Five Construction Productivity Challenges

HeadshotTara Callinan • 

construction productivity blog

Eight trillion dollars - that’s how much the global construction market is set to grow by 2030. With this information in hand, it’d be logical to conclude that the industry is coasting its way into the future with little to no roadblocks. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

The industry’s growth makes it easy to look past some of its most significant issues such as the labor shortage, constant project cost overruns, and lack of construction productivity. In fact, the sector’s annual productivity growth has only increased by one percent in the past 20 years.

Wondering why?

The construction industry’s productivity lag can be attributed to five trade-specific problems: lack of technological advancement, miscommunication, coordination issues, inefficient use of time, and lack of context around tasks. In our new ebook, The 5 Secrets to Jobsite Productivity, we provide a practical guide to help construction teams combat these issues and improve jobsite productivity.

1. Lack of technological advancement

While there are several technologies changing the construction field, most of them target how projects are designed, not necessarily how they are executed. In fact, many of the communication “tools” used in the field now are the same ones that have been used for the past 30 years - paper, pencils, and phone calls. In fact, as many as 40 percent of construction companies still use paper and pen on construction sites!

This is an issue because these tools make the construction process ripe with opportunity for mistakes. Daily reports, punch lists, and blueprints are constantly updated throughout the project. However, the use of pens and paper to track this information makes the thorough dissemination of the updates challenging - or simply impossible. There are hundreds - even thousands - of hands on deck for construction projects, and teams need to adopt technology that will make the process smoother.

2. Lack of communication

Communication is essential for success in just about anything, but it’s exceptionally important in construction. Each project has a LOT of moving parts that can change on a daily basis. As stated above, paper and pen updates just aren’t going to cut it. In fact, miscommunication and inaccurate data onsite contribute to $31 billion wasted on rework.

Communication is also challenging when one project features multiple languages. According to a 2016 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20 percent of all men employed in construction were Hispanic or Latino while 13 percent were white, meaning there could be (and is likely) differences in language. In fact, research has found that one of the biggest challenges in the construction industry is the English-Spanish language barrier. That’s why verbal communication can no longer be the only way to relay information on projects.

“$31 billion was spent on rework due to miscommunication and inaccurate data on the jobsite.”

FMI Corp, 2018

3. Coordination issues

Each construction project can have hundreds - or thousands - of workers, each assembled in different roles with varying goals. General contractors, specialty contractors, suppliers, architects and designers, and project owners must work together to create a plan and bring it to life. However, while they are all working toward an end goal, they are doing so on different teams.

Obviously, accomplishing the level of teamwork needed is easier said than done, especially when those involved are all working off of various technologies - or some, none at all. However, it is essential, as a lack of coordination on construction projects leads to mistakes and wasted time.

4. Inefficient use of time

Thirty percent - that is how much time a craftsperson spends on actually building. But where does that other time go? The other 70 percent is allocated toward preparing for tasks and gathering equipment and materials. Some of that time is spent waiting to be instructed on what to do next. According to, as much as 90 minutes per person per day is wasted simply “looking for stuff.” While planning is important, building needs to be the main focus of time. Otherwise, construction projects will exceed the original deadline and significant cost overruns will arise.

field productivity

5. Lack of context around tasks

Too often, craftspeople are assigned tasks with little to no context. Simply put, they are told what to do, but they aren’t given the information needed to complete a task efficiently. They are put to work without plans, photos, or forms that would help them fully understand what they need to be doing and where they should be doing it.

This issue contributes to the construction industry’s already staggering operational waste. Right now, the sector is wasting $1.6 trillion due to its lag in productivity. Closing the gap between plans and tasks would reduce that waste, helping the industry as a whole.

The construction industry is transitioning toward the future, but when it comes to productivity, we’re still very much stuck in the past. Our new ebook provides actionable insights on how to work through these issues to improve construction productivity.

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