Multi-Skilled Craft Capabilities

RT-137 Topic Summary
RT 137


Labor productivity, craft training, and the declining number of entrants into construction crafts present critical challenges for the construction industry. This research report examines the effect of various labor utilization strategies for a multi-skilled workforce. The work focused on analysis based on a single domestic, grass roots, open shop industrial construction project that had been previously benchmarked by CII. Primary benefits to muliskilled labor use were demonstrated with regard to total project cost and employment opportunities for craft workers. Data analyzed showed that multiskilled labor provides:

  • A five percent total cost savings
  • A 35 percent reduction in required workforce  
  • A 47 percent increase in wage/annual earning potential for multiskilled workers

The analysis included four labor use strategies identified as: Dualskills, Four Crafts-A, Four Crafts-B, and Theoretical Maximum:

  • Dualskills identified craft combinations with complementary workload so workers arrive on the project and remain longer by working on multiple tasks. 
  • Four Crafts-A was based on industry expert opinion that craft workers could be grouped into four multi-skilled work groups defined as civil/structural, general support workers, mechanical workers, and electrical workers.
  • The Four Crafts-B strategy removes the helper-level workers from the original craft group and includes their work in the general support workers category. 
  • The Theoretical Maximum strategy assumes only one class of worker on a project but divides all labor into three skill categories.

This strategy identifies a theoretical maximum multiskilling strategy as a relative measure of benefits achieved by the other three strategies included in the research. Multiskilling is a promising labor strategy that should be considered by companies as a potential competitive strategy.                                      

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Model Plant

Theoretical Labor Strategies – Table 5 below summarizes the total required work force to complete the CII Model Plant for the 4 multiskilling strategies presented by this research. This analysis reveals important trends, such as, the total required work force was reduced by 18% for Dualskill and by 35% using the Four Crafts-B strategy.
(RS137-1, p. 12)

Reference: (RS137-1)

2 : Economic Model Results

Of the strategies evaluated in this study, the “Dualskill” strategy demonstrated the smallest labor cost savings. This strategy provided a labor savings of $260,187, approximately a three-percent reduction in total labor cost. The most successful multiskilling strategy tested was the Four Crafts-B approach, which provided labor savings of $432,035, approximately a five-percent reduction in total labor cost. When compared against the Theoretical Maximum strategy, the Four Crafts-B approach captured about 75 percent of the maximum potential savings. (RS137-1, p. 14)
Reference: (RS137-1)

3 : Benefits

The most commonly reported worker benefits were increased employment duration, improved marketability, and increased sense of security/satisfaction. The most commonly reported project benefits were increased flexibility in worker assignment, lower turnover, smoother work flow with less dead times between tasks, fewer workers needed to complete the project, and lower costs to the owner. (RS137-1, p. 19)
Reference: (RS137-1)

4 : Barriers to Implementation

Each problem included was independently identified by more than 67 percent of the users (of multiskilling stragegies). First, users felt that complex tasks did not lend themselves to multiskilling. Secondly, recruiting multiskilled workers and accessing adequate information regarding the skills of each worker are problems. Third, users saw that deterioration of infrequently used skills was inevitable. (RS137-1, p. 17)
Reference: (RS137-1)

5 : Multiskilling Implementation Flow Chart

The flow chart summarizes the general concepts and sequences associated with successful strategic changes. This general model is proposed as a starting point for future research to develop implementation guidelines for multiskilling users in construction. (RS137-1, p. 21, Figure 3)
Reference: (RS137-1)

6 : Major Impediments

Five major impediments that need to be addressed during the program design phase are listed below, with details for each included in the research findings. (RR137-12, p. 55)

  • Worker resistance
  • Owner requirements
  • Licensing requirements
  • Training issues
  • Cost issues
Reference: (RR137-12)

7 : Implementation Tool #1

RR137-13, Multiskilling Implementation Guidelines

Provides a general guideline for implementation multiskilling. Components of the guidelines include:
(RR137-13, p. 17)

  • Identify a Champion
  • Recruiting Strategy
  • Training Strategy
  • Compensation Policy
  • Execute Plan
  • Barriers to Implementation
  • Multiskilling Implementation Flow Chart
Reference: (RR137-13)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved cost, Improved safety, improved predictability, Improved craft productivity, Reduced/improved risk

Research Publications

Multiskilling Labor Strategies in Construction: Experiences with Multiskilling Labor Strategies in t - RR137-12

Publication Date: 09/1998 Type: Research Report Pages: 83 Status: Reference

Multiskilling Labor Strategies in Construction: Implementation of Multiskilling in the Construction - RR137-13

Publication Date: 09/1998 Type: Research Report Pages: 43 Status: Tool

An Analysis of Multiskilled Labor Strategies in Construction - RR137-11

Publication Date: 06/1998 Type: Research Report Pages: 286 Status: Reference

An Analysis of Multiskilled Labor Strategies in Construction - RS137-1

Publication Date: 04/1998 Type: Research Summary Pages: 28 Status: Supporting Product