The Ultimate Guide to Production Tracking
Learn how to best track production in construction and make the most of field data.
Table of Contents
Detailed production tracking helps construction companies accurately assess project status and reduce the risk of disputes.
What does "production tracking" mean, and how can your construction business use this strategy effectively?
What is production tracking in construction?
In construction, production tracking is the practice of measuring project progress against estimates on a regular basis.
By collecting key field data each day and comparing daily metrics to the schedule and budget outlined in the project contract, stakeholders can assess whether or not work is proceeding as planned and request change orders when necessary.
Detailed production tracking covers a variety of information, including:
Production tracking is the practice of measuring project progress against estimates on a regular basis.
1. Equipment tracking
Whether you own or rent construction equipment, it's a highly valuable resource onsite. Tracking equipment as part of your production tracking strategy helps you utilize it in the most efficient way possible.
Tasks that depend on the use of vehicles, machinery, and other significant tools may run long due to safety concerns or other unforeseen factors. Likewise, some tasks are completed more quickly than anticipated. With good equipment tracking practices, project managers will always know where a piece of equipment is and whether or not it is available.
You can also keep track of any damages to your construction equipment as well as routine maintenance schedules. You'll have a record of why the equipment could not be used on a certain day, and you can explain any resulting delays.
2. Material tracking
With supply chain delays at a record high, it's never been more important for construction companies to accurately track material usage.
At the start of each project, a company will generally purchase all the wood, concrete, or other necessary materials that will be used during construction. However, you may underestimate the amount you'll need, or materials may be damaged or rendered unusable by construction mistakes, bad weather, and other factors.
With detailed production tracking, the project manager can monitor supply quantities in real-time and identify well in advance when more materials are needed.
3. Employee time tracking
Hours worked is a crucial metric to track on construction sites.
Construction companies that know exactly how much time each member of their crew spends on specific tasks can better assess the success of a current project and make more accurate bids in the future.
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Why is production tracking important?
Production tracking is important because it helps construction companies ensure the profitability of their projects.
In 2021, international design and engineering consulting group Acadis reported that disputes related to poor documentation and violations of contract terms cost construction companies an average of $52.6 million dollars that year.
Without real-time production tracking, project managers are easily caught off guard by delays and overspending-both common issues in the construction industry. When these issues go unnoticed or aren't communicated to project owners in a timely manner, they often lead to costly litigation.
Poor documentation and violations of contract terms cost construction companies an average of $52.6 million dollars in 2021.
Making production tracking a priority helps prevent disputes by improving project visibility. When construction companies understand what's happening onsite each day, they can proactively avoid major issues and keep their customers better informed, reducing the risk of disputes.
The benefits of production tracking
Production tracking benefits construction companies by helping them:
1. Increase profitability
The organizers of CONEXPO, the largest construction show in North America, reports that profit margins for general contractors can be as low as 4%. Change orders, rework, disputes, and other problems that can be mitigated with strategic production tracking are largely to blame.
Tracking production closely gives project managers and other stakeholders a clear, up-to-date picture of project status. They can see the way daily events affect progress and make informed, responsive decisions to ensure work proceeds on schedule and stays within budget.
For example, poor weather conditions may prevent your crew from completing a scheduled roofing task. If you're monitoring daily production, you can see how that delay will affect progress down the line. You can reschedule the task for a time that makes sense based on the availability of your workers to avoid delaying any subsequent tasks or requiring any overtime, and you can inform the project owners of that change-and the justification behind it-immediately.
Without production tracking, minor issues can develop into major problems before project managers even realize what's happening, especially if they are managing multiple projects and can't be onsite every day. If they don't know about a problem, they can't fix it. And, while field crews may do their best to work around any issues they experience, they may not always have the overarching knowledge of the entire project plan they would need to make the best decisions.
Detailed production tracking eliminates the gap between the field and office and helps you maintain profitability through better visibility.
Profit margins for general contractors can be as low as 4%.
2. Build better bids and estimates for future projects
Construction companies can use the data provided by good production tracking practices to increase the chance of success for future projects as well as current ones.
Drafting accurate bids and estimates at the start of a project is one of the most difficult tasks for contractors. You need to make sure the bid is competitive without risking profitability for your business.
The best way to make accurate bids that protect both the construction company's and the project owner's interests is to fully understand the way your team works. Measuring how your crews performed against past estimates will help you determine how much time and resources will be needed to complete similar work in the future.
You can also track common reasons for change orders to make accurate predictions about the challenges your team may experience as work progresses. Build time for potential issues like shipping delays or labor shortages into the initial estimate if they are likely to affect the project.
3. Improve productivity
Detailed historical data is also necessary for making impactful process changes.
You can increase productivity significantly with production tracking because it helps you identify what your team is doing well and what they need to improve on. You can both see how your team best utilized resources and pinpoint inefficiencies.
Use production tracking data to revise outdated or overly complex processes and make better purchasing and hiring decisions.
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How to improve your production tracking
Improve your construction company's production tracking capabilities by focusing on better data collection and analysis.
Collect better data
Detailed daily reporting is the cornerstone of production tracking. Without crucial data from the field, you can't accurately track production.
Encourage your field teams to consistently complete and submit daily reports on time. Provide guidelines for the type of information to include based on the needs of your business.
In general reports should capture daily progress, work hours, material used, any safety or quality concerns, and equipment status.
Provide templates and checklists to make sure you're getting the level of detail you need from the field. You'll need to make the reporting process as easy and clear-cut as possible for the best results.
Perform detailed analysis
Data quality doesn't matter if you don't use it critically. Project managers need to collect, combine, and analyze daily report data for production tracking to truly make a difference.
Project managers need both organizational and logistical skills to effectively measure performance based on field reports and use the data they receive from the field to make accurate conclusions and apply insights strategically.
Share data in real-time
To make positive changes, construction companies need to clearly communicate the information they learn from production tracking both internally and with their customers.
Establish good communication practices to make sure the insights learned from field data don't go to waste. Keep field crews informed of any changes to their schedules or processes, and share frequent updates with clients to improve customer engagement.
Use production tracking software
The above tactics are difficult to implement without the right tools. Consider investing in production tracking software to help you efficiently collect and share valuable information.
Pen and paper reporting is still widely used in the construction industry, even though handwritten reports are overly time consuming and lead to frequent communication errors.
If you're using pen and paper or other traditional methods like individual spreadsheets to track production, you're probably spending too much time organizing and translating information before you can even think about putting it to use.
There are many production tracking software solutions designed specifically for the construction industry. The right tool will help you through every stage of production tracking, including data collection, data analysis, and communication.
Construction production tracking software
What does production tracking software do, and how does it help construction companies more than pen and paper reporting?
Fast, accurate data capture
Field crews are busy onsite. One of the main challenges of improving the quality of daily reports is that it takes a significant amount of time to complete and submit detailed reports consistently.
Production tracking software that includes field-focused daily reporting tools is built to make data collection as easy as possible for field contractors. Look for solutions that offer mobile data capture, photo and video capabilities, voice to text recording, pre-made template, custom cost codes, checklists, and other features designed to take the guesswork out of daily reporting.
Your goal should be to improve the quality and quantity of reports without adding extra time to the workday. If the software you choose is overly complicated, you risk low adoption rates.
Daily reporting software should reduce the amount of time it takes to complete reports by standardizing and simplifying the reporting process.
Another challenge of improving the quality of production racking is the amount of time it takes to combine and organize information from daily reports. Without production tracking software to help analyze information, project managers and other stakeholders can spend hours translating data into useful insights.
Good production tracking software will automatically combine reports and present the information in clear, easy-to-understand formats that can be assessed at a glance. Look for software that provides visual charts and graphs that show you how actual numbers measure up to estimates.
Automated production insights are especially useful for project managers who are in charge of monitoring multiple jobsites. Software helps keep you organized and helps you focus on turning insights into action items instead of hunting down and organizing information.
Automated production insights are especially useful for project managers who are in charge of monitoring multiple jobsites
Production tracking software streamlines communications so nothing gets lost translation.
With traditional reporting methods, field crews may have to attach individual reports to emails or submit them in person, and project managers need to collect all reports and store them using a physical storage system.
Production tracking software keeps things organized, especially when it utilizes cloud storage. Through cloud storage, field contractors can upload reports to one convenient location with the click of a button. Project managers and other stakeholders can then access them instantly though the cloud.
When it's time to review reports, they can quickly locate the information they need using a search function. The software may even automatically time and date stamp reports and photo and video attachments, which can make identifying the cause of delays and disputes much easier.
Every contractor can benefit from detailed production tracking. In our industry, understanding how your team works and staying on top of project progress is essential to profitability.
Production tracking improves your chances of success at every stage of a project. Working on current projects, it provides crucial insights that help you make proactive, responsive decisions. You can also use historical data during the preconstruction phase to help craft accurate, competitive bids. You can share information consistently with customers, keeping them informed and engaged.
It's difficult to improve production tracking efficiently without the use of technology. Production tracking software streamlines data collection and analysis, encouraging detailed reporting while saving both the field and office valuable time.
Detailed production tracking made easy
Our app lets field crews quickly collect and share detailed data in real-time, while project managers can use our automated production insights to analyze progress at a glance.