Covid-19 ‘new normal’ could boost site productivity

Aaron Morby 4 years ago
Share

Embedding many working practices born out of the urgent challenges of the pandemic offer an opportunity for long term rises in construction productivity and safety.

Quality, cost and safety improvements would come at a cost of longer programmes
Quality, cost and safety improvements would come at a cost of longer programmes

That is the message from an academic snapshot study of six major construction schemes that successfully adopted to safer distance working.

Researchers at Loughborough University found that while overall site productivity was negatively impacted by social distancing requirements, individual and team effectiveness and productivity actually improved.

They saw better and more detailed task planning, reduced waiting time between tasks, increased space and therefore less “overlap” of trades.

There was also a boost in the use of technological solutions, more responsibility for individuals and less meetings.

Balfour Beatty, GKR Scaffolding, Kier, Mace, Morgan Sindall, and Skanska opened their sites to researchers.

One manager highlighted they had seen a 50% workforce reduction but only 30% reduction in output.

Another said: “With the productivity and the new ways of thinking we believe we only need 7 ½ people to do the same as 10 people”

Factors behind productivity uplift

  • Better and more detailed task planning
  • More space, fewer people, and less overlap of trades in the workplace improves gang/task productivity
  • Better planning by workers e.g. preparation of workplaces re: tools and materials
  • Less double handling of materials
  • Fewer people ‘hanging around’ waiting to start work/tasks
  • More streamlined worker flow due to workers staggering their start times, reducing the need to queue for site access or changing rooms
  • People chatting less (due to distancing, one-way walkways etc), less talking on phones
  • On one site there was a perception that those who had returned to site were the more motivated workers, the ‘team-players’
  • Some workers may also have been enthusiastic and energised at returning to work after furlough

The research also explored the effects of working from home and found that, notwithstanding the cost, flexibility and productivity benefits, making this a permanent solution could have a negative impact on staff with a rise in social isolation and uncertainty of expectations.

Clients would need to accept longer programme times to enjoy benefits of new normal

The report paid tribute to the phenomenal effort by site staff, frontline workers and occupational health and safety professionals to adapt safely and efficiently to the rapidly evolving situation.

But it also warned: “There have been very high demands on many site and support staff to implement changes to adapt to Covid-19, with adverse impacts on wellbeing for some.

“It is important that they have time and opportunity to recover and regroup, particularly as a ‘second wave’ of Covid-19 could make further demands.”

The report concludes: “Covid-19 has highlighted construction’s flexibility, resilience, and ability to solve problems.

“It has enabled several projects to move forward with innovations which might otherwise have taken several years to embed.

“It has also inspired many to raise their game and has challenged some conventional thinking about the ways in which projects are planned and undertaken.”

But it warns there is a high potential for things to drift back towards ‘business as usual’ as Covid-19 related constraints are relaxed and as commercial pressures once again come to the fore.

It strongly recommends that individual companies and projects conduct a ‘lessons learned’ review before long to capture the changes made and ensure that positive changes are captured and embedded.

Loughborough University: “COVID-19 and construction: Early lessons for a new normal?”.

Latest news

BAM Nuttall fined £2.3million after worker drowned

Court hears how series of safety failures led to tragedy
9 hours ago

OCU buys Scottish civils contractor RJ McLeod

Deal takes multi-utility infrastructure specialist revenue to over £800m
18 hours ago

£220m plan to restore secret wartime tunnels approved

Tunnels under High Holborn to become cultural exhibition space
17 hours ago

Balfour wins design for £690m Skye transmission job

Main work contract for 137km power line to be awarded later this year
20 hours ago

Student and resi developer Fortis goes under

Cheshire based developer follows construction arm into liquidation
21 hours ago

Construction output falls for third month running

Heavy rain and strong winds blamed for sharp fall in activity in April
20 hours ago

Plan in for Leeds 27-storey block of flats

390 flats planned at former Morgan Sindall office site
21 hours ago

Firms readied for £1.5bn Parliament estate upkeep deal

Invitation to tender due to go out next month
1 day ago

Amey switches kit supplier

Deal with HSS was worth £24.5m a year to rental specialist
21 hours ago

Track workers scatter to avoid runaway rail trolley

Track trolley careers 1km towards work site
21 hours ago

Direct delivery model pays off as Murphy profit soars to £67m

Group operating margin jumps from 3% to 5% in record year
2 days ago

Ex-Galliard boss to lead Battersea next building phase

Don O’Sullivan joins as plans advance to start phase 3C of power station redevelopment
2 days ago

£100m Digbeth 33-storey flats job out to bid

483 flats will be delivered for Clarion housing association
2 days ago

Van Elle fined £233,000 after piling rig kills driver

Court hears how tragedy was caused by poorly maintained plant
2 days ago

Renew buys utilities contractor Excalon

Infrastructure giant expand into electricity transmission market with £26m deal
2 days ago

Planning for new homes plunges to record low

Home builders call for urgent action from incoming government
2 days ago

JTRE starts £400m 21-floor London tower scheme

Office block and 64 affordable homes to be built at 220 Blackfriars Road site
3 days ago

R G Carter construction profits up despite 24% revenue fall

Selective client choice help profit jump to £6m from £1m previously
3 days ago

Refurbs power London office work to record high

London Office Crane Survey office work starts exceed 4m sq ft for record third quarter
3 days ago

Knight Build owed money for work on UK’s poshest street

Contractor takes legal action over unpaid bills on new luxury flats complex
3 days ago

Winvic ranks top of May contracts league

Large residential scheme in Leeds caps strong haul of orders
3 days ago

Bid race starts for up £95m repairs to PFI hospital

Roseberry Park Hospital in Middlesbrough hit by serious defects
3 days ago

Building Safety changes slow down construction recovery

Confused market contains paradox of falling workload and contractors claiming they are too busy
3 days ago

Wates rejigs businesses as veteran leader retires

Wates Construction Group MD Paul Chandler to retire at end of year
6 days ago

Scaffolder dies from chemical burns

Tata Chemicals Europe fined £1.125m after death of Altrad scaffolder
6 days ago

M&E firms warn of persistent skills shortages

Shortage of adequately skilled workers blamed for slow growth
6 days ago

Southern Water names consultants for AMP8

Seven firms to share £240m in professional services spend
6 days ago

Construction buyers see momentum building

Contractors gearing-up for future growth as workloads and confidence rise
7 days ago

Bouygues bags £80m London NHS diagnostic centre job

New five-storey scanning facility to be built at West Middlesex University Hospital
7 days ago

London £3bn schools framework out to tender

SMEs allocated slots on London Construction Programme education framework refresh
7 days ago

Contractor services