that keep materials and tools close at hand. If crews are delayed waiting for your foreman to finish with an owner meeting or chase down a permit, you might need to look for ways to improve communication with owners, create checklists for preconstruction or even reexamine staffing to increase the foreman’s time onsite.5
Solutions will vary widely depending on what the data shows, but you may be surprised by how simple they can be.
Some contractors fail to follow through because they feel overwhelmed by the issues the analysis reveals. But to boost productivity, it’s important to put an action plan in place. Start with the low-hanging fruit before moving on to identify solutions to more significant roadblocks.
After you implement changes, compare your earlier productivity data with new labor hours per quantity of material installed. By seeing — and celebrating — each success, you can motivate your teams to make further improvements.
Megan Headley has been writing about every aspect of the built environment since 2004. As owner of ClearStory Publications, LLC, Megan demonstrates her passion for helping contractors create more productive and safer jobsites, and more sustainable and successful projects.