February 13, 2023

How Standardization is Modernizing Construction

Let’s look at how standardization is bringing construction into the modern age.

Construction workers surveying a construction site. Photo by Scott Blake from Unsplash.

The concept of standardization in the construction industry isn’t anything new. In fact, the idea of standardizing processes and procedures is part of industrial history, with Henry Ford’s famous institution of the assembly line, a revolutionary use of time and resources, cutting the production time for a single vehicle from half a day to just a few hours.

The lessons learned over a century ago in that moment can apply to any industry – and that includes the construction sector. Putting simple, streamlined, and universal methods in place increases productivity and efficiency, and standardization provides just that. Let’s look at how standardization is bringing construction into the modern age.

Standardization in the World of Construction 

If there’s one big disadvantage to traditional management approaches, it’s a distinct lack of standardized processes. In the wake of no standard approaches being put in place, productivity can suffer. Those in charge of specific projects rely on their experience in managing prior projects, regardless if the skills they’ve honed over the years are appropriate to their current project. This can lead to dozens of different teams using just as many different processes, potentially creating chaos. 

No standardization means teams can be presented with difficulties communicating due to the use of different software and devices. Having to rely on memory and paper notes to move projects forward isn’t exactly productive, and neither is every new piece of un-integrated software or additional device. This is where standardization shines: instead of having dozens of individually vertically integrated silos, standardization puts everything in one integrated environment and in a way that all teams use.

How Construction Standardization Benefits the Industry

Construction standardization offers massive advantages, with the most noteworthy being the reduction in wasted time. Here are just a few of the benefits of standardization:

  • Repeatable processes increase productivity Increase in productivity from repeatability
  • Fewer mistakes overall
  • Communication improvements
  • IT infrastructures face less demand
  • Information is more available and accessible
  • Organizations can scale their operations better during periods of growth
  • Continuous improvement becomes easier and more practical

Procedural Examples of Industry Standardization

With one of the core objectives for standardization being the definition of uniform approaches to work activities, this requires defining uniform standards and practices that are applied across the organization. While different departments have differing ideas as to what constituted productive and effective approaches, there are still common approaches that can be instituted that apply to all an organization’s teams, and these include approaches to communication and quality assurance. 

Knowing the benefits of standardization and implementing standardized approaches are two very different things, however. It’s important to document work procedures clearly and explicitly, and then communicate those same procedures to all team members effectively. Here are some procedures for establishing and maintaining full integration of standardization.

Employee Training

You need to walk before you can run, and that means ensuring that all team members involved in the construction activities that have been standardized receive appropriate levels of training and education in these areas. It will never be enough to simply create a standard work practices document, as employees need to not just read this document but also understand its contents.

Training addresses this issue by providing the education employees need on the new standards that you have set and offers opportunities to evaluate their understanding of these standards. Training also allows employees to provide what could be invaluable feedback about standards, offering opportunities to further refine those standards further. Training and education sessions should be a regular occurrence to ensure team members are building positive habits and following up on these procedures.

Digital Workflow Leveraging

Record-keeping is an essential step in every industry, not just the construction sector. Instituting a standardized digital workflow is extremely effective for ensuring employees are leveraging newly introduced standards correctly and consistently, with team members having to record the completion of construction activities in centralized and easily accessible software systems. This not only helps building positive habits among employees but also establishes a “paper trail” to refer to at later dates.

However, it’s crucial to not complicate actual construction workflows by leveraging digital ones. Digital workflows should be a complement of construction activity, not a complication. This requires effective uses of communication tools that support the goals of better efficiency and productivity – in other words, your digital communications infrastructure must be standardized as well.

Standardized Communications Methods

Connecting the digital tools your teams use so that they access one communications infrastructure isn’t enough. The infrastructure itself needs to be fully integrated on a single platform, using standard methods and formats that can be accessed appropriately by anyone who needs that access, regardless of their assigned role. 

Therefore, standardized communication methods rely on centralized digital platforms that have the capabilities to integrate the necessary tools that every different team in your organization uses daily. This approach helps minimize the number of loopholes or blind spots that would work against receiving the full benefits of standardization.

Accessibility Concerns

Finally, there’s no benefit to a standardized system if access to that system represents challenges. If it’s impossible for every team member to interact with these tools quickly, easily, and in ways that don’t interrupt their day-to-day activities, it doesn’t matter how well-intentioned your efforts to standardize may be. Instead, there will be gaps in your records as individual team members that find it inconvenient or impossible due to accessibility issues naturally bypass your standardized practices. 

Cloud-based systems are often the best approach for keeping processes digitized and accessible. These solutions are also cost-effective and agile, as they can be accessed by anyone given appropriate credentials, such as external stakeholders. This can be achieved by connecting integrated mobile apps to this cloud-based system.

The Last Word on Construction Industry Standardization

For the construction industry to remain relevant, it must modernize its approaches to project management and workflow. Adopting standard practices and procedures aids in increasing productivity and efficiency, modernizing construction companies and making them more agile, capable, and competitive.

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