Productivity in Construction

Productivity in Construction

Productivity Improvements in Construction

Behind all the technological initiatives in our industry is a simple goal – improving productivity. Often the best improvements come from a combination of people, the process, and the technology as we strive for better projects. Before I can address the matter of improving productivity, I need to provide context to the problem.

The sector

The construction sector is one of the largest sectors in the world economy, with more than $10 trillion spent on construction-related goods and services every year. The construction industry’s productivity, however, has very much lagged that of other sectors for several decades. It is very much a traditional industry with old values that often hold it back from better outcomes. If we do some calculations, we see that there is a $1.6 trillion opportunity to close the gap through higher productivity. World Construction-related spending accounts for 13% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The UK market is 10% of the GDP. And the construction sector’s annual productivity growth has increased less than 1% over the past 20 years! Compare this to the 2.7% for total world economy and 3.6 % for manufacturing, its only then that we can start to see the big picture *1
(1* McKinsey Global Institute analysis).

In the UK there are some 280,000 businesses involved with construction both large and small with 2.93million jobs which is about 10% of total UK employment.


If we can improve productivity by even a small amount by doing things quicker, smarter, cheaper in specific areas, then we can make certain to improve productivity and have much better outcomes. Construction productivity surveys suggest many reasons for this poor performance. It is complex and varied.

Higher margins in the UK construction sector tend to come from long-term relationships,
such as five-year service contracts, rather than one-off building contracts. These long-term arrangements, such as frameworks or partnerships for civil work, tend to be driven by organisations where establishing a relationship is key to accessing a pipeline of contracts.

Project Controls

When focused to major project schemes, there are several areas that could add significant improvement to productivity centered around project work and one that crops up as having the most potential is that of project controls. Site teams identify this as being their major issue whilst taking aim at other matters such as design inadequacies and skills shortages to name but a few.

Most individual players lack both the incentives and the scale to change the system as described above they do not have the means to change. However, there are forces lowering the barriers for change: rising requirements and demand in terms of volume, cost, and quality; larger-scale players and more transparent markets, and disruptive new entrants; more readily available new technologies, materials, and processes; and the increasing cost of labour with partial restrictions on migrant workers.

SMART sites: using wearable technology to track workers and alert site managers about clusters could be a good productivity strategy for your site. Beable, an award-winning technology created by EMS is an easy-to-use system using self-monitoring and wearable devices (no phones) and simple on-site beacon self-installation. Contact EMS today to find out more.