What Can the Construction Industry Learn from Manufacturing?

Did you know that US sectors including agriculture and manufacturing have increased productivity 10 to 15 times since the 1950s, the productivity of construction remains stuck at the same level as 80 years ago?

BuildingPoint UK and Ireland’s Business Manager (UK), Sam Hough, takes a look at why the construction sector is underperforming and what we can do about it.

A Century of Evolution: Construction vs. Manufacturing

Over the past century, both the construction and manufacturing industries have undergone significant transformations, spurred by technological advancements, shifts in global economies, and changing societal demands. While the core principles of these sectors have remained unchanged, the methods and processes have evolved dramatically. Let’s explore how construction and manufacturing have changed over the last one hundred years and analyse the key factors that have shaped their respective journeys. By looking at this, it will help us understand WHY construction has been losing the ‘evolution race’ for nearly a century.

A recent McKinsey article titled “REINVENTING CONSTRUCTION: A ROUTE TO HIGHER PRODUCTIVITY” explores how the changes between both sectors have not necessarily resulted in similar productivity growth.

“Every year, there is about $10 trillion in construction-related spending globally, equivalent to 13 percent of GDP.

Global labour-productivity growth in construction has averaged only 1 percent a year over the past two decades (and was flat in most advanced economies). Contrasted with growth of 2.8 percent in the world economy and 3.6 percent in manufacturing,

US sectors including agriculture and manufacturing have increased productivity ten to 15 times since the 1950s, the productivity of construction remains stuck at the same level as 80 years ago.

The article clearly indicates that the construction sector is underperforming. Current measurements find that there has been a consistent decline in the industry’s productivity since the late 1960s. If we can achieve a manufacturing-style production system, it is estimated this could boost productivity by 5-10x!

5 reasons why construction hasn’t achieved its potential

Construction faces several challenges when it comes to a perceived lack of advancement:

  1. Technological adoption: Historically, the construction industry has been slow to adopt new technologies compared to other sectors.
  2. Fragmented nature: The construction industry often involves many stakeholders, including architects, engineers, contractors, and suppliers. The fragmented nature of the industry can lead to communication gaps and inefficiencies that slow down advancements, multiple single sources of truth!
  3. Skilled labour shortage: The industry has faced difficulties in attracting and retaining skilled workers. The lack of skilled labour can lead to delays and reduced productivity, impacting the overall advancement of projects.
  4. Risk-averse culture: The construction sector often prioritises tried-and-tested methods to avoid risks and costly mistakes. This risk-averse culture can discourage experimentation and the adoption of new approaches.
  5. Funding and investment: Construction projects can be capital-intensive, and obtaining funding for innovative projects may be challenging, especially for smaller companies or startups with limited resources.

Automobile – Then vs. Now

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In a manufacturing setting, with the rise of assembly lines, pioneered by Henry Ford, mass production became possible. Robotics and Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Machines have dramatically increased productivity, reduced errors, and enabled cost-effective, large-scale production.

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In 1886, a patent was filed under the number 37435, this is to be considered the first practical automobile put into series production. It had 1 cylinder, 3 horsepower, 2 speeds and weighed 360KG! This patent was filed under Benz & Co… Later known as Mercedes Benz.

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If we look at a modern-day car, a Mercedes EQS for example, it boasts 658 horsepower, charges in 31 minutes and it has a fully digital dash!

Can you imagine if Karl Benz was able to see what his automobile company was going to be in 150 years!?

Construction – Then vs. Now

Granted, the two industries do differ drastically with technological improvements and the sheer demand for automobiles. We can’t avoid the fact though that the technology for construction is there, we just need to adopt it! The key to this is often overcoming the reasons listed 1-5 above.

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Whilst the construction sector has seen vast improvements, these have predominantly been focused on health and safety. If you compare the construction site of Kensington Station (built in the mid 1800s) with a modern-day construction site, you’ll see the similarities. The technology is very much the same, with little advancements of the “traditional” trades.

Technology is the key to success

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What does any of this mean in relation to the hardware we offer at BuildingPoint?

Whether you’re a drylining company or are installing MEPF, with feature rich drawings and 3D models, it’s seen to reduce rework costs by 30%, and increase productivity by up to 90% using our setting out solutions!

If you’re a concrete contractor, wanting to check a pour is within your tolerance, or a general contractor / principal contractor wanting to ensure all parts of your project are being installed to specification by your subcontractors, our 3D laser scanners have got your back!

Maybe you’re wanting to roll the 3D model out to your site team to aid coordination or are looking to collaborate remotely with your team through remote, handsfree video calls, our mixed and augmented reality solutions can achieve this!

And if you’re really pushing the boundaries and want to become the next Mercedes Benz of the construction industry, why look into robotic layout, using the HP SitePrint which boasts up to 10x speed increases.

Or even you are looking to perform dirty, dull and dangerous tasks, our SPOT and X7/X9 solution can increase your productivity by removing the human aspect from data acquisition, freeing them up for other tasks, or avoid sending an operative into a potentially dangerous environment.

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