Is The Construction Industry Stuck In The Past?

The global construction industry represents Trillions of dollars’ worth of work each year. Yet despite its large size and importance to the economy, the certain elements of the construction industry very often gets criticised as being seem stuck in the past. Left behind by the technological revolution that has seen huge productivity gains in other industries.

According to some studies it is thought that the construction industry as a whole wastes tens of billions of dollars every single year due to inefficient and out-dated modes of information management systems, exchanging of information and accessing data.

So essentially, all of this means that labour productivity in the construction industry has stayed fairly flat compared to the increase in labour productivity over the same period of time. As illustrated by this graph:

Now, this is not to say that the construction industry hasn’t done anything to move with the times. Certain professions and stages of a construction project have tried to keep up with technological advances particularly architects and throughout design stages. This has seen the initial stages of construction projects embrace change and ‘go digital’ effectively using software that has improved bidding, planning and accounting processes.

However, in the most part when it gets to the physical construction stages, the embrace of such advancements has not carried on. It is still extremely common for projects to be run using vast paper trails, emails, phone calls and countless amounts of time wasted physically tracking down people for answers and plans. Essentially the way we plan construction projects has improved whereas the way we implement the plans and go about physically building has not and this is where the vast majority of the money is spent with some studies suggesting it accounts for up to 90% of the overall cost!

Of course, it’s hard to obtain completely accurate data on the actual productivity of construction workers but in general it has been observed that in an average day, a typical worker will spend on 30% of their time physically building. 40% of time is spent on the preparation stages such as gathering equipment and materials, moving from one area to the next and preparation to actually carry out tasks. The remaining 30% is spent idling, now this is not necessarily the workers fault! It is usually always due to things beyond their direct control and is caused by delays incurred in getting the correct people, the correct information, materials and equipment in the correct spot at the correct time. And this on the most part has been attributed to outdated management processes which other industries seem to have almost eradicated with the help of the technological revolution.

It is important not to blame construction for this as a lot of factors play a part. Namely, the complexity and scale of construction projects with the amount of different companies, people, Governments and money involved naturally causes a great deal of unique issues. However, the trillion dollar question is…

What can be done about it? Please leave comments on your thoughts.

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