Five ways construction project managers can improve efficiency

All construction project managers aim to deliver their projects on schedule and within the allotted budget. They must work through financial and human resource limitations to deliver projects successfully. The best way to handle this challenge is to manage construction tasks in an efficient manner. However, this is not a walk in the park.

The current level of efficiency in the construction industry is not up to par with other sectors. Several industries have already developed and adopted new innovations that improve productivity and efficiency. Meanwhile, the construction industry is still stuck with its traditional methods. According to McKinsey, the construction industry’s global labor-productivity only rose by an average of 1% year over year in the past two decades. In comparison, the manufacturing industry experienced a 3.6% growth while the entire world economy saw a 2.8% growth in the same period.  

That said, industry leaders know that they need to take the necessary steps to address the issue of construction efficiency to improve productivity. There are plenty of new construction technologies and methods that project managers can use to drastically enhance their workflow. Construction companies that fail to adapt to this change will, unfortunately, lag behind. Here are some of the ways your construction company can boost efficiency in all your projects.

1. Reduce nonproductive activities by streamlining communication

Due to the scope and complexity of many construction projects, it is not surprising that many of the activities on the construction site do not contribute to the productivity of a  project. Many of these non-optimal activities are caused by things that could have been avoided in the first place. For instance, looking for misplaced project information, repairing work mistakes, and resolving conflicts among project participants are small things that can add up over time and cause additional expenses and delays.

A big part of a project manager’s task is to minimize these nonproductive activities and improve work efficiency. The first step in doing so is to determine the current level of productivity on the worksite. This will serve as the baseline with which managers can compare any changes in productivity when they introduce new strategies and techniques.

The flow of information is a huge aspect of construction work that project managers can look into when reducing non-optimal activities. Since construction sites are huge and head offices where decision-making is centralized are usually far from the site, any slowdown in communication will result in delays. Project managers need to review the flow of decision-making, starting from when the issue arises up to when it is resolved.

Ultimately, issues in decision-making come from a lack of an effective communication system. Project managers need to find a way to communicate with key decision-makers in real-time and establish a system where they can discuss work issues and check work progress.

2. Leverage new technology to manage the construction site

The construction industry tends to be averse to adopting new technologies to help manage the worksite. It comes as no surprise that the industry is one of the least digitized sectors in the world, second only to the agriculture industry. While many business owners and industry leaders admit that innovations in many construction processes can drastically improve efficiency and provide a much-needed competitive advantage, not a whole lot are open to adopting these new technologies.

For instance, one common pain point in the construction industry is the management of payments and protecting the right to get paid through a mechanics lien. This can be a tedious process, starting from sending preliminary notices at the beginning of a contract to submitting regular invoices as work milestones are achieved. Using a dedicated application to handle these tasks can free up the time of employees for more productive tasks.

There are several ways new technology can address particular segments of the construction process. Business owners and managers need to look for construction project management software that can help them prepare tasks and assign such to the right employees, analyze equipment usage, address work issues, and streamline field-to-office communications.

3. Gather employee insight and provide the right training

One important resource for improving construction efficiency that business leaders often overlook is their workforce. Site workers can actually have better insight into making their workflow efficient than upper management who work off-site. For instance, they have the expertise on the techniques that can work best or the equipment to use for particular jobs.

Project managers should tap into this wealth of knowledge by conducting regular face-to-face meetings with field employees and discuss some of the issues that they encounter in the workplace and get suggestions on how to solve them. More experienced employees can also have an active role in the planning phase of a project where they can point out potential problems in the plan and solve them before they can affect the project in the future.

Aside from this, business owners should invest in training employees specifically for their jobs. The construction industry is constantly changing and employees need to adapt to these changes for their firms to stay competitive. In terms of efficiency, training is crucial as it contributes to how fast workers can perform tasks. Employees should be trained in operating equipment to ensure they are used safely and smoothly.

4. Maintain construction equipment regularly

Keeping construction tools and equipment in tip-top shape is another important aspect of improving construction efficiency. Many construction tasks are performed using specialized pieces of machinery. When equipment lacks proper maintenance, it will inevitably break down and cause delays. In addition, project managers should pay particular attention to fuel economy not only to reduce expenses but also to minimize any downtime. More importantly, field workers should not use equipment to their limit which can increase the chances of malfunctions and cause further delays.

5. Maintain a positive relationship with suppliers

The supply side of construction projects provides another opportunity for project managers to improve efficiency. Project managers need to strike a balance between getting materials at reasonable prices and having materials of great quality. If there are long lead times between filing an order form and receiving the materials, the planned project timeline may have to change.

One of the ways project managers can handle this is to maintain a positive relationship with suppliers. This can provide them with an insight into the fulfillment process of suppliers that can be taken into account during the project planning phase. In addition, this can help them negotiate better deals and even get them to fulfill a request during an emergency.

Construction efficiency is a pressing issue that business owners and project managers need to address sooner rather than later. As the scope and complexity of projects increase, construction companies need to find opportunities to boost efficiency and maintain their competitive advantage before disruptive players come along.

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