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Combining state of the mind with the state of the art

Rebooting construction productivity for the new normal

The daring architectural ambition behind the Burj Khalifa in Dubai makes us gasp. The innovative thinking that went into the majestic Millennium Dome of London inspires us. The breathtaking Bandra-Worli Sea-Link in Mumbai remains a saga of great passion Yes, epic feats of construction reveal unforgettable tales of creativity and courage. Sadly, they may also conceal a few. A less flattering back-story, of long delays, cost escalations and under-utilized labour. Each a case-study of unproductivity that may not make the headlines, but is no secret either. A 2017 McKinsey report quantifies them too, saying that Global labour-productivity growth in construction has averaged only 1% annually over the last 20 years (in contrast to the global economy or the manufacturing sector, where that figure stands at 2.8 and 3.6 respectively). Other studies confirm that - despite being amongst the world’s largest economic activities – construction has been guilty of under-performance for over 60 years. 

Even 60 days ago, that might not have mattered. But we are in the NEW NORMAL today. The next 60 days could spell big changes for the space. Getting productivity (a synonym for business ROI, practically) right doesn’t just matter now – it’s critical.  

The sector’s resistance to change is not only inexplicable but hurts prospects and profitability. After all, higher productivity doesn’t just build competitive edge for businesses and builders, but also drives affordability (a stubborn bottleneck for Realty) without compromising builder’s profitability.

Research suggests that even minor tweaks would be enough to fire-up productivity in the domain of construction significantly, with some estimates suggesting an 80% increase. If that is even half correct, then the time to make that tweak is NOW. And the million dollar question we need to start with is: At what point of the value chain are we losing the productivity plot?

PRODUCTIVITY IS A STATE OF THE MIND

Everything that influences the productivity equation – quality, cost and speed - demands a rejig at this hour. And it all starts between the ears. The mind, after all, is where all greatness is born. Therefore, it is the mindset and attitude of its diverse stakeholders that must lead the transformation of the construction sector. As a community, we have to be open to bold new innovations, shed unprofitable baggage and look beyond the obvious. The prescription is simple: UN-THINK, RE-THINK, UP-THINK.  

The road to construction’s resurrection may lie through Lean Sigma.

So you have rebooted your mindset, now what? Well, aligning the rest of the pieces that make up the productivity jigsaw. One way is to go ‘Lean’, which is about minimizing wastage (of cost, time, labour and materials) to maximize value. A productivity methodology with proven success in sectors like automobile and manufacturing, Lean works best in the project format which is what most undertakings in modern day construction tend to be. It’s just what the doctor ordered when the economy is grappling with the crunch of LESS - be it less hands, resources or funds. The broad pillars of Lean are:

  • Planning: Engage every player (especially the ‘field force’) concurrently in ‘huddle meets’ from stage zero.   
  • Optimizing processes: Map jobs with solutions across the workflow.
  • Monitoring wastage: Rein-in costs, inputs, timelines.   
  • Collaborating: Culturize real teamwork.
  • Refining: Keep improving by ploughing back learnings.

PLAN THE OUTCOME

Planning lets Lean reach its full potential. A great way to plan from Day Zero is to start on BIM – a ‘Building Information Modelling’ environment which allows all stakeholders (architect, engineer, designer, contractor, supplier) to stay closely aligned throughout the project arc. By introducing dimensions such as time, cost, materials & sustainability into the traditional length-breadth-height equation – and making information available in real time - a BIM approach allows for greater clarity, collaboration and control, and is a clear way forward in the NEW NORMAL.

Planning makes or breaks the game at every point of the workflow. Faulty planning, for instance, can lead to teams acquiring tools with overlapping functions or ‘incompatible’ gadgets that neutralize each other’s impact – causing both investment and time to shoot.

Other common examples of sub-optimal workflows – a result of low priority given to planning - are pairing high performing tools with low productivity inserts (like chisels) or employing a generator that doesn’t have the requisite power to drive the tool. At a larger scale, teams that run without a plan may invest in high quality machinery but ignore training, or acquire powerful equipment to break concrete without laying down a process to clear the concrete thereby interrupting work.

When you start with the right mind-set and plan well, you are naturally receptive to smart alternatives, prioritization of safety and are able to avert re-works which shrinks wastage of materials, man-hours and delay related liabilities. 

Hilti’s ecosystem of tools, services and solutions hit their true power when technology adoption is planned early. A sparkling example is Hilti’s Direct Fastening Solution. The traditional process - involving drilling a hole and hammering-in an anchor - requires 2 to 3 units of labour and about 10 days of work. Hilti’s Direct Fastening Solution - where one simply positions a tool and fires a nail into the concrete for fixing dry wall track - gets the same job done in 5 seconds. With manpower involvement and time reduced by over 50%, productivity rockets 10X. However, it is important to remember that the dry wall is the key, and this is where an innovative mind-set and early planning (for material, supply-chain integration & manpower involvement for the dry wall) kicks in. 

CURB THE COST

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Mastering TCO

 

Improving productivity by 60% can save upto 38% of cost by trimming time, labour and material. In the NEW NORMAL, organizations must therefore plan tool and technology adoption early, and with a long-term cost optimization approach. This is where TCO comes in. An acronym for Total Cost of Ownership, TCO lets us combat the phantom of Hidden Cost which, according to research, can reach as high as 80% of the overall cost of a project.

TCO is essentially the science (and art - yes, intuition can come handy here) of interpreting expense in the light of the overall project curve, and not just the initial acquisition cost. Purchase can support and accelerate this transformation by evolving into a techno-commercial function (and must be appraised in a new light by construction companies). The habit of favouring the lowest quote, for instance, may not always do the business a favour.

Hilti tools embody the true spirit of TCO.

They save significntly on labour (one instrument performing the job of many), miscellenous expenses (a supportive team obviates invisible costs – such as those of ordering and managing things on one’s own) and repair (less breakdowns and full-restoration warranties). Hilti products also come with 2X longevity – continuing to deliver higher outcomes long after market counterparts have entered wear&tear phase and started experiencing performance drop. This not only stretches the initial investment over a much longer journey, but also ensures there are no hidden costs along the way. 

TRIM THE TIME

Time is money, and nowhere is it truer than in the construction sector where projects typically come with innate uncertainties and complexities. Unless they are planned exhaustively and implemented intuitively, delays are almost inevitable. Time overruns can break a project in multiple ways - be it loss of competitive edge (with a slower Go-To-Market), drainage of finances (inflation costs of additional labour and material, legal penalties and lawsuits), scrapping of project in-toto or dent in reputation. The time value of money is particularly forbidding in metros, where a day saved can translate into a saving of upto INR 10 Cr.

Speed, on the other hand, allows one the buffer to plan for contingencies and unforeseen interruptions. It also lets us utilize any extra time profitably - such as learning assimilations or planning ahead for the next. During times of crisis, such as the current NEW NORMAL period, speed can be a particularly powerful survival strategy: By finishing jobs faster, we give ourselves a window to capitalize on whatever opportunities are available, before the competition does.

With a better built (patented technology, superior design and state-of-the-art manufacturing), Hilti products not only deliver better performance, but finish jobs ahead of timelines - helping organizations up their productivity by staying ahead of the clock.

Old habits aren’t easy to shed. And yet, the NEW NORMAL will expect us to stay agile & keep evolving.

ARE YOU PREPARED TO…   

  • Drive higher quality outcomes by planning-in technology that ensures speed, comfort and reliability from Day Zero?
  • Optimize asset costs by choosing the right tools, equipment and systems?
  • Combine tools with new methodologies to reduce down-time and eliminate waste?

PARTNERING YOUR PRODUCTIVITY

Hilti’s suite of tools, solutions and services can help you plan right, leverage the correct technology and lay down hi-performing processes.  For years, they have been partnering the construction community in controlling all three parameters of productivity - quality, cost and time – profitably. The NEW NORMAL will be no different. Keep watching this space. And stay sharp (as you stay safe) by joining our webinars that look at productivity from refreshingly new angles.

It’s time to put the PRO back in PRODUCTIVITY.

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