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....

Lean Principle - Kaizen (Every Detail Matters)
As contractors build their businesses, it is important to look at every detail from the first meeting with a potential customer through winning and building the project. This same attention to detail also applies to supporting operations and talent.
Planning and Preparing for Unknowns
When faced with many unknowns, it is important to plan and prepare for multiple scenarios while holding off on being decisive until the last responsible moment.
Time-on-Tools and Minimum Required Installation
Labor productivity IS NOT the biggest problem with field productivity. Under similar conditions the variation in how fast two crafts people actually “turn wrenches” is about 2X but there are far bigger problems to tackle. Focus on these three areas.