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3 Ways Construction Contractors Can Work Smarter, Even with a Small Team

Some may believe that small construction contractors are at a disadvantage because of their size. There’s no denying that it can be harder for small contractors to weather certain challenges than their larger counterparts, including issues like slow payments and the cash flow crunches they create. 

But being a smaller company can have its advantages, too. When you have a small team, you’re able to be more nimble and adaptable. Because you don’t have to deal with decision-by-committee and other bureaucratic processes that slow down bigger companies, you can make needed changes more easily, as well as respond more quickly to opportunities.  

Technology can help your team work smarter.
Get the eBook to learn more.

Smaller companies also have less bloat, which makes it possible for them to operate highly efficiently. When you have a small and lean team, everybody has to pull their weight. You don’t have to worry as much about a team member slacking off because you’re often using all of your resources to their full capacity. If you do have a worker with a productivity problem, it’s pretty obvious because there’s nowhere to hide. 

But just because everyone’s accounted for doesn’t mean your team is as productive and efficient as they could be either. The poor productivity problem in the construction industry has been talked about for years now, and most companies—regardless of size—have room for improvement. Odds are, your company does too.

Research shows that U.S. construction companies spend as much as 50% of their time on unproductive activities.

—Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)

While the notion of improving productivity sounds great, actually doing it can be more challenging. The causes of inefficiency aren’t always obvious. Sometimes it’s a combination of many little things that are hurting your productivity. 

You could do a thorough analysis to identify exactly where the breakdowns are occurring, but you may not need to. There are some key places you can focus on that will almost certainly increase your productivity and, in doing so, your profitability.

Increase Construction Productivity with These Steps

Whether you want to maximize productivity across your specific team or your entire company, here are three ways you can start working smarter and making the biggest impact. 

1. Minimize Rework

Rework is a huge contributor to the productivity challenges that plague the entire construction industry. It creates a number of problems for contractors of all sizes, and it’s likely hurting your company too. 

If you’re doing rework regularly, it’s a clear sign that there’s room for improvement in your productivity. Furthermore, this type of inefficiency doesn’t just cause schedule delays, it also hurts the budget and, in turn, your profitability on projects. 

Often caused by gaps in communication, bad information, or mismeasurement in the field, rework is ultimately the result of unintentional errors that must be fixed. No matter who is responsible for the mistake, rework is a costly and time-consuming problem for everyone involved. When you have to rip and replace completed work or essentially do the same work more than once, that’s the very definition of inefficiency. 

It’s estimated that rework accounts for as much as 30% of all the work performed in construction. In fact, rework is so common in the industry that many have come to accept it as an unavoidable part of the job. But it doesn’t need to be. 

Redoing work that’s already completed is the opposite of working at optimal efficiency. When you’re able to minimize rework—or better yet, avoid it entirely—you automatically improve your productivity. 

Technology is helping small contractors like you minimize rework.
Get the eBook to learn more.

2. Automate Manual Processes

Automation is one of those concepts that is often misunderstood. By definition, automation is doing work with minimal human assistance required. While some may fear that adopting automated processes means taking jobs away from people, automation is really about making processes as streamlined as possible so you don’t need to have as many human resources to complete the work. In an industry where good help is hard to find, this is a very good thing.

Automation is becoming more prevalent in construction because it can help resource-strapped companies be more productive with the teams they have. If you have a small team, your ability to automate processes allows you to be more productive, not to mention more competitive, even against bigger companies. You’re also able to work with greater speed and precision, so your projects are more likely to stay on schedule and on budget. 

There are a number of ways you can automate and streamline your processes with today’s technology. And some of that technology is easier to learn and more affordable than you may realize. When you’re able to automate construction activities and your most time-consuming tasks, you can see meaningful increases in productivity.

“Automating elements of the construction process is more than good engineering; it is also smart business.”

Wired Magazine

3. Streamline Construction Layout

Construction layout can account for as much as 25% of a project’s cost, which provides a hint of just how much time and resources it can require. It’s a particularly slow and tedious process when you’re using traditional tools and processes, like tape measures, levels, and other manual methods to position points. 

Relying on manual processes and tools for layout is a common cause of poor productivity. Doing layout the old-fashioned way requires at least two workers spending many hours, if not days, to complete the work. If the project is large, you may need to commit even more of your resources to this single task. Even if you’re using a manual layout station, layout is still a two-person job, and the work is inefficient. 

Continuing to do things the way you’ve always done them may be comfortable, but it won’t produce the productivity gains you need to keep pace with your competition. Robotic layout stations can dramatically improve your layout speed and accuracy, while only requiring one person to operate and just a day or two to master. Some companies have experienced a 300% increase in the number of points laid out per day with just one worker performing layout using a robotic layout station. 

Streamlining construction layout alone can yield significant productivity improvements. By adopting layout technology, you can accelerate your layout process, while also improving your accuracy and requiring less labor. 

Set Up Your Team for Success

Being a small company isn’t necessarily a disadvantage. Your size gives you the ability to be more nimble than larger contractors. You can adapt more easily to changes and make continuous improvements more quickly than those who must jump through hoops to gain buy-in. 

When you’re part of a small team, you have the opportunity to get everyone rowing in the same direction and toward a common goal. And there are few goals worth pursuing more than increased productivity. When your team is working as productively as possible, you can solve a lot of other problems. 

There are technology tools available that can greatly increase your productivity by helping you minimize rework, automate manual processes, and streamline construction layout. A robotic layout station is a great place to start, and it’s easier to use and more cost-effective than you may think. To learn more, get the eBook.

About the Author

Bryan Williams, Segment Manager, Field Technology Group, Trimble Buildings. Bryan has nearly 30 years of international experience working in the construction industry as a site engineer, construction surveyor, project supervisor and consultant. He has spent the last 15 years developing and marketing intelligent positioning solutions for the construction industry as part of Trimble’s Buildings.