While construction firms focus on navigating their workforce shortages, results of a recently released study indicate that communication problems among existing employees also is proving a daunting and expensive challenge—costing as much as $30 billion annually

In a joint study of nearly 600 contractor executives on project communications and technology use, industry productivity software firm PlanGrid and management consulting firm FMI Corp. found that nearly half of respondents said that the need for rework on job sites is due to poor communication between project stakeholders, while 26% reported the catalyst to be lack of communication between team member. 

Additionally, 22% attribute rework to poor project information, such as incorrect project data and difficulty accessing or sharing project data.

Respondents also reported spending an average of 14.5 hours weekly handling these issues.

Contractors were unsurprised by these findings.

“We’ve known for years about the inherent waste built into ‘traditional’ project delivery such as waiting for information and materials, differing site conditions, rework and decentralized project teams,” says Steve Yots, vice president of construction operations at The Boldt Co. “All this waste can be detected and prevented through better project planning. The processes and tools we are now able to utilize result in a significant reduction of this waste.”

“Many decisions are being made without directly consulting the end users in the field,” says Stuart Frederich-Smith, vice president of product marketing at PlanGrid. “The disappointing result of this is sub-optimal adoption of hardware by field teams, and continued reliance on older methods of collaboration such as texting and paper-based processes.”

While more than 75% of the survey participants report that mobile devices are provided to project managers and supervisors, less than 20% use them to access project data. “The industry has begun prioritizing technology investments to improve communication and access to project information, [but] companies are not strategically managing their tech assets - the losses are still significant,” says Jay Snyder, technology practice lead at FMI. “As an industry, we have more work ahead of us to effectively realize the advantages and efficiencies that construction technology allows.”

The most common goals reported included better access to project data, improving project productivity and increasing the accuracy of project information. More than half of participants indicated that using technology more efficiently is the key to resolving these issues.

“The construction industry is still perceived as rigid and undeveloped. Agility is the key to future efficiencies. Focusing on innovation and striving to be progressive allows firms to be agile and can solve many of the industry's problems. It’s not easy for a centuries-old industry,” says Andy Gajbhiye, director of construction technologies at Joeris General Contractors.  But, he adds, “the business world is now seeing the construction market as ripe for advancement and disruption, and investing billions in creating services that will allow companies to be innovative, progressive, and agile. Now it's our job to take advantage of the opportunities and implement the tools.”