When Edmonton-based construction firm PCL Constructors Inc. conducted a survey of productivity at its Calgary work sites in 2007, it discovered there was plenty to improve. Reducing time wasted at construction sites was key to minimizing overall costs and “winning work with our clients,” says David Filipchuk, regional vice-president for western Canadian buildings at the company. One problem, says Filipchuk, was reducing the time craftspeople spent getting to their tools to maximize the time spent using them.
One solution, says Filipchuk, included fitting and furnishing containers as workstations, complete with all the necessary hand and power tools, and lifting them, via crane, to the higher stories of a building under construction, so that workers have everything they need at hand rather than on the ground floor. Productivity at PCL rose by 18 per cent between 2008 and 2009, and by another 20 per cent in the latest fiscal year. And this technique, already in limited use at PCL before the review, became one of the company’s “best practices.” Today, all of the company’s sites are encouraged to use it, if applicable.
Improving work processes to improve efficiency is only part of the equation. This is especially true in a services-based economy, says Ronald Burke, professor emeritus of organization studies at York University’s Schulich School of Business. Delivering great service, says Burke, also includes ensuring that people have the tools they need and are motivated to do their best with them. That’s helped Bennett Jones LLP score high marks for productivity. “Our employees have the most cutting-edge technology at their fingertips,” says chief administrative officer Siobhan Walsh. And, she adds, they know how to use it. Along with getting new computers, staff at the Calgary-based law firm received plenty of training on all-new IT applications this year, and more initiatives are in store for 2011. Walsh says it’s all part of encouraging people “to want to do whatever is necessary for the success of the business.”