Across the vast majority of industries, productivity has risen dramatically since World War II. Technology, better processes, increased project management, have led to massive growth.
But the construction industry hasn't seen the same benefits. Studies clash on whether or not the construction industry has become more efficient.
Today, there are still productivity issues within the construction process. Direct work typically amounts to no more than 35-45% of a craft worker’s time on the job. When it comes to efficiency, it's not much better. NIST estimated losses of $15.6 Billion due to the lack of interoperability. One thing that can be agreed upon is this: construction projects and companies can be more efficient.
So why is so much time and money being wasted in the construction industry? Admittedly, some issues are often outside of construction companies and project managers control. One survey of Florida construction companies and general contractors found that building permit approvals were a major hurdle in the project life cycle. This delay was a bigger issue than hurricanes or other natural events, and often outside of any construction business's control.
But, there are some other sources of delay that construction businesses can control. The same Florida study found that inspections were key in delaying the construction process, along with material/fabrication delays, and procuring materials.
Another issue is communication. One study found that poor communication added about 5% the cost of an average construction project. With various stakeholders, and numerous jobs occurring at the same time, it's not surprising that project manager communication can be hard to understand, confusing, or get lost in the mix of the project life cycle.
Still, there is a silver lining to these issues: they can be fixed. Inspections can be made faster and easier by going mobile. One construction business found that going mobile reduced their inspection activity duration from two hours to fifteen minutes.
Mobile technology can also improve internal communication and labor productivity. Mobile apps, for instance, can create a standardized language with drop down menus, specifying terms. Date stamps and time stamps can calculate time cards inside the app, reducing administrative work and removing error. Finally, going mobile can make a disjointed team able to communicate in real time. This can help with procuring materials, reducing delays, and making overall labor productivity faster and easier both on site and back at the office.
Improved internal communication due to mobile apps can lead to real time savings due to accelerated project life cycles. One family owned construction company found they saved over 400 hours a year because they received better information from their job sites and project managers. For a family owned business, that time is huge for their growing business.
There will always be delays in the construction business. But, the research shows that there are opportunities to fix systemic issues that will boost labor productivity. Switching to mobile apps for documentation and sharing information is just one solution to help construction companies be more effective.