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A New Spin on Productivity Review Processes

Throughout the life cycle of a construction project, the productivity of the team naturally progresses through some continuous improvement due to the repetitive nature of the work being performed. The effect of this progression can be especially significant in large projects with multiple typical floors such as office, residential or hotel high-rise buildings.

In recent studies at a Faith Technologies project in Atlanta, the aim was to capture improvements as they occur naturally so that these end-game practices may be applied at the beginning of subsequent projects. Efficiency gains will be much greater when these lessons learned are applied from the beginning of a project in terms of efficient manpower utilization, time savings, reduced labor hours and potentially reduced material expenditure.

To understand how this project was studied, it will be helpful to understand how productivity is normally reviewed at Faith Technologies. Traditionally, a productivity specialist visits a project several times throughout its life cycle and interviews the superintendent with a list of standardized questions and techniques known as project expectations, a list of best practices and recommendations that have proven to contribute to project success when effectively implemented. The productivity specialist determines whether these recognized best practices are being implemented effectively. Additionally, the productivity specialist conducts multiple primary-time studies, half-hour observations of electricians completing tasks focused on maximizing primary or value-added time, as well as whether project expectations are being effectively applied. During the time studies, the electrician’s time utilization is categorized into one of three categories: primary time, secondary time and waste time. Primary time can be understood as time to complete tasks that the customer is paying for or value-added time. Secondary time is non value-added time which may be necessary to support the primary time (examples are handling, climbing or planning time). Waste time is that which serves no value-added purpose (such as walking long distances and waiting). After each time study is completed, the productivity specialist has a coaching discussion with the worker to request their improvement input, review any issues observed and to offer recommendations or advice to improve processes and workflow. Time studies were outlined well in a previous blog post by another of our productivity specialists, Kevin Flynn.

So, what’s the new spin on our productivity review process? At the project in Atlanta, we focused on unit studies instead of the typical half-hour time studies. These unit studies were observations of the entire rough-in of a unit or entire room. This process is more time consuming up front, but the benefits are significant. Identical units were observed beginning on the 10th floor level and ending on the 18th floor level. They were purely observational initially with no recommendations or coaching from the productivity specialist, starting at the beginning of work in a unit and stopping at the completion, in order to observe the organic project progression.

All the various scopes required for rough-in, the total time required to complete each unit, the total labor hours and the changes to methods were annotated. Between the first observation and the third observation, the total labor hours to complete the unit were reduced by approximately 33% and the elapsed time was reduced by 50%. While there was some input by the productivity specialist, the majority of improvements were recognized and made by those performing the work.

Understanding the variables that affect these competing priorities (elapsed time, labor hours and manpower) enabled the superintendent and foremen to better forecast the project’s costs and timelines going forward. This trend will only continue to improve in regard to labor hours and elapsed time as this process matures and the teams gain experience implementing the lessons learned, enacting improvements that can be made before starting a new project. The Productivity team plans to continue with unit studies on the trim-in portion of the test project. This will allow the project team to apply lessons-learned improvements and further reduce the total time per unit. These findings also allow us to reduce the planned labor requirements in the job estimation process, continuing to improve on our already recognized ability to complete projects with less labor, providing additional value and efficiency to our customers and strengthening Faith’s industry-leading capabilities.

When we apply these lessons learned and improvement methods from the very beginning of similar projects, the savings to Faith and our customers will be substantial. This new method of evaluation is being incorporated into our repertoire of tools to further increase our competitive edge in the marketplace.