Construction is unique for many reasons but being the least productive of any major sector of the economy shouldn't be one of them. The Concrete 2029 group discussed the problems of productivity last fall but came up with no answers--at least not yet. Now a report from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) details the problems and offers some solutions, but I’m afraid there’s little low-hanging fruit here. This new report should be required reading for everyone involved in the construction industry in the U.S., including concrete producers.

One of the players MGI pinpoints as the least productive is what they call specialized contractors. And even among the various specialized contractor trades, cast-in-place concrete is toward the bottom in productivity and has an average negative growth in productivity (-2%) over the past 10 years. But the report notes that, “Many contractors and specialized trades profit from the current system and could lose from a move to a more efficient system.”

Some possible solutions include more off-site production (such as precast) and management improvements. "A new framework is needed," writes Todd Zabelle, Strategic Project Solutions, "in essence, a project-operating system that takes into account the fact that project systems are both technical and social, and oriented around managing variability and flow efficiency."

MGI insists that disruption is likely and lists four things contractors should watch for:

  • Rising requirements and demand in terms of volume, time, cost, quality, and sustainability
  • Larger-scale players, more transparent markets, and disruptive new entrants
  • More readily available new technologies, materials, and processes
  • Rising wage rates and limits on migrant labor

This report is very long, but reading it, thinking about its implications, and developing an action plan could change the industry and all of our lives! To read a short summary of the report, click here. On that page you can download the full report.