Time tracking: a solution to construction’s ‘productivity puzzle’?

30 October 2017

Employing time tracking software could help boost construction companies’ productivity, argues Geoff Perkins.

Geoff Perkins

A recent McKinsey report called the construction industry one of the least digitised sectors in the world.

In Reinventing construction through a productivity revolution, the consultant said: “If construction sector productivity were to catch up with that of the total economy – and it can – this would boost the sector’s value added by an estimated $1.6 trillion, adding about 2% to the global economy, or the equivalent of meeting about half of the world’s infrastructure need.”

This lack of digital is a key consideration in the much discussed “productivity puzzle” headache of the construction industry.

In a 2016 report entitled Productivity in construction: creating a framework for the industry to thrive, the Chartered Institute of Building referred to productivity as “a thorn in the side of construction for decades”.

Clearly there are some human production elements which are peculiar to the construction industry which result in slower productivity growth than in some other sectors. However, this does not account for the full picture and it’s important that the industry is open minded to technologies that have boosted output for other industries.

One such option is time tracking software which has played an important role in digital innovations helping businesses increase their output – software now referred to as productivity tools.

The construction industry could be missing a big trick by not logging time spent on projects. Time tracking boosts productivity by 25% on average, so I would encourage any company with a productivity challenge to embrace this technology to capture and analyse project performance.

So how does time tracking software work and can it be adopted by the construction industry?

Time tracking is the process of capturing time spent by different staff on different project components across a business. It provides a 360-degree view of projects, with the ability to log and analyse all activity, such as time, expenses and invoicing, against individual projects and generate reports on all this activity.

So, will implementing a time recording platform help the construction industry solve its productivity puzzle? Productivity expert Lee Garrett from ThinkProductive certainly thinks so: “Every good company manages its money carefully by tracking income and expenditure – you don’t give money away to just anyone that asks for it.

“If more money is needed, you look at ways that you can save or raise extra income. Why should time be any different? If anything, tracking how we spend our time is more important because when an hour is gone, it’s gone. 

“We all have fixed amount of time and if the construction industry is serious about increasing its output, it’s critical that workers spend their time doing the right things at the right time and a time tracking platform is key to ensuring that happens,” adds Garrett.

For construction company ME Construction, time tracking is critical to maintaining its performance and for clear and detailed analysis and reporting. Commercial director Barry O’Sullivan explains: “ME Construction pride ourselves on delivering a high-quality end-product on time and with high productivity for our clients. In order to ensure that we keep the levels of excellence that we have become known for, we realised it was critical to track our time across the board.” 

“The process has allowed us to take full control of our business productivity and assess if any slippages are being made before they become a project challenge. It has been a key contributing factor to our increasing profitability and to our growing reputation as a business that delivers top performance with great value.”

With such a positive potential impact, perhaps it is time that construction companies started to consider their next step in implementing a time tracking platform, rather than if.

Of course, technology is only a tool that can help a certain proportion of the construction industry’s problems. However, with such a singular set of challenges, the industry should explore all options to find the right solutions to move forward. 

Geoff Perkins is managing director at time tracking software company TallyPro


Until "construction" is undertaken by proper builders instead of "project managers" productivity will always remain an issue.
Most subcontractors have no 'skin in the game' and other than the larger businesses with a reputation at stake are able to walk away from a project knowing that their resource has been committed elsewhere.
The only way to stop this is to enable more skilled workers to be directly employed AND to stop the race to the cheapest price by the Client

David McCormick, 30 October 2017

I think David McCormick is correct in what he says but time tracking has great potential. For trades people how would it work? mobile phones to input their time hourly that automatically connects to time tracking software

Sheila, 23 November 2017

Sounds great in theory, but how many people are paid by the hour rather than on productivity or salary? The former have every incentive to increase productivity the latter would have to become like lawyers and charging someone for every 15 minutes (which would push costs up). Surely the real problems in construction come from poor management of the design and construction process.

Paul Akhurst, 23 November 2017

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