New research identifies factors costing the AEC over $177 billion annually

A new industry research report administered in partnership construction software manufacturer PlanGrid and management consulting firm FMI Corporation asked nearly 600 construction leaders how teams spend their time on construction sites, communicate during projects, and leverage their technology investments. The survey indicates the time spent on non-optimal activities–such as fixing mistakes, looking for project data, and managing conflict resolution — accounts for $177.5 billion in labor costs per year in the U.S. alone. The study also found that rework caused by miscommunication and inaccurate and inaccessible information will cost the U.S. construction industry more than $31 billion in 2018.

Key survey findings include:

1. Construction workers lose almost two full working days each week solving avoidable issues and searching for project information.

Each construction project team member spends more than 14 hours each week, on average, dealing with conflict, rework and other issues that take away from higher priority activities, according to the survey. Respondents revealed they spend the following amount of time each week on non-optimal activities including:

  • Five and a half hours hunting down project data, such as revised drawings, material cut sheets and other information relevant to the job.
  • Almost five hours on conflict resolution, including managing disagreements between stakeholders such as the general contractor, owners, and subcontractors responsible for the delivery of the project.
  • Four hours dealing with rework-related activities, such as managing the mistakes on a project that result in rework, assessing the associated costs and determining why the mistakes happened. 

2. Almost half of all rework is due to poor communication among project stakeholders, and poor project information.

Miscommunication and poor project data account for 48 percent of all rework on U.S construction job sites.

Respondents attributed twenty-six percent of rework to poor communication between team members. The top three causes of miscommunication are unresponsiveness of team members; the inability of project stakeholders to collaborate effectively; and the lack of a common platform for all team members to communicate and share project data.

Respondents also said 22 percent of rework is due poor project information, where the top three causes are erroneous or incorrect project data, difficulty accessing project data, and the inability of project stakeholders to easily share information about the project.

Based on this data, FMI estimates poor communication represents a potential cost to the U.S. construction industry of $17 billion a year, and poor project data represents a cost of $14.3 billion, collectively accounting for a potential cost of $31.3 billion annually.

3. Workers are not taking full advantage of mobile devices and IT investments.

More than 75 percent of respondents provide smart devices to their project managers and field supervisors. However, less than one-fifth of companies consistently (more than 80 percent of the time) use apps aside from just email, text, and phone calls to access project data and collaborate with project stakeholders. This finding suggests many construction leaders are equipping field teams with technology but aren’t getting maximum return on their investment by leveraging mobile software and apps purpose-built to help construction companies reach their full potential.

4. Technology is expected to improve data management and increase productivity.

According to the survey, executives are investing in technology for reasons that directly reflect the challenges associated with data integrity and accessibility and overall demands for increased productivity. More than half of survey respondents shared the most common goals for technology adoption include providing better access to project data (58 percent), improving project productivity (57 percent) and increasing the accuracy of project information (56 percent).

“Construction companies are investing in mobile devices, but many teams are still relying on simple text and email rather than tapping more robust technology to collaborate and access project information,” said Stuart Frederich-Smith, vice president of product marketing at PlanGrid. “This proves a significant disconnect between the purchase of construction technology and the adoption of this technology in the field and reveals the need for end users to be included the decision making process. Teams that have easy-to-use tools to collaborate in real time, a central source of truth and access to relevant data when they need it will have a greater competitive advantage.”

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Stuart Frederich-Smith is the vice president of product marketing at PlanGrid.