Researchers from Aarhus and Aalborg Universities in Denmark collected and evaluated 40 years of data concerning the efficiency and the direct work done in construction projects. The found out that productivity is constantly decreasing since the 1970s.
The results of the study were recently published in ASCE's Journal of Construction Engineering and Management.
According to Dr. Hasse Neve, a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Engineering at Aarhus University and lead author of the study, in the past 40 years, construction sites have become less and less efficient since much of the laborers time is consumed in less productive activities. As a result, fewer projects are accomplished in a specific time period and the construction industry loses potential incomes.
To derive their conclusions, the researchers collected data between 1972 and 2010 from the United States and Canada regarding the actual work performed on construction sites. There were no data available in Europe but, the authors emphasize that the pattern is similar.
They found out that the economic loss caused by the decreased productivity of workers is vast. To understand the impact of this relationship, the team suggests that if we could increase the productivity of every laborer by just 36 seconds per hour, the total financial benefit in the US and Canada construction industry would be about $5.4 billion. "Although there is a degree of uncertainty, this shows what a society could earn by simply spending one percentage point more time on value-adding work on construction sites. But the vast majority of sites can be optimized even more, thus the numbers could be huge," Dr. Hasse, stated.
The authors of the study emphasize that it is not the laborers that are to blame for this situation but, the managers of the projects. Construction management teams do not utilize the correct tools and methods to make every construction procedure as efficient as possible. As a result, many man-hours are not effectively used, and profits are reduced. "The construction management team has the greatest influence on efficiency, and thereby on how much money is earned. And the way to increase efficiency is to use methods, tools and knowledge that already exist. Lean Construction tools are basically all about eliminating waste. It is therefore crucial that the construction management are trained in Lean Construction and that extra resources are added to both implementation and support throughout the project," Dr. Hasse, added.
Researchers suggest that there are a lot of tools and processes to increase the productivity in the construction industry so it is questionable why they are not currently used. The potential for the industry to grow and experience significant incomes is very high if it moves towards this direction.
Sources: Aarhus University