Aarhus Universitets segl

Massive rewards from better management in construction

Massive rewards from better

management in construction

Better planning and management in renovation projects could save society an annual DKK 3,300 million (EUR 450 million). This is one result from the ReVALUE research project at Aarhus University, which has quantified for the first time how much money can be saved in the construction sector.

There is a lot of money to save through better planning and management in construction. This is demonstrated in the major ReVALUE research project, which, based on extensive data collection, concludes that 1/3 of the work on a construction site is a pure waste of time.

This may sound like a criticism of the builders working there, but it is not. Far from it. On the contrary, it is due to inadequate and poor planning on construction sites.

For the first time, the project has now shown just how much money society can save on renovation projects, if improvements are made: DKK 3.3 bn.

“Only one-third of the working hours in construction add value. Previous studies have also shown this, but this new study is more comprehensive than anything we’ve done before, and it confirms previous results unequivocally. Moreover, we can now look deeply into the study and see the causes of the dead time,” says Professor (Docent) Søren Wandahl.

Big differences between trades

The project shows that the reason why these enormous potential savings have not yet been realised is the “lack of knowledge and focus on the flow in building construction and inadequate planning and management”.

The project observed builders at four different construction sites for more than 1,000 hours to measure their productivity. Measurements were made of sixteen different specialist trades within construction, and even though the average productivity is just one-third, there are large differences between the individual specialist trades. This reinforces the conclusion that there is unrealised potential for increased productivity.

Hard work and pride

Hasse Neve, a PhD student at Aarhus University was responsible for the fieldwork. He believes that lack of planning and coordination are very much behind the challenges facing builders.

“We already have a very accurate picture of productivity in construction. We’ve collected more than 50,000 data points in our field studies, and each data point is an observation of a workman,” he says, and continues:

“It’s not because the builders aren’t doing anything. They’re working hard and have great professional pride, but a lot of their time is wasted.”

Hasse Neve talks about an example where a painter shows up for work but cannot start painting because rubbish from the previous job hasn’t been cleared away. As things haven’t been made ready, the painter has to clear up and perhaps get extra equipment to help.

This isn’t very productive, and actually it’s something you can plan your way out of,” he says.

Great potential even with small initiatives

Overall, the project concludes that about 1/3 of the work on a construction site is concentrated work, approx. 1/3 is indirect work like preparation or transport, while the last 1/3 is just dead time.

Hasse Neve has interviewed a range of different builders in connection with the project to hear what they think could be done to optimise the processes on site. Among other things, following these interviews he has been able to calculate a total optimisation potential of DKK 3.3 bn. for renovation projects.

Professor (Docent) Søren Wandahl believes that it is possible to increase productivity to about 50-60 per cent, if you use the right tools and lean processes that focus on flow rather than just transformation. He points to simple measures such as whiteboard meetings, morning meetings, location- based planning and lean tools such as the Last Planner System.

The ReVALUE project aims to examine productivity and implementation of lean processes within building renovation. ReVALUE is a research project supported by Innovation Fund Denmark, and it is headed by Professor (Docent) Søren Wandahl.