April 18, 2022
Productivity in construction is the main contributor to completing jobs on time and within budget. However, studies show that both these metrics are difficult to achieve and that productivity in construction lags behind other sectors.
Reliable power is a key factor that affects construction site operational efficiency and, therefore, productivity. Until now, the industry has relied heavily on diesel generators in the past, but Energy Storage Systems (ESS) offer some advantages that play a part in improving construction industry productivity.
Productivity is a measure of how much input is converted into the desired output. It can be measured in financial terms or units of labor. The higher the productivity, the more effective an organization is at converting its inputs into outputs. Unfortunately, the construction sector does not score well on these metrics.
Statistics for the construction industry show that it falls behind other industries in real gross value added per hour worked. Productivity in manufacturing, for example, increased by 96% from 1995 to 2014. On the other hand, productivity in construction only improved by 21% over the same period. A McKinsey report states that if the construction productivity had to improve by a further 50%, the sector’s value-added would increase by $1.6 trillion.
Drilling down into detail gives more insights into the standard productivity rates in construction. Only one-third of construction projects stay within their projected budgets and even fewer get completed on schedule.
Several factors affect the productivity of the construction industry. Poor planning, changing job scope during the project, and communication all play a role. But there is also a significant influence associated with power supply on-site and the efficient use of equipment.
Regulators set stringent noise limits for urban construction projects due to the impact on surrounding residences. As a result, construction sites operate with curfews of nighttime activity restricted. One of the main contributors to construction site noise is the usage of diesel generators, which supply power for equipment. Using a low noise power source like Energy Storage Systems can enable construction companies to continue their activities for longer hours while complying with noise regulations. A project in Hong Kong, for example, achieved a 50% increase in productivity using Energy Storage Systems solutions to power their cranes at night.
The reliability of grid power impacts considerably on construction sites' efficiency and their management of mobile power sources. Unfortunately, grid power is often not reliable at all on construction sites and particularly in rural areas. Most mobile generators use diesel fuel as their energy source. They consume this fuel at varying rates depending on the site conditions. Managing the diesel stocks available on site is challenging due to fluctuating demand and the costs associated with storing large volumes. Fuel shortages can hinder construction activity and limit productivity on site.
Construction sites experience peak energy demands when equipment is starting up. Once the equipment is running normally, the energy demand reduces significantly. However, the nature of construction activity requires different equipment to start up at various times in the day, turning to several energy peaks. Diesel generators must be sized to meet these peak demands as far as possible. This adds to the construction costs because the generator operates at much lower demand levels for most of the day. Additionally, some equipment startups may be delayed due to high energy demands elsewhere, leading to delays in work and lower construction productivity.
Construction activity relies on many pieces of equipment which must be available for use and operating efficiently at any time. Diesel generators are among the most critical. If a generator fails, other equipment will also be affected. To maximize generator reliability, the equipment should usually run at its optimal operating point. But this is hard to accomplish on a construction site because the generator is often sized for peak demand and not for normal operations. This leads to higher maintenance and reduced availability, which causes lower productivity at the construction site.
Energy storage solutions use Lithium-ion battery technology to store energy for later use. They can be recharged using diesel generators with spare capacity or renewable energy sources like solar panels.
Energy storage solutions can solve many of the productivity challenges outlined above for construction sites:
Besides equipment and energy considerations, other factors can also help improve construction productivity. Changes to project scope impact negatively on productivity. Therefore, the upfront design and planning phases are critical to the success of a project. The construction industry has also been slow to adopt new technology, so this industry hangs behind others in terms of seeing the benefits of digitalization. Communication is another common factor affecting productivity. Disconnections between the office and field can result in material shortages, or misguided priorities can influence site efficiency and ultimately the project schedule.
Atlas Copco has developed an innovative range of energy storage systems for the construction industry. The Li-ion solution has a 40,000-hour lifespan and can operate in conditions from -15C to 50C. A very low total cost of ownership gives Atlas Copco units an excellent ROI with a payback period of fewer than two years for most applications.
About Bárbara Gregorio
Our Product Marketing Manager for Innovative Energies and Digital Solutions, Bárbara, has over 10 years of experience working in the power supply sector. She began her career at Atlas Copco as Product Specialist for power generators and light towers. She currently holds a key role in the organization's energy storage systems project, which features one of the most efficient battery-driven solutions in the market.