CERN Meeting, November 2008: Productivity in the Construction Industry

CPWR Construction Economics Research Network (CERN)

Chair: David Weil, Ph.D.
Boston University School of Management

Coordinator: Dale Belman, Ph.D.
Michigan State University

November 13th and 14th, 2008
The Conference Center at the Maritime Institute
Linthicum Heights, Maryland  21090

Meeting Topic: Productivity in the Construction Industry

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

9:00 – 9:20

9:20 – 11:45
Panel:  Measurement of Productivity

Measuring Construction Productivity: Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities
Robert Chapman, National Institute of Standards and Technology

The Producer Price Index: Nonresidential Building Construction Initiative: An Overview
Frank Congelio, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Division of Industrial Prices and Price Indexes, Office of Prices and Living Conditions

Productivity in the Construction Industry
Kelly Sonnhalter, Independent Project Analysis


1:00 – 5:00    
Panel:  Improving Productivity

Workforce Challenges and Construction Productivity-demographics, recruitment, and retention issues of new workers
Bill Maloney, University of Kentucky

The Craftworkers Perspectives of the Factors affecting Construction Productivity
Paul Goodrum, University of Kentucky

Lean Construction Theory and Construction Productivity
Tariq Abdelhamid, Michigan State University          

Leveraging Technology to Improve Construction Productivity
Carl Haas, University of Waterloo

Friday, November 14th, 2008

9:00 – 10:00
The Canadian Construction Sector Council

George Gritziotis,
Canadian Construction Sector Council

10:00 – 12:00
Panel:  Policy Initiatives for Productivity

Tom Owens, BCTD
Jeff Shoaf, Associated General Contractors

12:00 – 1:00
Wrap-up Discussion of Productivity in Construction

The CERN meeting of November 13th and 14th, 2008 considered one of the most vexing issues for the construction industry; improving productivity. Participants included representatives of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Division of Industrial Prices and Living Conditions of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Independent Project Analysis, the Construction Sector Council of Canada and faculty actively involved in improving productivity in the construction industry.

The morning panel on November 13th included three presentations on measuring productivity.  Robert Chapman of the National Institute of Standards and Technology discussed his paper on improving statistical measures of construction productivity.  Bruce Congelio presented current work by the BLS on measuring the cost of new construction using standardized structures.  This approach uses hypothetical representative structures as a basis for determining changes in the cost of construction by soliciting information at a high level of detail.   This approach, reminiscent of the basket of goods used by the Consumer Price Index in the past, represents a major advance in the measurement of the costs of construction.  Kelly Sonnhalter of Independent Project Analysis presented a recent study which considered the impact of various factors on construction productivity.  An important finding of this report is that union construction continues to be considerably more productive than open shop construction.  As the report is proprietary, we only have an earlier version on the web site.

The afternoon panel on the 13th moved from talking about productivity to improving productivity.  Bill Maloney of the University of Kentucky, discussed challenges in maintaining productivity in the current workforce.  A particular issue is the difference in the values of those currently entering the work force.  Paul Goodrum, also of the University of Kentucky, presented results from a large scale survey of construction craftworkers on factors affecting productivity.  An important finding was that time loss was critically related to information flows, that lack of materials and instructions create substantial delays in construction.  Carl Haas, of the University of Waterloo, presented his current work on the use of RFI to improve the locating of materials in steel storage yards, His findings indicate that RFI dramatically reduces the time required to find materials, particularly those that have been misplaced in the yards and take long periods to locate.  Finally, Tariq Abdulhamid, of Michigan State University, presented an overview of lean construction and how it improves construction productivity.

The Construction Sector Council of Canada is a publicly funded labor-management organization which addresses issues of workforce development, demand forecasting, labour quality and labour mobility. George Graziotis, Executive Director of the Council discussed how the council operates, develops its forecasts and operates to improve construction in Canada.