Recently, there was a one-day event hosted by the University of Alberta, which focused on construction productivity, how to improve it, and outlined what project practices and people skills were related to the performance of a project, based on an extensive multi-year study, which collected job site data from multiple projects across Alberta. The event was put on by the School of Construction Engineering under the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Industrial Research Chair (IRC), and the Strategic Construction Modeling and Delivery (SCMD).

What did the research find? Let’s sum it up:

Managers and trade workers view productivity differently. What is viewed as productive work for a worker may not be viewed as productive work for manager. Specifically, they viewed productivity differently with regards to safety rules, frequency of re-work, training, experience, co-operation, fairness, assignments, frequency of accidents.

Interestingly, a survey by the National Safety Council showed that 60% of respondents in the construction industry believe their bosses favour productivity over safety.

Researchers found that effective working time (tool time) is not a good indicator of productivity. That being said, they also found that increasing tool time, while simultaneously increasing factors that impacted productivity would yield more than 1.5 times the results of increasing productivity alone.

Another interesting finding was that owners had a higher ‘maturity’ level than contractors when related to safety, environmental management, administration, commissioning, and start-up, while contractors out-scored owners when dealing with scope management, cost management, time management, and resource management.

All in all, the research gave the construction industry a benchmark to compare productivity of other companies, owners, and contractors. It is no secret that studies like these are important to an economic environment like Alberta, where reducing capital costs and competing with international markets is on everyone’s mind.