Home » Lack of innovation stifles productivity, says construction survey

Lack of innovation stifles productivity, says construction survey

by Mark Cantrell
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A lack of technological innovation is holding the construction industry back, with the majority of workers citing this as the primary reason for the sector’s sluggish productivity.

That’s the headline finding of tech company HP’s first ‘State of Construction Productivity’ survey, which canvassed the opinions of construction workers and decision makers from the US, UK and Germany.

It found that 60% of respondents agreed techniques and processes have changed little in the last 20-30 years. Indeed, 59% felt that the construction industry is no more productive now than when they began their career.

Citing McKinsey, HP says that while labour productivity in manufacturing – a similar sector – has grown an average 3.6% a year over the past two decades, construction has lagged with a mere one percent increase over the same period.

Xavi Juarez, director, HP Construction Services, said: “There is a clear acceptance within the industry that a problem exists, with less than 1% of workers believing the sector has no issue with productivity.

“For survey respondents to have seen little improvement in productivity across their careers is remarkable, considering the advances in technology during this time. A greater focus on harnessing tech and automating certain tasks is surely key to helping construction meaningfully improve productivity levels.”

According to HP, respondents agreed that technology has an integral role to play, with 71% seeing it as being able to solve the productivity puzzle.

However, the data suggests that new innovations need greater prioritisation, which HP said perhaps explains the industry’s lack of progress. It found:

  • Only 3% of CIOs said productivity-boosting technology had been introduced on-site at in the last 12 months
  • 75% of all respondents have seen no such technology deployed on-site over the past year
  • Still, 57% said that the pandemic had accelerated adoption of on-site and automation technolog
  • 68% said their employer was open to adopting new technology to improve productivity
HP publishes its first 'State of Productibity in Construction' survey
Image credit: HP

Respondents were also found to believe that raising productivity levels can help the industry overcome various key issues, including: 64% said improve housing shortages; 67% alleviate project delays; 66% help attract the next generation of talent; and 1% said reduce criticism of projects in the public eye.

On average, impacted construction employees saw delays of over 15 days caused by layout (or setting-out) errors, with some (5%) enduring interruptions as long as three months. The cost of these reworks amount to 9.4% of the total project budget on average, and a fraction under a fifth (19%) of the project’s profit margin.

Mistakes aren’t the only issue facing layout teams, HP says it found. Almost nine in 10 (88%) of those surveyed have had challenges staffing layout tasks – a combination of both a lack of skills and a shortage of labour.

Meanwhile, 70% are concerned about the potential for injury caused by manual layout techniques.

The results suggest that technology is seen as the answer, with 67% saying layout methods should have evolved further (as high as 74% in Germany), and 66% wanting layout tasks automated (rising to 78% amongst US respondents).

HP commissioned Censuswide to conduct the online survey. The sample of 903 respondents, aged 18+, from across the UK, USA and Germany, consisted of of CEOs, CIOs, site managers, contracts managers, construction foremen, superintendents, and leadmen, construction dryliners, surveyors and fixers, setting-out/layout engineers and surveyors, BIM managers, as well as field operation managers and field engineers.

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