FABRICATION: The Productivity Advantage

Building on the jobsite has always had productivity challenges. Clash, material mismanagement, adverse weather conditions, injuries, wasted motion, and many other factors lead to inefficiencies that cost you time and money. And as a result, generally speaking, less than 50 percent of time on the jobsite is productive. That means less than half your employees’ time is spent contributing to a job’s profit margin.
 
The answer to the productivity puzzle is to remove as much work from the jobsite as possible. As costs increase, it will become more and more crucial for you to realize productivity gains. We’ve all heard of “prefabrication,” the growing solution to increasing margins and reducing jobsite inefficiencies.
 
I refer to it as fabrication instead of prefabrication because there is nothing “pre” about it. It is performing the work in a controlled environment. But no matter what you call it, this manufacturing method helps optimize productivity
by avoiding uncontrollable factors, saving time, lowering the risk of injuries, minimizing material waste, and more.
 
CONTROLLED ENVIRONMENT
 
Every jobsite is an uncontrollable environment. Contractors face inefficiencies caused by labor shortages, inclement weather, accidents or injuries, incorrect or broken materials, absenteeism, and other factors. There is no limit to the things that can go wrong on a job site. 
 
A fabrication facility, on the other hand, is a controlled environment with built-in efficiencies, such as established workstations and safer working conditions. This controlled environment minimizes uncontrollable factors by helping your employees know exactly what to expect, where to report, and what to do every day. Workers have all the resources they need within a few paces or an arm’s reach. Because the same employees are performing the
same jobs in a fabrication shop, it is easier to maintain consistent quality and expertise throughout various jobs.
 
DECREASE WASTE IN MOTION
 
Fabrication increases efficiency by decreasing waste in motion. When tools, equipment, restrooms, and drinking water are in close proximity to an employee, there’s less time traveling to needed items and a lower risk of injury because there’s less motion. Cutting back on unproductive labor has a substantial effect on your bottom line; after all, labor management is the biggest factor in whether a job is a profit or a loss. Profit margins double when labor is reduced by just 10 percent.
 
Let’s use a $40/hour labor rate as our example. If a worker must go up and down a ladder to measure and bend conduit, they may make 25 eight-second trips in an hour. If a crew has 50 employees that make these trips every workday, it adds up to 5,555 labor hours per year, or a cost of $222,222. That’s an annual cost of $222,222 spent just on climbing up and down ladders. The time spent going up and down a ladder is valueless time that could be spent more productively.
 
When you think about other wasted motion, such as bending to the floor, walking to tools, etc., you realize how much labor is squandered on the jobsite. By optimizing workstations and ensuring necessary tools and daily supplies are within easy reach, a fabrication shop removes this labor inefficiency.
 
TOOLS AFFECT LABOR
 
Another key to boosting labor  productivity is to invest in quality ergonomic tools. The right tools keep people working more safely. Because workers who use ergonomic tools are generally less prone t