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How to measure and improve labour productivity in construction?
On September 07, 2022 By Kumar Abhishek Anand

How to measure and improve labour productivity in construction?

According to the Government of India, construction is the second-largest employer after agriculture. In 2017, construction employed approximately 44 million people. In India, the CAGR projections for the construction sector are 11.7% between 2021 and 2025. The sector growth is expected to be reflected in a higher demand for skilled labour due to increasing infrastructure investments.

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Construction tasks are different from other industries and manufacturing. They vary by type of project, contractor speciality and other factors. It is more difficult to measure productivity if you don't mass-produce a standard product. It can be difficult to measure construction labour productivity.

Despite these difficulties, industry practitioners and researchers have made significant progress in measuring productivity over the past few years and have noticed some interesting trends. Although exact productivity metrics are not always available, all sources agree that there is room for improvement in construction labour productivity.

What is Labour Productivity in Construction?

Data aside, how is productivity measured? What are the factors that affect productivity? Although opinions differ, construction productivity is commonly measured in terms of output per hour. This measures how much work is done in the given time. Output can be expressed as physical quantities (e.g. square feet) or in financial units (e.g. rupees).

Labour Productivity is the ratio between the amount of work done and the number of labours used for the job. It can be used to measure labour productivity for a single day, a week, or a whole month. It gives an indication of how efficient the workers are. It is also useful in planning labour.

Importance Of Labour Productivity In Construction

The key metric for optimizing project costs is labour productivity. The productivity measurement also identifies weak spots in performance. These points will help you understand the importance of construction labour productivity.

01. Reduced project costs The labour cost represents between 25 and 40% of the total project cost. Correct estimation of labour productivity results in a decrease in overall project costs.

02. Complete the job on time Labour productivity measures the performance gaps. It is possible to replace less skilled labour with skilled labour and complete the job on time.

03. Careful Monitoring Critical jobs are closely monitored and controlled to improve productivity.

04. High-Quality Work Quality is what matters in the end. High-precision jobs should be performed by productive and skilled labour.

05. Plan for Labour requirements As per the project stage, labour requirements will vary. There are fewer workers needed for the initial and final phases. Mobilization and demobilization plans are designed to manage labour costs and requirements.

06. Histogram for labour supply The basis of the calculation of the labour requirement is labour productivity and activity duration. Histograms are a statistical tool that allows for easy analysis of labour supply and demand.

07. Cash Flow Process The Labour requirement histogram is used to calculate the monthly wages.

08. Workers Facilities Labour productivity is used to calculate labour requirements. This information forms the basis for utility planning and labour accommodation.

Factors that Affect Construction Labour Productivity

The number of tasks performed for each job determines labour productivity. The provision of machinery for transport, such as a bending machine or concrete pump, improves labour productivity.

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The research paper "Construction Labour Productivity and its Improvement", which was written by C Thiyagu and M Dheenadhayalan, outlines some factors that affect construction labour productivity -

1. Labour Details: Age and nutrition.

2. Project Management: Uncomplicated drawings, unclear instructions, unbalanced groups, insufficient tools, and tackles.

3. Poor Supervision: Inability to show the job, incorrect work allocation, lack of work time measurement.

4. Lower Motivation: Insufficient Wages, Poor Living Conditions, and Lack of Training for Workers.

5. Material Issues: A lack of material, improper stacking, storage yard too far away from the workplace.

How can you improve labour productivity in construction?

Here are 6 ways to improve labour productivity in construction :

1. Working environment Start at the bidding phase and look for projects that are appropriate to your workforce's size and complexity. Active projects require adequate site access, safety, and the proper equipment. High-quality equipment for field work might include machinery and tools of high quality, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) and vehicles.

Employees value a pleasant environment, modern technology, flexible working hours and the ability to manage their personal lives outside of work.

2. Labour Retention Most contractors are well aware of the importance of having a skilled workforce. Due to the nature of construction, it can be difficult to find and keep skilled workers. One way to maintain and build a skilled workforce is to focus on retention and minimizing turnover. Treating employees well will make them more likely to be loyal and to continue doing quality work.

3. Latest Technology Maintaining high-quality hardware and equipment is important, but you also need to have the most current software to manage your company's projects and business. You want to be able to share information between project teams and offices in real-time.

Instead of using fragmented reporting methods such as spreadsheets, email or handwritten notes, you should strive for a single system that provides consistent and streamlined reporting.

4. Weather Conditions Although this is a matter of uncontrollable variables, it can be managed with good planning. Make sure you understand your contract and all weather-related clauses. If possible, include language that provides relief for extreme weather conditions.

The use of technology, such as mobile weather apps, can assist with daily and hourly management projects.

5. Unnecessary Activities While some indirect labour is required to operate a business, proper sizing is crucial to ensuring a profitable business. As important as having field staff with the right qualifications, it is also crucial to have skilled staff who can handle administrative tasks, such as accounting, human resources, and bidding.

Small business owners may struggle to balance the need for delegating tasks with doing it yourself. You can reduce other non-productivities like rework by providing training and dealing with issues related to the labour force and working conditions.

6. Workforce Management This is similar to working conditions. You want to create a workplace that is friendly to ergonomics, noise, compensation, and other factors. Simply put, create a professional environment for both the company as a whole and for each individual worker.

7. Expertise Look for expertise in areas that you are not familiar with, such as building information management (BIM). These skills can allow you to achieve new heights in building projects. However, like any tool, it must be used by qualified and competent workers.