Maintaining productivity and connectivity in challenging market environments has always been key for modern businesses to stay competitive and relevant. However, in recent times, boosting productivity and connectivity is often considered a lower priority.

This doesn’t have to be the case if the right energy, culture, and focus is established within the business’ hierarchy, processes, and systems. Connectivity within a company is crucial. After all, as the saying goes, “the whole outperforms the sum of its parts”. Likewise, productivity is fundamental too, and especially nowadays. Why? Because it helps businesses keep pace with their competitors in an incredibly fierce market. What’s more, productivity can aid in producing higher quality output at a more affordable cost, allowing for higher profits and increased success. As energy bills soar and materials become more expensive, the benefits of productivity can truly be used to the company’s advantage.

Hence, this article explores productivity and how to measure it. We’ll also list the factors that impact productivity and how to improve in a modern world.

What is productivity?

To improve something, it is always sensible to define, measure, and understand it first. In this respect, there are four hierarchical perspectives to productivity. Figure 1 shows that across these four perspectives including 15 factors that interlink. Each one of them reacts either positively or negatively to change.

In engineered project delivery, this is often measured using tangible targets, outcomes, or impacts. This is achieved by using historical performance data to define a planned outcome. The achieved performance is then measured using the same tangibles.

In modern business, productivity improvements are being sought. Most notably, these improvements include the introduction of innovative tools and equipment, especially through digital modernisation initiatives. Therefore, it is vital to understand the impact that introducing new digital technologies has on other elements of business. It can influence accountability, follow-up, managing workforce, connectivity, and effective communications.

Measuring productivity

In measuring productivity, it is important to consider both the intangibles (client satisfaction, safety, motivation, welfare, etc.) and the tangibles (deliverables, handovers, hours achieved or used, etc.). Productivity also needs to embrace the strategic as well as the tactical. What’s more, it needs to be aligned with the overall success values and outcomes of your project stakeholders.

Productivity must be measured across all project phases. This way, you will ensure stakeholders are both aware and accountable for “down the line” impacts of their delivery performance on others. In this sense, it is also important to understand the pitfalls of incentivising productivity. One of them, for instance, could be the lack of sustainability.

In engineered project delivery, productivity is best measured as part of a business life-cycle process, collating historical productivity data for all projects. This approach requires data to be sufficiently coded to create and maintain productivity “NORMS”. These are used to price and plan accurately for future projects.

Once productivity processes, systems, and tools are embedded within a business, accurate success measures are attained. Not only that, but identifying opportunities to improve can also enhance productivity. With this in mind, the business is finally in a position to embrace innovation with confidence.

Improving productivity

To be able to continuously improve a business’ productivity, it is crucial to have the ability to innovate, assess, and make decisions on what attainable success looks like. Moreover, it is important that businesses adapt at pace and can be objective on the results. Specifically, this means building a culture, the processes, and the associated systems to:

  • Generate ideas to innovate business in line with your agreed strategic goals;
  • Assess and select improvement opportunities that will acquire the best results;
  • Set targets for both the design and implementation of those improvements;
  • Design and implement at pace, based on sound foundations for success;
  • Stop, rethink, rework, or scrap any innovation investments if early measures no longer support the target.

Embracing digital modernisation

Digitalisation isn’t simply the replacement of typewriters with PCs; paper with PDFs; and faxes with emails. In engineered project delivery, digitalisation is the effective bettering of the documented asset (drawings, documents, files, and dossiers) with its digital twin (meta-data, digital workflows, and artificial intelligence).

Let’s use the pre-commissioning, commissioning, start-up, and handover to operations phases of a project as an example. Lack of transparency on effective productivity early in a project can have an adverse impact at the end of the project. This is especially the case on the subjective productivity performance of the stakeholders responsible for delivering these later phases. Using a modern, digital management system can prevent these unsatisfactory outcomes. How? Here are a few attributes it should possess:

  • It should use a completions management system (CMS). This can digitally package all inspections and tests required throughout all the project phases. This will help demonstrate appropriate technical integrity of components, equipment, interconnections, sub-systems, and systems.
  • It should use a CMS to digitise the approved workflow of handovers. These could be handovers from the vendors and manufacturers, as well as from installation and construction (cold and dead). Furthermore, it could capture handovers from pre-commissioning (component level functional tested), commissioning (dynamically tested complete systems), and operations (safe and ready to start-up).
  • It should use a CMS that digitalises and collects project systems and tools that are all interconnected. This way, it will assist in utilising the same data for a validated “single source of truth”.

Ultimately, this collection of systems allows suppliers to work collaboratively. But how does this aid productivity? Here are some of the benefits:

  • System suppliers can both effectively deliver a specific role on a project and understand the key data interfaces.
  • Digital systems are configurable to meet the agreed processes, workflows, and terminology of a specific project.
  • Systems have the functionality to improve and enhance documented assets to their digital twin.
  • Instead of the ‘common’ pen, paper, and manual admin procedures, systems will offer digitised equivalents. These systems can“ significantly improve efficiency and productivity in both the planning and execution stages. In fact, paperless check-sheets, ITRs, handover certificates, work packs (pre-commissioning WPs), and handover dossiers with auto-compile can truly acquire improved productivity quickly.
  • Systems embrace and promote user communities and communications in both the digital and real worlds. This includes other programmes that are specifically designed for collaborations, such as MS Teams.
  • Systems are transparent and live, using reports and dashboards on demand without the need for manual manipulation or interpretation. This enables project teams to analyse, determine accurate root causes, and provide informed recovery solutions. Ultimately, they will go a long way in helping achieve the planned success.

To conclude, connectivity and productivity represent two essential assets to a business. By showing how to measure and improve, we hope this article gives you an insight into how to boost productivity within your company.