The construction industry contributed 2.7 trillion INR to the GDP of India in 2019. The industry has been growing steadily from 2015 to 2020 and continues to be the largest employer and a key pillar of the economy. That said, there are several challenges associated with the Indian construction sector and poor labour productivity is one of those significant concerns.
Quite often, poor labour productivity is mapped with India’s construction sector but the root cause of the challenge is seldom assessed. So, why is productivity low?
Many factors contribute to limited productivity in Indian construction. The ratio of contracted labour and in-house labour is one major reason. Other factors include the shortage of skilled labour and the lack of labour welfare policies. Safe working conditions are one more area to focus on. Workplace accidents lead to approximately 48,000 deaths per year in India and 38 fatal accidents are reported per day across Indian construction sites. These numbers are alarming enough in themselves but accidents also pose a major productivity challenge due to time taken by stoppages, inspections, investigations, etc. Companies and contractors also hesitate to use the latest technologies and tools due to the costs involved, fear of inability to manage the changes, and additional requirements of training the workers.
Turning around a few strategies can drive a marked improvement in productivity on India’s construction site.
Technology can be used by construction managers and leaders to resolve productivity issues and other benefits. It is essential to continuously monitor the construction site and ongoing activities to identify gaps and fix them. Drones and body cameras are some technological innovations that can be used intelligently on Indian construction sites. These devices will enable managers to obtain real-time site information. The issues, such as the possibility of an accident, improper usage of the construction tool, lack of workers in a particular area, etc. can be spotted using technology and rectified early. Construction sites are spread across a large area and managers cannot be physically present across the site at all times. Such digital tools can simplify the task for managers and leaders. At the same time, these can resolve the existing gaps to experience better productivity.
Automated trackers and performance measurement tools can also be used to determine the safety situation of the construction tools and equipment. Smart maintenance schedules of the construction equipment can be developed and implemented based on the details captured. Improved tools and equipment will result in lesser workplace accidents and will assure improved productivity levels.
Construction workflows are witnessing major changes with the launch of techniques and tools, such as Building Information Modeling, modular construction, and offsite construction. These technologies and tools can be used effectively only when construction workers and other stakeholders adapt to these tools and the new processes they bring in their wake. The impact of the changes must be explained to those impacted and they must be made to understand the benefits and the potential of such automated and computerized systems to help them improve their performance.
In the long term, effective workplace training is crucial in resolving productivity challenges on India’s construction sites. Training the people on the latest tools and techniques, new workflows, health and safety measures, and communication strategies can help cement best practices that help maintain high productivity and efficiency levels.
The motivation and productivity of the construction workers will also improve with proper knowledge and understanding of the tools, compliance requirements, safety practices, and techniques. This, again, helps drive up productivity.
It is not uncommon for construction projects in India to witness an overrun of 20-25% in terms of costs. Cost overruns are often tied to and accompanied by time slippage. Poor productivity and unexpected cost hikes have caused massive losses to the construction security in India.
Maintenance of information transparency is an effective solution to resolve such concerns. Integrated project management systems, automated control systems, and intuitive communication tools can be used for non-stop connectivity and information sharing. Remote monitoring and tracking tools, as explained earlier, can provide construction managers with updated site information. Digital communications tools can be used at construction sites to maintain connectivity and resolve worker concerns in real-time. Frequent status reporting and information sharing can result in quicker resolution of problems and improved productivity through collaborative decision-making. For example, the workers can directly contact the Chief Engineers and Architects in case of site-related concerns or poor work conditions. Platforms like BIM also ensure that all the teams work on the same information. This improves collaboration and transparent communication.
Construction sites in India are exposed to a wide range of challenges with productivity concerns on the top of the concern charts. A combination of measures and strategies can assist the improvements in productivity levels. The use of digital tools for remote tracking, monitoring, and communication can make a huge difference. Real-time information sharing will facilitate better clarity and quick resolution of the problems. The use of project management tools, automated control systems, and performance measurement applications will also help by making equipment more available and usable. Proper maintenance and workplace training will improve the health and safety conditions of the workers. Effective communication using technologies and modified strategies will assist in improving the site productivity levels. Put these together and you get an effective holistic strategy to drive up productivity in the construction sector.