How to Measure Productivity for Construction Projects

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construction worker taking photo of ceiling on jobsite with tablet

You may have the most productive contracting business west of the Mississippi, but if you don't know how to measure productivity, you'll never find out. The issue is, measuring productivity isn't exactly black and white. How do we determine productivity? Do we focus on labor time, material cost, or other factors? There are a variety of proposed theories for measuring productivity, but most of them don't provide an accurate portrayal of actual project productivity, because they exclude one or more input factors. 

Then comes the issue of data. If you use inadequate data collection methods, it doesn't matter which method you use to attempt to measure productivity; you will end up with inaccurate results. Traditional data collection involves scribbling a couple numbers into a notebook, on the back of a hand, or even a 4 x 4. With handwritten data collection, information is bound to get mixed up or forgotten, and it's likely that project data will be completely skewed. If you still utilize the "old-fashioned way," you're not going to be doing your data any favors. Before attempting to measure productivity, you have to adopt more modern data collection tools that guarantee precision and accuracy. 

By leveraging technology to collect data in the field, you can guarantee that the information you've recorded is accurate and thorough, and track productivity in real time. Mobile construction software applications allow for those in the field to easily input information as they walk the jobsite, so there is much less room for error when it comes to data entry. Following a project, when all the data is stored in one searchable location, all of the numbers needed to analyze productivity can be accessed in mere seconds. The entire process of determining whether or not a project was productive is much more effective when the required data is actually correct. 

But why does that matter? 

Understanding a completed project's productivity is so much more than just figuring out if it was profitable or not. You can pinpoint exactly which resources or time were wasted, or in some cases, underutilized, and prepare better for upcoming projects or proposals. When you are able to present productivity reports with your bids, you can win more business. Construction is regarded as a relatively low-productivity industry overall, and the stats do show that the majority of projects end up over-budget and behind schedule, so being able to show that your projects are in fact productive gets you a leg up on the competition. 

So once you've got your data, what do you do next? How do we use these numbers to calculate the productivity of a project? There are a few ways that construction industry professionals measure productivity. Generally, they focus on one input factor in particular, which makes for a somewhat vague answer on whether or not the project was productive. If you are only measuring productivity based on one input factor, you are limiting the scope. One resource does not a project make, and this same logic applies to measuring said project's productivity. 

The Total Productivity Metric

However, the proposed Total Productivity Metric factors in all resources put into a project, and provides a more encompassing view into its productivity. But what is the Total Productivity Metric, and how do you use it? Essentially, the Total Productivity Metric is an exhaustive metric incorporating all of the input factors as a ratio against the output. If you utilize the Total Productivity metric in conjunction with proper field data collection, you can be confident that your sites will be using the best possible information. 

To learn more about measuring productivity for construction projects download our free Guide to Measuring Construction Productivity eBook.