Productivity and the Contractor
Over the last few months, I've heard at least a
half a dozen people refer to research about the loss of
productivity in the construction industry. When compared to other
industries, construction has become less productive over the last
few decades, and this has happened in spite of the massive
improvements we have made in ease of installation of products and
improved tools. On the job site, we can do a lot more with fewer
There's a lot of disagreement about why this is happening. Is
the supply chain becoming less productive? Are buildings becoming
more sophisticated and difficult to construct? Are workers taking
longer to accomplish tasks? Are regulations slowing things
There is no research to definitively say what has caused the
reduction in productivity, but I would hazard to guess it is a
combination of all of those elements and more. I think we can all
agree, though, that the adage, "they don't build like the used to,"
is wrong. We're constructing buildings that are more efficient,
easier to operate, longer lasting and healthier than we ever have.
This is to say that while we may be less productive, we are
improving value. There are a lot of industries that can't make that
I know that you, like me, get just a little ticked off when I
see research such as this about the industry to which I've decided
to devote my career. My knee-jerk reaction is, "What do you mean,
we're not more productive?"
Then, I think a bit longer, and realize there are some systemic
issues in construction that other industries, such as manufacturing
or retail, don't face. In our industry, every job site is a
separate manufacturing plant designed to create a one-off product.
The raw materials arrive on site on a schedule, and plant workers
assemble them into the one and only product of its kind. The
reality of construction is that by its very nature, it's hard to
Let's give our due to the contractors and the tools they now
have, whether hand tools or technology tools, that make their jobs
simpler and more efficient. The contractors are the pivot point of
the construction process. Everything has to run through them to be
completed and for that reason everyone in the industry, up and down
the supply chain, puts their focus on contractors.
In this issue, we take a deep dive into the businesses of metal
roofing contractors in our Metal Roofing Cost of Doing Business
survey. We hope to lay down some benchmarks for performance in the
industry and establish some clarity about who is doing the metal
roofing work. Every year, we will complete another survey, and
drive our knowledge even deeper. Our hope is that metal roofing
contractors will be able to use this information to improve their
businesses, make themselves more effective and-potentially-improve
the productivity of our little segment of the industry.