Cracking Construction’s Productivity Problem

Attend any industry event, and you will likely see the same McKinsey chart depicting construction as the second least digitized industry in the U.S., as well as a chart showing global construction labor productivity growing at an annual rate of one percent compared to three to four percent for other industries.

That’s due in large part to the fact that construction sites today look remarkably similar to the jobsites of 30 years ago. Despite the proliferation of digital technologies, the majority of builders still rely on manual processes at all phases—from estimating, scheduling, and accounting to project management. Builders often rely on paper for many daily tasks, such as time and attendance, safety inspections, and quality control checklists. When you consider the hard costs (paper and ink), soft costs (time at work), and possibility for mistakes (change orders, human errors), the inefficiency of current processes is too great to ignore.

New Technologies to Streamline Operations

According to the 2016 JB Knowledge Construction Technology report, the percentage of companies spending one percent or less of annual sales volume on IT continues to grow, from 45 percent in 2015 to 70 percent in 2016—despite the proliferation of construction technology. While digital project management and other mobile field applications offer a good starting point by ensuring field teams have the latest revisions and documents in real-time, contractors still aren’t able to see the full picture.

Contractors need overall jobsite visibility. Without the ability to immediately and accurately see how many workers are on a jobsite, where they’re located, and to communicate with them in a timely manner—whether they’re five floors away or five miles away—labor productivity, project quality, worker safety, and contractors’ bottom lines will remain flat.

The good news is that emerging Building Internet of Things (BIoT) technologies, which collect data from and connect everyday objects, enable construction firms to analyze valuable worker and worksite information. For example, environmental sensors can monitor temperature, pressure, and smoke to try to predict and prevent damage; while wearable sensors can monitor which workers are at the jobsite and where they are located, helping to optimize manpower and schedules, while improving site control—all in real-time. In addition, single-stream, integrated dashboards that enable contractors to view all resources in a project, from start to finish, help eliminate communication and information gaps.

Visibility and clear communication are essential given that there’s so much at stake at a construction site. Being aware of what is actually happening on the jobsite is the first step toward reducing downtime and waste, eliminating rework and mitigating risk. With that kind of in-depth, real-time insight, workers in the field, all the way up to the corporate office, can work smarter and safer, helping to tackle construction’s productivity problem and drive their businesses forward.

Chad Hollingsworth co-founded Triax Technologies to bring innovative solutions to challenging environments. Chad can be reached on LinkedIn or by email at

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