Productivity in Construction – What Is It and How to Improve It?

There are many terminologies that are used to define productivity in the construction sector including unit person-hour, production rate, and performance factor.

Conventionally, productivity in many industries including construction has been evaluated as the ratio of input versus output i.e. the quantity of the input delivered by a certain resource against the quantity of the value created by that resource.

Quantitatively, there are many ways to define productivity including physical metrics such as the quantity of concrete poured in an hour by a single unit of labor.

The two key metrics of labor productivity include:

  • Effectiveness – how much work a unit of labor can accomplish in a certain construction process.
  • Efficiency – the quantity of work completed by a unit of labor in a given period of time.

More than labor effectiveness, labor efficiency is used in the construction industry to calculate overall output with respect to the resources spent. Efficiency is generally used to measure and monitor performance.

Factors Affecting Productivity Management in Construction

Identifying and assessing a multitude of factors that can potentially have an impact on productivity in construction has become a major issue for project managers who want to standardize and quantify productivity. It has become increasingly important to evaluate both the positive and negative factors due to enhanced competition. Construction businesses cannot mitigate operational and financial inefficiencies and improve project performance without having access to the right data.

Construction businesses need to develop a thorough understanding of numerous factors that can affect productivity so they are in a much better position to determine the necessary initiatives they need to take in an attempt to cut down project cost overrun and completion delay, which can lead to increased productivity as well as overall project performance.

Studies and surveys suggest that there are fifteen types of different factors that can have an impact on construction labor productivity. These are categorized into design, execution plan, material, equipment, labor, health and safety, supervision, working time, project, quality, financial, leadership and coordination, organization, owner, and external factors.

Challenges and Barriers to Enhancing Labor Productivity

A lot of work has been done to identify and evaluate the factors that can potentially affect the overall labor productivity in construction. It has been realized that ineffective management is the leading cause of low productivity as compared to other factors.

Apart from poor management, there are many other challenges that come in the way of improving productivity:

  • Lack of Goal Alignment - Poor communication and collaboration lead to a lack of alignment in terms of objectives resulting in subpar productivity.
  • Contractual Conflicts - Disagreements and misinterpretations by the parties involved lead to wastage of resources and work duplication.
  • Quantification of Productivity - It is a challenge to define productivity in construction which leads to many challenges in terms of quantifying productivity.
  • No Improvement Intent - Many construction businesses and project managers are so involved with the work that there is little to no commitment to seek consistent improvement.
  • Lack of Labor Force Focus - Laborers are satisfied with the prevailing setup and don't want to focus on improving the efficiency of their work.

Key Initiatives for Improving Labor Productivity in Construction

To overcome the aforementioned barriers and challenges in improving labor productivity in the construction industry.

There are numerous initiatives that can be undertaken including the following:

  • Providing adequate and timely training to laborers
  • Motivating workers continued to maintain efficiency until the project completion
  • Acquiring materials and services in advance through smart procurement
  • Reimbursing workers as well as vendors on time
  • Organizing and implementing a methodical workflow to ensure efficiency
  • Providing appropriate and on-time supervision throughout the project
  • Ensuring preparation of site layout in advance and maintaining work discipline
  • Providing basic facilities to the laborers working on the site
  • Completing legal documentation prior to the start of the project
  • Planning and implementing funds management in advance
  • Determining optimal machinery usage and automation through advanced equipment planning

Sustainability Goals and Objectives Defined by the United Nations for Construction Industry

It's not only about increasing operational efficiency to achieve smooth operations and responsiveness; it's also about ensuring that sustainability objectives are met exactly the way they are meant to. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs has outlined a number of goals for major enterprises to consider in their pursuit of flexible and adaptable business processes. That’s why it is important for construction companies to take these considerations into account.

Developing Strong and Resilient Infrastructure

Build a strong, trustworthy, reasonable, and tough basis, including a territorial and transborder framework, to aid financial and human success, with a focus on fair and equal access for everyone.

Venturing Towards a More Controllable and Complete Industrialisation

Advance comprehensive but sustainable industrialisation and, in light of public realities, radically increase industry's commitment to labour and GDP by 2030, doubling its contribution.

Smaller Companies' Access Should Be Improved

The organisations have been entrusted with improving small business access in developing countries, with a focus on improving access to financial services, notably low-cost loans, as well as their integration into value chains and marketplaces, particularly in agricultural countries.

Infrastructure Development and Improvements

By 2030, enhance infrastructure and retool enterprises to make them more practical, with increased asset productivity and wider use of clean, eco-friendly technologies and contemporary cycles, with all countries operating according to their own capabilities.

Investing In Scientific Investigation and Progress

By 2030, all countries, particularly non-industrial countries, should focus on scientific research and modern industrial capacities, including enabling advancement and essentially increasing the number of innovative work laborers per million people, as well as public and private innovative work spending.

  • Increase monetary, mechanical, and specialised assistance to African countries, least developed countries, landlocked non-industrial countries, and small island developing states in order to help non-industrial countries in developing economic and flexible frameworks.
  • Assist agricultural countries with native specialised events, research, and development, particularly by providing a favourable administrative environment for modernization and item value growth, among other things.
  • Assist developing countries with in-country specialised development, research, and advancement, particularly by providing a conducive administrative environment for modernization and product esteem growth, among other things.

Productivity in Construction with KanBo

According to the report issued by McKinsey Global Institute, labor productivity has stagnated over the course of the last 20 years. From labor shortages to inefficient management, there is a wide range of issues, challenges, barriers, and bottlenecks that lead to poor productivity in construction.

6 out of 10 general contractors said that the main cause of poor labor productivity was lack of communication and coordination while 7 out of 10 trades said it was due to poor schedule management. Another factor that affected labor productivity in construction according to the general contractors was documentation.

In such an environment, if your construction organization has teams or individuals who are pushing for improvement and productivity, their efforts shouldn't go to waste. It's critical for construction businesses to provide a support structure for those who are looking to bring the change through the implementation of technology-driven output.

With KanBo, everything you need to be more productive is present in a singular central hub. KanBo is a more connected, smarter, and versatile platform that can help construction companies align their strategy with resources and work.

Measure Productivity of All Operations

KanBo's advanced analytics allow construction businesses to develop and measure productivities across different operations. With the standardization of productivity quantification, you are in a much better position to implement efficiency initiatives. Construction businesses can rely on Cards progress overview, insights, cumulative flow, and cycle time histogram to keep an eye on all the numbers that matter.

Creating Productivity Improvement Methods

With valuable and meaningful insights, you will be able to learn everything you need to know about improving productivity. You can create and implement procedures that can help you enhance productivity across different departments relying on ideas from your laborers, researching the practices of your competition, and reevaluating your own methods. You can create Boards featuring complete processes, tasks, documents, and maps to follow through.

Developing Achievable Objectives for Productivity Improvement

Once you have defined reasonable objectives for improving labor productivity, it is crucial that you share those goals with teams and members involved. You can do so by using Business Roadmap Board, Board General Info, and List descriptions. This way you will not only communicate new objectives to everyone but will also be able to follow up to identify the status of each point.

Providing Support for Productivity Improvements

Using KanBo, management can provide the required support and encouragement for productivity improvement measures to keep employees motivated. This can be done in the form of incentives for laborers who are putting invaluable efforts. KanBo offers a highly visible and transparent way to show support in a practical manner so the management can leverage the transparency to their benefit.

Evaluate Improvements and Share Results

After your construction business has deployed the improvements, it is necessary to evaluate results and share them with everyone. Multifactor productivity is at the very core of KanBo software so you can use it to calculate productivities from a multitude of sources including changes in the organization and management processes, network impacts, adjustment expenses, economies of scale, and more.

Challenges with Coordination & Communication

Talking about the major variables that impact construction labor productivity, 62% of general contractors think that it's because of the lack of communication and coordination between teams and team members. The data is backed by a recent FMI study, Constructed Disconnected which revealed that construction professionals spend 35% of their time, i.e. more than 14 hours per week, on non-productive activities on average. These activities include searching for project information, resolving conflicts, and fixing mistakes and rework.

When we combine the findings of both studies, it becomes quite clear that better communication between all teams and team members, including timely access to accurate information is a critical factor for contractors who are looking to improve labor productivity. This is where KanBo software can help construction contractors by enhancing communication and coordination.

Collaboration with KanBo

Construction companies can combine a multitude of teams to create a mutually advantageous work environment where people can learn from each other relying on the following features.

KanBo Card - Provides meaningful work insights accumulated from recent occurrences and updates within your team. With adequate content, teams along with their members can collaborate effectively.

Document Groups - Provides a much better and more efficient way to organize, see, and, and edit documents according to your needs. You get complete control over how document structuring works. No more need to carry out manual searches.

Card Activity Stream- As the project continues to develop and progress, the work pipeline becomes more complex than before. All the relations, documents, and processes can be viewed using the activity stream for exceptional transparency and clarity.

Other features such as mentioning and to-do list further help teams and their members to accomplish everything they need to do while keeping all the dependent workers and managers in the loop.

Coordination with KanBo

KanBo software can help construction contractors to automate and streamline their coordination processes to create an organized work environment where informed decision-making isn't a hassle.

KanBo Board - With the Board being a digital mirror of the work area, everyone can see workflows in a highly visualized manner to ensure they are aware of projects, processes, and progress at all times.

Card Relations - Complicated construction work can lose visibility in conventional work environments. With the help of Cards, KanBo provides a seamless way to keep track of everything ensuring the execution responsibility is fairly divided between teams and departments.

Timeline - Whether you need to keep an eye out for upcoming deadlines or want to check out past occurrences, KanBo's timeline helps you connect all the dots. A singular hub where you can find everything you want regardless of it's in the past or the future.

There are more features like Card Status which helps members define their progress along with Card Dates and Reminders so nobody forgets what they were supposed to do.

Create a Common Data Environment (CDE) as a Single Source of Accurate Information

It is an established fact that the sooner a team can access accurate information and collaborate, the better its productivity will be. Improvement in planning translates into an improvement in productivity. That's why when they have access to a single source of accurate information, they are in a much better position to improve communication, resolve issues and conflicts, and mitigate mistakes and work duplication.

In fact, accessibility to more accurate data during the strategy phase means construction contractors can leverage it for future projects to ensure consistent improvement in both operational and financial efficiencies. Once documentation has been standardized, teams can also evaluate data from previous construction projects to find out and mitigate barriers and bottlenecks to productivity. By creating metrics to assess how accurate recent strategies have been, contractors can then define practical goals to ensure improvement.

That is where a Common Data Environment (CDE) can help construction contractors. CDE is at the core of both BIM Level 1 and Level 2 maturity. CDE is a secure, collaborative, and digital environment that remains accessible to the entire team during the project lifecycle. All the data and information that is created and shared over the course of the construction project remains available through CDE as it becomes an ideal environment for collaboration.

According to PAS1192-2, the CDE solution can be quite different for small and large scale projects and may use a file-based retrieval process, project server, or other adequate toolsets from free web-based file-sharing software apps or highly sophisticated enterprise packages. British Standard Institution (BSI) defines the Common Data Environment (CDE) as:

Single source of information for any given project used to collect, manage and disseminate all relevant approved project documents for multi-disciplinary teams in a managed process [from PAS 1192-2] Single source of information for any given project or asset, used to collect, manage and disseminate all relevant approved files, documents and data for multidisciplinary teams in a managed process [from PAS 1192-3; adapted from PAS 1192-2:2013 to refer to an asset rather than a facility]

With KanBo software, construction contractors can create a comprehensive CDE whether they are working on small or large-scale projects. Using KanBo BoardCardsTimeline, and other features of real-time collaboration and coordination, construction teams can develop a seamless work environment mitigating the impact of barriers that hamper productivity.

KanBo Facilitates Construction Companies at All Levels of Management

Any construction organization that wants to enhance operational efficiency by adopting agile approach, and embrace planning and monitoring requires a robust infrastructure. When infrastructure is divided across teams, it becomes more difficult to monitor work and information, resulting in inefficiency and redundancy. KanBo's basic building blocks help managers, executives, and employees develop and optimise their work processes and project plans in a similar way. Whether you're an executive or just a team member, KanBo offers all the building blocks you need for all kinds of hierarchical arrangements.

As a C-Level Executives Digital Headquarters

Top-level management values a broad picture of the firm and a bird's eye view. KanBo provides customers with the digital headquarters they need, including quick access to strategy, tasks, projects, information, knowledge, documentation, internal communication, and the organizational community, as well as critical applications. Instead than having to plan meetings and video conferences every day, they can make key decisions on the go.

Citizen Developers as a Low-Code Platform

Low-code platforms are a visual approach to software development that allows for quick application delivery without the need for manual coding. Low-code platforms were created to make app development more accessible to the general public, especially citizen developers, who are basically business users with no professional coding experience. These personnel include project managers and business analysts, for example. KanBo's low-code platform allows users to make a big difference in a number of ways, such as reducing IT department backlogs, eliminating shadow IT, and taking control of BPM workstreams.

Citizen Developers as a No-Code Platform

NCDPs (no-code development platforms) enable non-coders and coders alike to create application software utilising graphical user interfaces and configuration tools. They don't use standard computer programming, which might be tough to master. KanBo and other no-code development platforms, like low-code development platforms, promise to speed up the application development process. These platforms have gained in popularity as businesses deal with the concurrent trends of an increasingly mobile workforce and a limited supply of trained software developers.

Work Organization Platform for Information Workers

A process is a procedure that involves a series of steps that must be completed in order to produce a certain outcome. A project, on the other hand, is a short-term plan with the purpose of providing a one-of-a-kind product, service, or result. KanBo provides a single location with all of the tools employees, managers, and executives need to manage many processes and projects with ease.


Productivity has stagnated in the construction industry and one of the major reasons has been the lack of real-time collaboration and coordination between all the stakeholders. KanBo software provides a singular central hub for all the information and processes where each member including managers can view all the progress ensuring there's no work duplication, mistakes, or resource wastage.

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