As I was reading an online newsletter from the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors — National Association (PHCC), I was reminded of a subject near and dear to business owners’ hearts: productivity. More specifically, jobsite productivity.

The newsletter quoted Peter Cockshaw, who publishes Cockshaw’s Construction Labor News & Opinion. Cockshaw ran a feature on productivity on the construction jobsite. He said that “only one-third of an eight-hour shift is actual work.”

He went on to list the 10 “most costly” causes of poor productivity on the jobsite. They were:

1. Waiting for materials.
2. Waiting for tools and equipment.
3. Waiting for equipment breakdowns to be fixed.
4. Rework due to design, prefabrication, or field errors.
5. Interference from other crews.
6. Overcrowded work areas.
7. Workplace changes (i.e., not enough work in one area, so a tradesman loses time relocating).
8. Waiting on permits.
9. Waiting for instructions.
10. Other delays.

There is no doubt in my mind that News’ readers have experienced some, if not all, of the above causes. What intrigues me is No. 10 — “other delays.” This could cover a lot of territory. In honor of the ambiguous No. 10, I’ve detailed some of the more obscure reasons for lack of jobsite productivity. Feel free to send me some of your own.


  • The customer forgot you were coming and left no emergency phone numbers. Turns out, the homeowners were shopping at the local do-it-yourself store, buying the parts they think they needed for the repair they had scheduled with you. Oh yes, they forgot to cancel the service call, but they remembered to call some of your other customers with their money-saving idea.

  • A local construction crew just plowed into a buried gas line, knocking out service to your jobsite, and causing an evacuation of a two-mile radius.

  • A car company sent out a recall notice involving the truck your crew was planning to take to the jobsite. It is a safety-related issue, and you decide to have the truck towed to the nearest dealership — along with the other 29 identical trucks in your fleet, which suffer from the same defect.

  • One of your service techs had a wedding rehearsal dinner and came down with a case of food poisoning, knocking him out of action for the day. The other five techs, members of the wedding party, also suffered the same fate.

  • The customer had an emergency and had to leave the state. Seems that the local police department finally matched his fingerprints and is hot on the trail. That big deposit check your fugitive customer wrote to you now seems to have a lot of bounce to it.


    I am making light of a situation that business owners usually do not find very amusing. Loss of jobsite productivity costs big dollars and often strains otherwise good relationships. Many of these problems can be avoided by simple communication — an e-mail message or phone call.

    We also have new tools to speed up the paperwork process. For example, the Internet now makes it possible to pull permits online. Employees can receive instructions and change orders via a wireless hookup to the company website. I could go on and on.

    But rest assured, new technology can mean its own list of productivity problems — the phone battery went dead, the e-mail never arrived, the website is down, the routing list got lost (the dog ate it).

    Forget that last one; I used that on my parents when I forgot to do my homework.

    Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); (e-mail).

    Publication date: 04/08/2002