Construction Productivity is a Process Problem, Not People: Here’s How Autonomy Helps

autonomy in construction productivity is process problem

In 2017, McKinsey & Company released a 10-year analysis from 2005 to 2015 that found that construction-labor productivity in the United States hadn’t kept pace with other industries. Since then, the construction industry has grappled with a poor reputation regarding productivity. 

But the way we see it, construction’s “unproductive” notoriety is misleading.  

A lot has changed in the nearly 10 years since the research was conducted, and the construction industry has made significant efforts in innovation and productivity over the last several years alone. In fact, another McKinsey survey from 2020 showcased how the adoption of digital technologies accelerated by several years in just a few short months of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. And this rapid adoption has had a lasting impact on the industry.   

Through our own research, we’ve seen measurable improvements in productivity among industry professionals who use digital tools to collaborate. When we analyzed collaboration data trends on the Autodesk Construction Cloud platform, we found that the time it took to close issues was six days faster between 2021 and 2022 – representing a 12% improvement in time savings.  

But with more technology available than ever before, industry professionals are faced with a rising productivity hurdle.  

Construction’s new productivity challenge 

Construction technology can undoubtedly make life easier for teams—but only if it’s used effectively. 

The truth is that more technology solutions can fragment work in different applications and systems. For example, using various tech solutions that don’t “talk” to each other often wastes time because teams need to switch between apps when performing tasks or looking for information. Non-integrated systems also lead to information silos, disconnected processes, and manual workflows—which can then create conflicting data. 

What’s more, even within the same technology platform, disorganized or cumbersome systems can make information inaccessible. For instance, design teams may hand off models that might be too big and hard to navigate for field teams, leading to wasted time and frustration to access for their sliver of work. 

In turn, the construction industry faces an entirely new productivity challenge. Instead of being rooted in labor issues, the industry’s new productivity hurdle is primarily a process problem.  

Regardless, these process challenges do have a very big impact on the downstream productivity of individual workers because they stall their ability to make informed decisions to move work forward. All of this hinders team efficiency and accuracy – creating delays and poor project outcomes. 

As the statistician and management consultant W. Edwards Deming said in his book Out of the Crisis, “94% of most problems and possibilities for improvement belong to the system, not the individual.” 

As such, increasing productivity in construction should be focused on strengthening the foundation — i.e., the systems and processes — that power teams in your organization. Doing so will yield results that are far more superior than simply improving individual efficiency. 

Unlocking productivity gains with more worker autonomy 

In the workplace, autonomy is the level of discretion or freedom that an individual is allowed to perform their specific tasks. Autonomy in construction is ideal, but empowering individual workers to make even minor decisions can feel like a luxury because they often can’t access the right information when they need it most. As a result, decision-making suffers, and work and overall productivity stalls.   

Streamlining productivity in construction starts with improving decision-making across the board. And after all, people can only make good decisions with good data. Therefore, access to the right information and communications at the right time, is essential to giving workers the control they need to manage and progress their specific scope of work.  

At Autodesk, our goal is to improve decision-making at every stage of construction. We aim to provide construction teams with more autonomy through better access to plans, documents, and vital information, as well as effortless communication tools. 

To that end, we’re thrilled to share a few recent product releases for Autodesk Construction Cloud designed to give teams more flexibility and control of their systems, data, and communications. 

How Autodesk is ushering in a new era of construction productivity through autonomy 

Here are some of our latest tools and features that help teams access data, streamline workflows, and make more informed decisions. 

Correspondence 

The Correspondence feature equips project leaders with open-ended and manageable communications stored within Autodesk Construction Cloud. 

If you have a manager role on a project, you can use this feature to create, import, and organize internal or external communications directly in the platform or by adding a unique email address in services like Outlook or Gmail.

The Correspondence tool streamlines collaboration, ensuring every message or piece of feedback gets the attention it deserves without being lost in the shuffle. 

“The Correspondence tool is incredibly positive. It is potentially a massive game changer for us and the industry,” according to Chris Rossetto, VDC Manager, Hansen Yunken. “We currently feel stuck in the way we manage correspondence and store project information on rudimentary platforms that are considered to be the industry standard for clients. I am excited for what’s coming up as this could eventually bring us a step closer to running a single-platform CDE”. 

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Centralizes data and communication: All project communications are created or collected in a centralized source of truth. Plus, you won’t have to leave the Autodesk Construction Cloud platform when initiating correspondence. Keeping everything within Autodesk Construction Cloud helps eliminate the risk of overlooked emails or critical details getting buried in lengthy threads. 

Accelerates accessibility: This simplifies how teams find and retrieve historical communication, as there’s no need to jump from one app to the next. What’s more, open-ended and searchable topics make it easy to communicate and retrieve critical decisions. And since it can be used on mobile, critical decisions can be made onsite.  

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Model Quality 

Our latest Model Quality workflows are a collection of releases that support the translation of design models to construction-ready models.  

Designed to assist the BIM department in curating information for onsite teams with hyper-relevant and easy-to-digest models, beginning with: 

  • Advanced Filters – Allows anyone, from a BIM manager to a project engineer, to create custom 3D views using nearly any combination of model elements from multiple models. 
     

These Model Quality workflows will optimize the process of model refinement and modal usage onsite 

Democratized: Gone are the days when only specialized personnel could refine models. Now, anyone can curate models—including project engineers. Users can leverage the data already in the system without needing to jump into other tools to check the accuracy of design models. With these workflows, anyone can find the info they need to make project decisions.  

Improves transparency when it matters most: Model Quality workflows provide only the most relevant construction models for onsite teams so they always have clarity for what needs to be done. 

Benefits downstream workflows: It helps with other downstream workflows like installation. Now, anyone can curate models by nearly any set of parameters.  

EC3 Integration 

Autodesk helps you make decisions to better align with your sustainability goals. Our EC3 integration powers connected workflows in Autodesk Takeoff, Autodesk Docs, and Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3).  

The integration between these solutions allows you to calculate and track the embodied carbon of building materials throughout the project lifecycle. This transparency empowers builders to optimize their decisions based on environmental impact. 

Here’s how: when EC3 is enabled in Autodesk Construction Cloud on the account level, users can import their 2D and 3D takeoff quantities into EC3 and evaluate the carbon emissions of the proposed building materials. Users can also generate detailed summary reports and save them directly into Autodesk Docs. 

As Rudy Kimball, Sr. Project Manager at CBRE, says, “Autodesk Takeoff integrates seamlessly with the new EC3 platform to bring carbon data into our decision-making process and suggest proactive modifications to the design ahead of construction rather than report on what’s already been built.”   

The EC3 integration benefits teams—and the environment—in several ways.   

Reduces technology management: There’s no need to manually enter and track your quantities to calculate carbon emissions. All you need to do is push quantities directly from Autodesk Takeoff into EC3. If quantities change over time, just refresh the system to get updated quantities to drive the calculations. 

Enhances decision-making: Generated reports can be directly saved to Docs, which means all stakeholders have immediate access to essential carbon data. 

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Sheets Collection 

Do you oversee construction projects with multiple buildings? Sheets Collection enables you to store and manage drawings with identical names to centralize data in a single location. This also streamlines your document management workflow and removes the cumbersome need to create and own multiple projects or prefix sheet names. 

Here’s how Sheets Collection enables you to find and access information faster. 

Improves searchability: Organize sheets better so team members can easily find 2D drawings. No need to ask others to send the files; with these collections, every relevant sheet is at their fingertips. 

Accessible from anywhere: Teams can view these collections in both the office and field via mobile, so they can make decisions no matter where they are.  

Empower more productive teams today 

At Autodesk, our goal is to empower construction teams to be more effective—and the releases above can help you do just that. From refining your communication workflows to making more sustainable decisions, Autodesk helps improve autonomy within your teams so you can achieve the best project outcomes possible.  

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Christine Acker

Christine has spent over 10 years steeped in the construction industry, garnering deep expertise in lean management and bringing technology to distributed workforces. Currently, a Senior Manager at Autodesk, Christine leads the product marketing team that helps bridge the software company’s industry-leading product to the global construction industry. Christine joined Autodesk through the PlanGrid acquisition. Prior to PlanGrid, Christine was an engagement manager at renowned consulting firm McKinsey & Company, focused on the construction and energy sectors. While at McKinsey, she oversaw the deployment of a lean management system across a 5,000+ employee distributed workforce and created a real estate firm’s IPD strategy to significantly improve productivity on the firm’s construction projects. Christine also spent four years at Clark Construction, in the GC’s Civil and Foundations department, where she proudly designed and managed excavation support for the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture. Christine has her Professional Engineering license and holds an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Engineering in Engineering Management and a Bachelor of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University.