Large contractors are putting a new standard for productivity measurement to the test in the hope of producing better project process controls. The new standard, which was adopted last fall as ASTM E2691, focuses on methods for continuously measuring productivity losses to allow for corrective actions during a project.

Measurement system promises better project information on productivity.
Measurement system promises better project information on productivity.

Perry Daneshgari, a management consultant based in Flint, Mich., who developed the standard in conjunction with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), says the standard measures work performed compared to construction-put-in-place. Daneshgari says companies often are mistakenly “measuring production, not productivity.”

“People tend to do an economic measurement, looking at labor hours versus dollars,” he says. They are “two sides of the same coin. Unless you measure against actual completion, you’re not measuring productivity,” says Daneshgari.

Many existing accounting measures, such as earned-value analysis, are “after the fact” reporting methods that don’t offer information for improving productivity as a project unfolds.

Dubbed “Job Productivity Measurement,” the method was born out of Daneshgari’s work in the automotive industry in the 1990s. One of his studies at the time found that one U.S. automaker produced 73 vehicles per hour, while a Japanese competitor produced 55 per hour. Although the U.S. firm produced more vehicles, 32% had to be repaired for quality reasons before being shipped. The Japanese firm’s vehicles needed almost no repairs and as a result their labor costs were nearly half those of the U.S. automaker’s.

Daneshgari saw similar issues in construction—rework saps productivity—and he began adapting automotive process controls to building projects. To date, Job Productivity Measurement has been used largely by specialty firms, particularly electrical contractors. However, Turner Construction Co. currently is wrapping up a pilot project using the measure on an office-building project in Redmond, Wash. Other major contractors are investigating the method.

The use of lean construction, the manufacturing system that involves continuous measurement and improvement, is leading contractors to look at methods like Job Productivity Measurement, says Chris Heger, project superintendent with Turner.

“If you’re going to go down the lean path, you need to be able to measure it,” he says. “We’re looking for a mathematical approach that provides data to back up some of the things planners have known for a long time.”

Turner chose to test Job Productivity Measurement on the Redmond project after the owner asked for the schedule...