The Average Field Day in Detail (Craft Labor + Foreman)

Labor is often the biggest cost variable on a construction project. Just over half the field hours are related to actual installation. Understanding how time is spent on average in the field is the first step to improving field productivity.

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Field Productivity: The Average Field Day in Detail. Craft Labor and Foreman.

Labor Units and Studies

The chart above is taken from RS Means. Other studies and labor unit databases have similar breakdowns with many of them showing the "Actual Installation" time closer to 50% or even lower.

These studies are factored into the standard estimating database units that most contractors use as a basis for their bids, which is why multiple contractors can submit bids for a multi-million-dollar project and be within percentages of each other. 

These usually include a composite crew up through the Foreman level. 

Unless the project has a specific BIM requirement, things like detailing of the project or off-site fabrication (prefab / manufacturing) are not additive to these units. Those are all things that could be done on-site and would typically be done by the Foreman and crew. 

Calculating Impacts

Since about 19% of the time each day (91 minutes) is basically per task and work area, any time that you have to move to "Plan B" or "Plan C" (ABC Daily Planning), you will still experience up to 30% or more total impact to your actual installation time. This is one of the many reasons why schedule flow is so critical.

Improving labor productivity comes down to three major levers:

  1. Improving the speed at which the crafts people actually do the work - how fast the wrenches are turned. 
  2. Lowering the average cost per hour while maintaining productivity. 
  3. Improving the ratio of time spent per day on installation versus non-installation activities. Time-on-Tools (ToT).  

When you analyze your A-Players, you will see that they primarily attack 1 & 3 by studying every detail, setting themselves and their team up for success, training others, and improving with each cycle

As a contractor navigates the stages of growth, their support systems and organizational structures for keeping the craft focused on installation becomes progressively more robust.

All the technologies we are seeing in the industry are great but without being put into the right workflows, most of those investments are not providing anywhere near the possible returns. 

Talent shortages will continue to impact the industry. While we have the mechanisms to train new craftspeople relatively quickly, we are competing with a lot of other industries to attract that young talent. Compounding that problem, those with the depth of experience to effectively train those new craftspeople will continue to decline through 2030


Labor Productivity
Field labor is the often the biggest variable on a construction project - making it the biggest risk and opportunity....

Related Training
Labor Productivity
Field labor is the often the biggest variable on a construction project - making it the biggest risk and opportunity....

Continuous Improvement: Plan, Do, Check, and Act (PDCA)
Improving productivity in construction is exceptionally challenging. It must be embraced as a journey and not a destination. It must be made into a game so that people clearly see what winning looks like and fall in love with the process.
Lean Principle - Stop Work (Until Problems Are Corrected)
All construction projects will run into some degree of problems. It is how the project team chooses to manage these problems that ultimately determines the outcome of the project.
Setting Standards and the Feedback Loop
Set the standard. Train to the standard. Certify to the standard. Plan the work to the standard. Execute to the plan and the standard. Check against the standard. Make prioritized improvements to the standard, training, planning, and execution.