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How to Improve Construction Site Productivity

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The construction industry is currently facing a skilled labor shortage. Companies must maximize their current crews and resources to compensate for the lack of workers. In a perfect world, employees and equipment alike would always work in harmony to meet production quotas and deadlines.

But in the real world, things go wrong.

Inefficient practices and malfunctioning equipment hinder productivity and frustrate crews. Plus, lost time decreases your reputation and costs your company money. 

Effective management is critical for improving site productivity in the construction industry. For example, keeping proper fleet maintenance records will keep equipment from breaking down. Beyond investing in your equipment, you should focus on your team to demonstrate your appreciation to employees, streamline communications and maximize safety. 

Keep reading to discover how to improve productivity on a construction site through best management practices and modern technology. 

Be Proactive With Maintenance 

If your equipment has failed during a job, you know how frustrating — and unproductive — a lack of preventive maintenance can be. When machines malfunction, jobs may become delayed, discouraging your team. The more time repairs take, the less time your crews can spend working.

Recognizing when you need to replace or repair equipment is crucial to managing a productive workforce. However, waiting for reactive maintenance after something goes wrong leads to unplanned downtime. In contrast, preventive maintenance helps fight regular wear and tear. Preventing minor issues from snowballing into more substantial problems keeps equipment in top condition to increase construction site efficiency. 

Be Proactive With Maintenance. Preventing problems keeps equipment in top condition to increase construction site efficiency.

You should consistently inspect your equipment to ensure it's properly working, monitoring: 

  • Grease and grease filters 
  • Clean air filters 
  • Oil filters and levels 
  • Coolant and hydraulic fuel levels 
  • Roadworthiness

When surveilling equipment, you should understand what to look for. Keep an eye out for the signs it might be time to repair a machine: 

  • Cracks on the frame and along welds 
  • Wear on the tracks, treads and tires 
  • Windshield cracks, chips and dents
  • Wear on the bucket 

Appropriately maintaining your equipment maximizes your return on investment, which you can calculate by comparing a fleet's value with its operating costs.

You can maintain a fleet portfolio virtually to eliminate the need to keep track of paperwork, while collecting more data about your equipment, such as operating costs and hours. Apps like Cat App: Fleet Management from Caterpillar optimize fleet management. Access fleet location, service meter units, instructional videos and fleet operation and maintenance manuals all in one place. Plus, you can contact our service team right from a job site. 

When you first buy or rent a piece of equipment, ask your dealer about their service options. Keeping a regular maintenance schedule with your dealer will increase your fleets' lifespan. Plus, you can get the best equipment upgrades for your company when it's time to replace your fleets. After all, who knows your machines better than the dealer? Reputable dealers can provide the most reliable Cat parts made for your equipment. 

Services like S.O.S. Fluid Analysis monitor fleets so you can keep them safely running and extend their lifetime. You'll optimize inspection and oil change intervals and decrease maintenance time through regular monitoring. Tracking wear and tear informs you when vehicles require maintenance. Then, a certified service technician can directly and immediately target the problem before a minor problem becomes significant. 

Maintain a Strong Communication Culture 

If something goes wrong on a job site, it's instrumental your team can quickly communicate with management. Creating a robust communication culture is crucial for maximizing construction site productivity, as employees will immediately know who to contact, even before accidents happen. Delays and material shortages hinder productivity on construction sites. If team members know how to reach the right person, incidents will take less time, and your team will have fewer frustrations. 

Creating a robust communication culture is crucial for maximizing construction site productivity.

Typically, the people in the field are the first ones to encounter a problem on a job site. Check in with employees to ensure they know who their primary and secondary contacts are. You'll also want to keep their contacts updated when your company brings on new hires.

Work with your team to create and implement an airtight communication plan. Everyone at your company should use a consistent communication platform to report minor incidents promptly. If possible, company phones — furnished with sturdy cases — can provide team members on-the-go access to each other. You'll increase productivity, as employees will spend more time on site instead of in the office. 

Part of a communication plan should be keeping your teams versed on future projects. Allow your teams access to information about their work schedules in the future. That way, you'll avoid paying employees unexpected overtime. 

Further, you should get to know your employees to build a culture based on trust. They'll feel valued, and you'll understand how to best manage, assign and motivate different parts of your team. Maintaining a relationship with your employees will also alleviate your stress. You'll be able to direct your energy where it's most necessary, rather than spending resources on constant re-hiring. And if you are hiring, being an outstanding employer makes you more likely to attract the top talent you need. 

Invest in Your Team

Your employees are one of your company's most valuable assets. One of the best ways to make your construction site more efficient is motivating your team and identifying weak spots. Assess where your employees require the most support. Do they need more supervision, or do they struggle to communicate with the rest of the team? By recognizing where your team is performing well and areas for improvement, you can maximize your resources. 

By recognizing where your team is performing well and areas for improvement, you can maximize your resources.

Getting to know your employees will boost productivity. However, your employees will also feel more valued as humans rather than laborers. When people are more satisfied in their jobs, they're typically more productive. Maintaining a positive relationship with crews also reduces employee turnover, minimizing the need to retrain new hires. 

Hire well-trained team members, then implement regular retraining programs, especially when you purchase new equipment. When your team doesn't understand how to use your fleets, it leads to a disorganized work site. Proper training protects your workers from workplace accidents and prevents costly equipment damage. Plus, your team will spend less time trying to figure out how to operate your equipment. 

You can also claim tax deductions and apply for tax credits that support professional development. Construction companies can claim trade school tuition costs, subscriptions to trade publications, industry association memberships and licensing fees. Further, the American Opportunity Tax Credit and Lifetime Learning Credit can help with education costs — up to $2,500 and $2,000 per year, respectively, for each student. Investing in your team's professional development and growing their skills can help improve productivity at construction sites. 

Pushing equipment for long hours might seem necessary to meet quotas. However, overworking equipment can cause malfunctions and make your team fatigued. Appropriate scheduling makes your employees feel valued and safer, increasing productivity on construction sites. Getting to know employees and recognizing stress signals will help you plan for potential setbacks. You can identify and prevent problems before they happen, and your employees will feel more comfortable. 

Prioritize Safety

You should also plan for emergencies and account for risk during the project planning phase. Unexpected malfunctions lead to unplanned downtime and could even shut down a smaller or less stable company. If you take time to create a safety and emergency protocol, you can improve construction site efficiency — even when problems happen. 

Construction is a dangerous job, with one in five deaths in private industry happening in construction in 2019. Take time to determine how your staff will manage and respond to emergencies when they happen. Because nearly all emergencies result from unsafe behavior, you should train employees in workplace best practices to maximize safety. Establish clear safety protocols and ensure all members of your team understand procedures. 

Though accidents delay or could even halt a job, downtime is the least of your worries if a severe accident happens. Plan how you'll provide counseling in case of severe injury or death. Some team members may require more flexibility with scheduling after an incident. Employees could also run out of tasks if a major project gets canceled. Limit downtime by scheduling backup projects.

Prioritize Safety with a robust safety plan.

A robust safety plan includes the following elements. 

  • Training employees: Train all workers in safety protocols and how to operate equipment. Workers should know to keep 10 feet of clearance between equipment and power lines. They should also acknowledge load limits and which attachments are appropriate for which machines. For example, an operator could get hurt if they stand in a location other than a footrest or fail to safely enter and exit equipment. Training will help employees feel more confident if an accident does happen. 
  • Scheduling regular maintenance: Regular maintenance will keep your fleets running smoothly, preventing unexpected equipment failure. However, malfunctions can also hurt your employees. Protect employees with preventive maintenance and regular inspections. Check both normal functioning of different equipment and safety mechanisms like seat belts, reverse alarms and the rollover structure. 
  • Having the right equipment: Personal protective equipment prevents injury, ultimately making your workers feel safer and reducing the risk of downtime. Depending on the task at hand, team members on site will need hard hats, eye protection, gloves, face shields or even respirators. Train employees on how to use PPE and enforce regulations while on site. 
  • Recognizing signs of fatigue: Burnout leads to decreased productivity, hurting your bottom line. What's more, your workers could become injured if they're fatigued. Set appropriate overtime hours and recognize when your employees are becoming tired. Working in intense climate conditions like extreme heat or cold can pose a risk to workers. Recognize the signs of heat exhaustion, heatstroke and hypothermia so you can protect your team members. Practices like taking breaks to cool down or warm up will increase productivity in the long run. 
  • Follow OSHA standards: Employees operating heavy machinery and equipment must have the appropriate training. Employees can hurt themselves and others or break expensive equipment if they misuse machinery. Following OSHA standards prevents workers from injury and keeps your company from facing legal fees. 

Attract Top Talent 

The U.S. is currently experiencing a shortage of skilled construction labor. The recession that happened in the late 2000s first hindered the industry. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic worsened the problem. Baby boomers, who compose a significant percentage of the workforce, are also reaching retirement age. Because of the fallout from the recession and pandemic, the industry will need 2 million new workers over the next three years to fill the labor shortage. 

Though it may currently be challenging to find skilled labor, you can take the following steps to attract top talent.

Referrals from families and friends are an ideal way to find skilled workers.

  • Referrals: Referrals from families and friends are an ideal way to find skilled workers. You can partner with local high schools, trade and vocational schools and colleges. Your company can also work with recruiting agencies specifically for construction companies.
  • Salary: Offering a high starting salary and good benefits gives your company a competitive advantage. Accidents happen in the construction industry, so employees need benefits. Providing a generous starting salary and extensive benefits package will attract and keep highly qualified candidates. Discuss with your team which benefits are most attractive. For example, you might decide to offer 401(k) contributions. 
  • Flexible schedules: Allowing employees to flexibly schedule is a valuable workplace perk that will persuade skilled workers to stay loyal to your company for longer. Technology makes communication — and ultimately, flexible scheduling — much more accessible than in the past. Workers will feel valued as individuals rather than for their labor alone. 
  • Robust training and onboarding: Consider offering free — or maybe even paid — training opportunities. Because many construction workers are nearing retirement age, establish a mentorship culture at your company. Workers who have amassed more years of industry experience can pass their knowledge onto new generations. Further, you should offer professional development opportunities so your employees can stay up to date on industry trends.
  • Reach out: Consider searching for talent in other demographics from what your business reached out to historically. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women only account for about 11% of the workforce — more than recent years. Further, nearly the entire industry is white, with Black workers accounting for 6% and Asians representing a slim 2% of workers. You could consider recruiting candidates from diverse backgrounds to grow your company. 
  • Practice safety: Construction job sites come with various hazards. Minimize the chance of accidents for your team through a strong safety program. Implementing a robust safety program will give potential team members peace of mind. Offer OSHA-certified training courses, so your employees know how to operate machines properly. Further, make your team feel appreciated through wellness initiatives. Providing mental health services and health education will contribute to more healthy, happy and productive employees. 

Minimize the chance of accidents for your team through a strong safety program.

Minimize Downtime With the Right Equipment and Technology 

Before heading to a job site, ensure you have the appropriate equipment. You can maximize your machinery and only get what you need by only buying fleets you use frequently. By renting specialty equipment for particular jobs, you can cut costs and have fewer permanent fleets to manage. Improved productivity on construction sites and across your entire company will result in a higher ROI. 

By renting specialty equipment for particular jobs, you can cut costs and have fewer permanent fleets to manage.

When choosing fleets for a job, consider the specific tasks you need to accomplish. Then, decide which equipment will most efficiently and effectively solve the challenge at hand. For example, oversized fleets waste money, while too-small fleets may put your teams behind schedule. If you select the right equipment from the start, crews will more efficiently complete their work. 

Beyond picking the correct equipment, you'll want to leverage modern technology to ensure fleets complete the required tasks in the right locations. Apps like VisionLink are one of the best ways to make your construction site more efficient. You'll be able to see when machines are running, their locations and unsafe driving practices from one place. 

VisionLink includes four major applications to increase productivity while cutting costs.

  1. Unified Fleet: This app houses data for fleet management, including equipment location, fuel use, inefficient practices like idling and general operation. Proper fleet management allows for more efficient scheduling and fleet use. 
  2. Unified Service: You can view maintenance data in the Unified Service application, which stores inspection data. Monitoring data from all fleets in one interface streamlines the equipment maintenance and replacement process. Plus, this data will help you identify unsafe practices, so you can quickly remedy them. 
  3. Unified Productivity: As its name suggests, this app tracks efficiency data like machine use, payload, product productivity, volume and cycles. Unified Productivity is also ideal for identifying training and incentive opportunities. 
  4. Administrator: The Administrator app streamlines administrative tasks. Office staff will manage asset settings, notifications, users, groups, projects and reports. 

The Cat Productivity app is another excellent option for boosting management and productivity at construction sites. One of the most notable benefits of this app is that it's cloud-based. That means multiple users can view and manage equipment and job data from any location and device with an internet connection. 

The Cat Productivity app is another excellent option for boosting management and productivity at construction sites.

The app improves productivity in ways like these. 

  • Maximizing efficiency: Cat Productivity can track individual assets, allowing you to see which fleets are less productive. Further, metrics like hourly fleet performance streamline daily operations. Data helps managers optimize shift changes, breaks and refueling. The app also tracks hours working and idle, fuel burn and map view to increase fuel efficiency by 23%
  • Setting production targets: Develop and reach production targets more efficiently with Cat Productivity. The app displays the number of loads made in a day and weekly load counts. Machine activity data like load times, fill levels, cycle segments and positioning will also improve cycle time by 20%. 
  • Managing multiple job sites: You can manage several jobs and even view a summary and relevant metrics about all jobs from a single screen.
  • Locating fleets: GPS trackers locate all your fleets and how long it takes them to arrive at a location. You can set up geofences, or virtual borders, to see when vehicles leave approved areas. 
  • Tracking costs: The most productive construction sites are also cost-efficient. Cat Productivity breaks down different costs, including fuel costs and consumption, trends and total site costs. Daily cost breakdowns will help you analyze where you can cut spending without sacrificing productivity. 

Improve Construction Site Productivity With Solutions From Holt of California

For more than 95 years, Caterpillar has provided safe, reliable heavy equipment for multiple industries. At Holt of California, we're proud to offer new and used equipmentparts and heavy equipment rentals. Plus, our professional teams will service your equipment to keep it running in top shape. Contact us today or request a quote to experience our excellent customer service and world-class products! 

Improve Construction Site Productivity With Solutions From Holt of California