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Assessing and improving the productivity of construction labour through resilient interventions against stagnation (in respect of the evolving perspectives of the impacts of pandemics like the coronavirus)


Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing

About the Project

The construction sector, covering other professional services, accounts for a substantial value addition of every economy globally and generates substantial incomes in export earnings, especially in advanced economies. This important contribution to the national purse is on the backbone of a fairly fragmented sector characterised by a multiplicity of firms accounting for almost all the skills and output in this industry. Itinerant workforce predominantly constituting quite a significant manual workforce with substantial numbers in self-employment. Having gained a reputation as a ‘macho’ and a physically demanding sector, there is increasing recommendation to rely on a diverse, highly skilled and flexible workforce in order to improve its output as it remains unattractive to a significant section of populations. Moreover, being traditionally characterised by unsafe working environments and unattractive remuneration while offering little or hardly any job security, especially in the craft and operative roles, it is accorded an unattractive image. Therefore, it has been challenging to attract competitive and exceptional talent on the backdrop of such perceptions.

As a result, construction labour has been known to be a problem for employers and hence improvement in outputs per unit of labour can obviously yield benefits. This makes it imperative to assess and initiate improvements which, if appropriately implemented, can enhance productivity of construction labour as being of paramount significance.
Thus, on the basis of improved productivity, sector improvements in upskilling the workforce to maximise output remains the backbone and the overall foundation for growth in the industry. These border on the use of interventions covering MMC innovations and tools, automations in construction etc. and can be captured considering the following broad areas:

• Does taking advantage of factory style, synchronous assembly line production practices benefit construction in the same way as manufacturing? This is based on the socioeconomic milieu that back-end loading of risks and uncertainty for off-site manufacturing practices may have implications for construction other than is usually envisaged.

• Lean manufacturing practices like just-in-time (typically tagged the Toyota Way) etc. bring benefits that construction can take advantage of in project performance. Hence, an investigation into lean thinking in construction brings such ideas into the context of the traditional ways that have been known and adopted from days of yore.

• The dimensions of sustainability - Social, economic and environmental factors have implications for adopting the benefits of manufacturing practices like prefabrication in construction as the industry seeks to take advantage of such sustainable strategies to improve its output of unit of the factors of production and hence its sustainability impact.

• A lot of savings have been noted to accrue from the adoption of MMC on projects bringing immense benefits to the industry. These economic benefits add to the impact of sustainable construction strategies seeking to improve on the traditional practices of the industry in respect of carbon reduction and sequestration, environmental impact etc.

• Projects can take advantage of manufacturing practices to reduce cost and time overruns that have plagued construction as a unique and characteristic feature on, for example, the Scottish Parliament, Cross Rail, HS2 etc. to help change negative perceptions held of the industry

The study will require contextualisation based on the background and interest of the student though and multiple versions may typically evolve from modification. Economic factors have been identified as the primary driving force for change across all sectors and construction is no exception as is characteristic of infrastructural development. Under current pandemic conditions and with the inevitable impact of recession on the construction sector has been nothing short of dramatic in terms of its impact on jobs and workloads. This will, in fact, constitute inflection points in the arc of most nations’ histories and conditions are expected to be particularly difficult during this and subsequent years where a sharp decline in construction output is inevitable. While these events in world affairs and economies take a toll in the short-term for the industry, there is little doubt that the long-term trends point to rising levels of construction activity as inevitable, which will continue to present career opportunities as the industry has been known to be resilient and would, in its character, bounce back with the right interventions.

Funding Notes

No funding is available for this project

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