Leveraging Technology to Improve Construction Productivity

RT-240 Topic Summary
RT 240


Advances in technology have many benefits. Among the most often cited are improved quality and productivity. The construction industry lags compared to most industries in regard to utilizing advances in technology. The opportunity to improve construction productivity exists, however, and evidence suggests that sectors of the construction industry have experienced long-term productivity growth as a result.

Significant value can be gained for construction if technology could be more effectively leveraged to improve productivity. Understanding how past technologies have improved construction productivity and demonstrating how new technologies can do the same will help CII member organizations identify emerging technologies that could improve productivity.

The primary objective of this research was to identify how technology has and can improve construction productivity. Since a multitude of factors simultaneously impact a project’s productivity including work force characteristics and management practices, it is difficult to isolate technology’s impact on productivity. Therefore, the research utilized an activity-based analysis in order to control the number of factors that influence productivity at the project level. Correlating changes in technology with changes in productivity through statistical analysis allowed the research team to identify the order of magnitude that different technological characteristics have had on construction productivity. Objectives and corresponding deliverables of this research are:

  1. Characterize and quantify the impact (in orders of magnitude) that changes in equipment, material, and information technologies have had or can have on construction productivity.  
  2. Develop a model that utilizes the research analyses to predict the potential impact of current and new construction technologies on productivity.  
  3. Execute field testing of a technology (in this case, automated materials tracking and locating) to help validate the predictive model by incorporating characteristics of information technology’s impact on construction productivity.

In summary, this research project has demonstrated with significant statistical analysis, field trials, and tool development how technology can be used to leverage productivity.

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Readiness to Change

The extent that a technology can improve productivity is often dependent on factors that do not necessarily relate to the technology itself. An organization’s or a project’s current work processes and what it means to successfully implement a new technology is critical. Most new technologies require work processes to be changed in order for their greatest impact on improving productivity to be realized. A willingness to change work processes requires total support from management. (RS240-1, p. 37)
Reference: (RS240-1)

2 : Integration of Work Functions

Changes in equipment, material, and the automation and integration of project work functions are related to improvements in construction productivity. (RS240-1, p. 8)

Reference: (RS240-1)

3 : Materials Management

The use of automated materials identification and localization technologies improves materials management, which is a vital function for maintaining productivity at the construction workface. (RS240-1, p. 12)
Reference: (RS240-1)

4 : Lessons Learned

Understanding how past technologies improved construction productivity can be used as a predictor of how future technologies might do the same. (RS240-1, p. 22)
Reference: (RS240-1)

5 : Implementation

Organizations should approach their adoption of new technologies in the same manner they would approach developing any well-balanced investment portfolio. There is risk with investing in some new technologies whose benefits have not been measured and proven in actual field processes. (RS240-1, p. 38)
Reference: (RS240-1)

6 : Implementation Tool #1

IR240-2, LEVER: The Technology Prediction Tool

The predictive model is based on the assumption that past performance can predict future success. The model estimates the potential for a technology to have a positive impact on construction productivity. The model consists of four stages:
  1. Strategic Economic Analysis
  2. Technical Feasibility
  3. Technology Usage Issues
  4. Technology Impact
Reference: (IR240-2)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved productivity, Improved cost, Improved schedule, Improved quality, Improved safety, Improved project information

Research Publications

Leveraging Technology to Improve Construction Productivity, Volume II: LEVER: The Predictive Model - RR240-12

Publication Date: 02/2013 Type: Research Report Pages: 52 Status: Reference

Leveraging Technology to Improve Construction Productivity, Volume III: Technology Field Trials - RR240-13

Publication Date: 09/2010 Type: Research Report Pages: 106 Status: Reference

Leveraging Technology to Improve Construction Productivity, Volume I: Historical Data Analysis - RR240-11

Publication Date: 09/2010 Type: Research Report Pages: 86 Status: Reference

LEVER: The Technology Prediction Tool - IR240-2

Publication Date: 10/2008 Type: Implementation Resource Pages: 3 Status: Tool

Leveraging Technology to Improve Construction Productivity - RS240-1

Publication Date: 10/2008 Type: Research Summary Pages: 39 Status: Supporting Product

Presentations from CII Events

Plenary Session - Leveraging Technology to Improve Construction Productivity

Publication Date: 06/2008 Presenter: Number of Slides: 20 Event Code: AC08