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Case Study

Operational Excellence

How a Company Gained a 40% Increase in Labour Productivity


At a Glance

  • Over the course of the project, our client’s overall direct labour productivity rose steadily and reached a 40% improvement by the project’s end  
  • Significant optimisation was achieved in the deployment of steel fixers on rafts and slabs using principles of critical path method (CPM) planning  
  • The direct labour productivity measurement system was successfully extended to other divisions within the company  
  • The increase in productivity improved its casting lead time progressively as higher levels were reached


Our client was a construction company undertaking a real estate development backed by a major investment company. Its main development was approximately 2 million square feet in size, and contained over 100 buildings where numerous premier restaurants, high-end shopping outlets and hotels with basements would be located.

The Challenge

The client recognised that there were opportunities to improve productivity of its direct labour workforce, which prompted them to engage Renoir Consulting. The engagement would last a total of 54 weeks and a set number of targets were outlined before implementation.

What We Did

A combined project team of the client’s staff and Renoir consultants was set up to deliver the improvement opportunities. Four technically qualified engineers and a small data management team were seconded full time to the assignment.


One of the first activities was to undertake a comprehensive series of Ratio Delay sampling studies and Day in the life of (DILO) studies. These provided data which highlighted under-utilisation of labour force and inadequate supervision during a typical working day.

The observations indicated weaknesses in the disciplines of the workforce on site hour by hour and the extent to which key working times were adhered to. These observations provided better insight into the proportion of productive hours being wasted due to factors such as tower crane unavailability, material unavailability and a lack of effective work planning.

A behaviour assessment exercise was then undertaken post-installation of the measurement system to assess the extent of active management demonstrated by the supervisory staff. The results were then used as the foundation to develop a series of training modules.

Based on the initial findings, Renoir committed to the following:

  • An improvement in direct labour productivity of 35%
  • A fit-for-purpose system for the management of direct labour productivity centred on task rate-based times and quantity reporting.
  • Training of Foremen and Charge Hands to an appropriate level of understanding of all aspects of productivity management.
  • Training of site engineers and site supervisors to improve engagement in and responsibility for planning, target setting and follow-up of the work.


A Productivity Management System was developed and implemented based on the collection and collation of primary data from the time and quantity reports (TQR). The system cross-checked direct labour man hours against timekeepers’ records on a weekly basis. In addition, quantities were verified by the quantity surveyors (QS) who were a part of the productivity team.

Additional assurance was provided by the productivity team and some other key tasks included:

  • Task rate allocation: Whenever rates were not available or not applicable due to changes in working conditions, rates were developed using observation studies.
  • Off-the-job training: Training was provided to understand and use the task rates, section codes, TQR planning and reporting documentation.
  • Continuous on-site coaching: Foremen and site engineers were coached on general and case-specific improvement of weekly and daily planning, labour allocation, target setting and short interval controls.
  • Weekly productivity management meetings: Meeting agendas were focused on reviewing results, weekly quantity plans, manpower utilisation forecasts, and agree actions.
  • Effective KPI tracking: Productivity KPIs would be measured with a productivity dashboard once launched.
  • Pass card system: With a pass card system, labour management could improve during working hours and breaks.


Overall productivity improvement consistently exceeded 35% and at times reached over 40%. This had had a very significant impact across the construction team on their understanding of the benefits of planning and the drivers of productivity.

As a result, discussing and striving for productivity is now a normal part of daily life at all levels. The capability to install, operate and run the measurement system was developed for the client and which can now be used on subsequent construction projects.

Clearly define KPIs and roles to measure performance effectiveness and productivity.

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