Work Force View of Construction Productivity

RT-215 Topic Summary
RT 215


Previous CII research on productivity has taken management’s perspective. In 2004, however, CII sought a new perspective of construction productivity: that of the craft worker. CII formed the Work Force View of Construction Productivity Research Team (RT-215) to collect data on processes and activities from the men and women executing them. These individuals have the best perspective of where productivity is lost and where it can be gained on a typical project, and are an excellent source of innovative solutions on how to prevent the losses and accentuate the gains. The ensuing research identified factors that have a significant impact on construction productivity. In general, tools and consumables, materials, engineering drawing management, and construction equipment were cited as primary causes for concern.
As part of RT-215, a craft worker survey was administered to construction craft workers on 28 projects in the USA between 2004 and 2005. The survey collected data relative to the craft workers’ assessment of different productivity factors and perception of productivity on their projects. The survey solicited input from multiple trades and included respondents representing journeyman, apprentices, helpers, and supervisory craft workers. The craft workers were selected from the concrete, mechanical, electrical, and structural crafts since typically these four crafts consume the majority of construction labor hours and are on the critical path for most industrial construction projects. The top five responding trades were pipefitting, electrical, carpentry, structural steel and iron work, and boilermaker. Survey participants were almost evenly divided between union and non-union craft workers.
As evidenced by the data, factors within the control of the project management team are viewed by craft workers as a major source of impact upon their daily productivity. Craft workers indicated the major areas affecting their productivity were site management of materials, construction equipment, tools, and technical support rather than procurement to the site. These factors can be addressed on the jobsite and tangible improvement to craft productivity can be achieved by proper measurement, analysis, and process improvement. Other relevant findings from the survey stressed the need for frequent and open information exchange with the crafts on productivity factors.
Following the data analysis work, the research team developed software, the Voice of the Craft Worker (VOW), which is designed to serve two purposes. First, it is an information portal that presents the productivity factor matrices along with corresponding suggestions that were received during the craft worker survey. It should be noted that the matrices in the VOW tool are static, representing the findings from the research survey and are not updated based on a project’s craft input into the VOW tool. Secondly, the VOW tool can be used as an assessment tool to identify which factors a project’s craft workers perceive are having the most impact on their productivity, and also to track progress against improvements in productivity for the selected factors for their project.                                           

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Overall Category Ranking

The research measured the relative impact that 83 factors had on productivity based on responses to the craft worker survey. The impact of each factor was normalized on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 indicating the greatest impact. The average normalized scores for the highest rankin categories are shown. (RS215-1, p. 17)
Reference: (RS215-1)

2 : Top 10 Most Significant Factors

From the categories shown in Key Finding #1, the top 10 most significant factors were:

  1. I have to wait for people and/or equipment to move the material I need.
  2. There are errors in the drawings that I use.
  3. When there is a question or problem with a drawing, the engineers are slow to address the issue.
  4. If I need a lift to do my job, there aren’t any available.
  5. When I need a crane or forklift to help me, there aren’t any available.
  6. I can’t get the consumables I need to do my job.
  7. I have to search in a lot of places to find the tools I need to do my job.
  8. When I go to install prefabricated items, work has to be done on them to fix quality problems.
  9. I can’t get the power tools from the contractor that I need to do my job.
  10. My supervisor does not provide me with enough information to do my job.
(RS215-1, p. 18)
Reference: (RS215-1)

3 : Communication

The research team concluded that:

  • Craft workers not only have a good understanding of the factors that impact their productivity, but also can provide insights into the root causes.
  • Most of the major concerns can be addressed on the jobsite.
  • Productivity needs to be examined from a behavioral aspect because productivity factors involve perceptions, motivations, attitudes, and behaviors.
  • Cost and progress reporting, observation, and measurement of craft perception can make a difference in a productivity assessment and management response processes.
  • More effort is needed to engage the crafts to establish two-way communication with them about productivity improvement. (RS215-1, p. v)
Reference: (RS215-1)

4 : Voice of the Craft Worker Tool (VOW)

The Voice of the Craft Worker can be an effective tool for a site management team to identify the top factors impacting construction productivity. If site management chooses to engage the crafts through the VOW tool, a commitment by management is needed to respond to the crafts’ input and implement valid suggestions. (RS215-1, p. 42)
Reference: (RS215-1)

5 : Implementation Steps

The following implementation steps were developed for the VOW tool:

  • As with any new field process, site management and craft workers need to be provided with an orientation that explains the purpose of the VOW tool and how it is used. The orientation should also address management’s commitment to respond to craft worker input into the tool.
  • A full-scale VOW site assessment is needed to identify the significant productivity factors specific to the jobsite, typically 10 to 15 factors, that craft workers perceive as having the greatest impact on their productivity.
  • Take action on craft input in order to resolve the significant productivity factors.
  • Have ongoing VOW assessments by monitoring the craft worker perception of the jobsite’s productivity factors. If some productivity factors are completely resolved, the site management team may decide to drop those factors from the ongoing assessment. (RS215-1, p. 14)
Reference: (RS215-1)

6 : Implementation Tool #1

IR215-2, VOW: Voice of the Craft Worker Tool, Second Edition (Archived)
The Voice of the Craft Worker (VOW) tool is a server-based piece of software that can be used at the project site to allow craft workers the chance to make input on various productivity factors that may be having a negative impact during the project. The tool also allows workers to make suggestions on how to improve productivity. If desired, the tool can be converted to a paper-based system from the current server-based method.

This publication has been archived, but is available for download for informational purposes only. The software no longer runs on current platforms.
Reference: (IR215-2)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved schedule, Improved engineering productivity

Research Publications

VOW: Voice of the Craft Worker Tool, Second Edition - IR215-2

Publication Date: 04/2007 Type: Implementation Resource Pages: 148 Status: Archived Tool

Work Force View of Construction Labor Productivity - RR215-11

Publication Date: 12/2006 Type: Research Report Pages: 270 Status: Reference

Work Force View of Construction Productivity - RS215-1

Publication Date: 10/2006 Type: Research Summary Pages: 58 Status: Supporting Product

Presentations from CII Events

Plenary Session - Workforce View of Construction Productivity

Publication Date: 06/2006 Presenter: Number of Slides: 14 Event Code: AC06

Implementation Session - Workforce View of Construction Productivity

Publication Date: 06/2006 Presenter: Number of Slides: 31 Event Code: AC06

Session - Worker's View of Construction Producivity and the VOW Tool

Publication Date: Presenter: Number of Slides: 40 Event Code: PIW407