How to increase productivity without increasing headcount

a handful of ways construction companies can modernize their processes and strengthen relationships to increase productivity without adding headcount

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The construction industry has the potential to boost its value by an impressive $1.6 trillion, but companies also face mounting pressures to stay competitive while keeping tight control of rising costs. Manual processes are no longer cutting it, and any organization hoping to reach that potential needs to adopt efficiencies that will enable them to do more work in less time without tacking on a ton of extra overhead.

Here are a handful of ways construction companies can modernize their processes and strengthen relationships to increase productivity without adding headcount:

Streamline Back Office Processes

It’s estimated that employees at construction companies spend 35 percent of their time on “non-optimal” tasks, such as searching for project-related information and correcting mistakes. That equates to almost two working days per week that could be better spent on higher priority activities that directly impact profitability instead of rework and repetitive tasks. To empower teams to work smarter rather than harder, companies need to help free them from mundane, non-optimal tasks and improve the back-office processes they rely on to do their jobs.

According to a McKinsey report, one reason for the industry’s poor productivity record is that it still relies on paper to manage its processes and deliverables, such as blueprints, drawings, orders, invoices, progress reports and punch lists. Eliminating paper – which easily piles up and is prone to falling through the cracks – is an important step in streamlining back-office processes. Digital data will help to eliminate paper and improve access to valuable information that, when properly shared, can reduce errors and speed project delivery times. Automating paper-based processes will also significantly reduce time. For example, companies can cut the time it takes to process one invoice from 10 days to just three days.

Utilize Technology

There are many ways that technology can help construction companies better manage jobs and costs, but employees may be hesitant to adopt new ways of working. According to 2019 Engineering and Construction Industry Outlook, companies who invest in digital innovation and embrace the support technology provides gain a clear competitive advantage over those who resist.

Technologies, such as cloud-based construction management software, take advantage of real-time data and collaborative sharing tools to help firms perform various tasks, such as managing drawing and specs and connecting them with RFIs, punch lists and photos to increase productivity, boost efficiency and ultimately add competitive advantage. Additionally, there are many mobile application extensions, like Procore and Buildertrend, that make it easier for firms to manage, access and share information remotely rather than wasting time money on travel back to the office.

Other solutions solve for time-consuming manual tasks, allowing employees to focus on more important work while eliminating the element of human error for more accurate results. Automated construction workflows help firms avoid expensive work redos, cut costs and mitigate project risks. Accounts payable (AP) and payment automation eliminates time-intensive paper-processes and enables tremendous operational efficiencies that provide cost savings, increased workload capacity and improved financial accuracy.

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Strengthen Vendor Relationships

Forging strong relationships with contractors and suppliers is vital to productivity as jobs depend on reliable, committed workers. Adopting vendor management best practices will help strengthen relationships with suppliers, build loyalty and earn trust. This includes providing simple onboarding processes; clear visibility into account status and payment; flexibility to choose preferred method of payment (Check, ACH+ or VCC); and prompt, accurate payment.

Mutually beneficial relationships require open, honest communication, and a commitment to working toward shared goals. Relying on manual systems for managing the relationship—such as housing data on local hard drives and spreadsheets, and resorting to unscheduled travel to job sites to stay in contact—is time consuming and inefficient. Improved processes will help to solidify these valuable partnerships.

Preparing and Positioning for Success

Increasing productivity doesn’t have to mean more hires for construction teams as work volume increases. By adopting new ways of doing business, leveraging the support technology provides and strengthening relationships, construction companies can efficiently manage more work, and protect their bottom lines – all with the same staff they have today.


Automating the AP and payment processes is one of the most impactful moves construction companies can make, ridding their AP teams of trivial processes that take up a lot of time, allowing them to focus on better margins. AvidXchange is the leader in AP and payment automation. Connect with us today to see how your company can save valuable time and resources.

About the Author

Jim Campbell is the Vice President of Construction Sales at AvidXchange and a 40-year veteran of the construction industry. Jim began his career at Timberline Software Corporation in 1979. He completed his tenure there 26 years later as the Senior Vice President of Sales in 2005, two years after Timberline was acquired by Sage. Following that, he led CIS Consulting Group as their President for five years until they were acquired by Viewpoint Construction Software, where he became their Channel Sales Manager for North America. He has been leading the construction market for AvidXchange since 2016.

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SPT PDA used in field construction site

Setting the standard for SPT hammers

On many construction site ground investigation projects SPT is employed to collect data on ground conditions, but how can geologist be sure of correct test results?

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GRL Engineers is an SPT calibration specialist which can provide the necessary reassurance. Every structure built relies on proper support and a strong foundation. A properly supported foundation is essential to longevity for any structure. In the geotechnical engineering field, accurate environmental data is king. Soil variances can impact the type of pile that is used, the method of implementation and the impact of nearby structures. Before starting construction there should be a thorough understanding of the soil conditions, strength and physical properties of the ground. Having this information will allow for an informed plan of action.

A common means of analysing soil strength and conditions is using standard penetration testing (SPT), a widely used geotechnical test used to estimate soil. This soil exploration tool uses an SPT hammer to drive a drill string with a split-barrel sampler attached at the bottom of the string. 


The split-barrel sampler recovers soil samples and the bottom of the borehole after it has been advanced to the required sampling depth. Using this test provides clarity to the engineers and is essential to understanding foundation conditions.

SPT hammer efficiencies vary, which influences the resulting N-values. For this reason, many authorities, including the Federal Highway Administration, in the US, require SPT hammer calibration. In addition, period calibration is required by many US Departments of Transportation.

ASTM D1586 recommends that a measured N-value be normalised to 60 per cent drill rod energy, N₆₀ by multiplying it by the ratio between the measured energy transferred to the rod and 60 per cent of the theoretical potential energy. This compensates for the variability in efficiency, and therefore, improves the reliability of soil strength estimates used in geotechnical designs.

To perform the SPT calibration, GRL Engineers attach an SPT rod, instrumented with strain gauges and accelerometers, to the SPT drill string rod. As the drill string is driven into the ground, the strain gauges and accelerometers obtain force and velocity signals with each hammer blow. The signals are transmitted to a pile-driving analyser that displays the force, velocity and energy transmitted to the drill string, calculates and displays the maximum transferred energy value, and stores the complete time record of force and velocity for all SPT hammer blows.

GRL Engineers typically acquire several SPT energy measurements per hammer at a given test location, in accordance with ASTM.

With this testing, GRL Engineers can provide a quantitative calibration report presenting transferred energies, energy transferred ratios and the SPT N₆₀ value for each sample interval tested.

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How multi-technology concrete testing delivers peace of mind

By Karolina Rzepiejewska-Malyska, June 11, 2019, 10:00 CEST

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Concrete is one of the oldest and greatest inventions of humanity and remains one of the most impactful materials of all time. There are plenty of well-established but also modern technologies related to that construction material. This, in turn, translates into a plethora of business when it comes to the construction and quality assurance of new civil engineering structures, as well as the inspection of existing ones as required during their lifecycle.

In this interview we discuss with Warren Thomas, director at Henderson Thomas Associates (HTA). We learn his point of view on the innovation and advancements in the space of Non-Destructive Testing of structural concrete.

Warren, what kind of services does your company offer?

HTA offers an array of services related to the inspection of structures and infrastructure of any kind. This includes survey works, building investigations, etc. In addition, a big part of our work is related to the inspection of concrete highway structures, and in particular bridges.

Bridges. That’s interesting. Can you give us some insights related to bridge inspection?

Bridges can be of many types, each with its own inspection challenges. Especially post-tensioned bridges can hide many defects, specifically voids. However, similar defects can also be in car parks, power stations and other buildings. Now, when it comes to bridge inspection and investigation, one of the biggest threats related to their integrity and therefore lifetime are defects—voids—within the tendon ducts. These defects result from poor grouting practices during the structure’s construction. Being able to detect those grouting defects means that we can determine the risks they pose to the safety of the structure and the public. Our task is to inspect the structure effectively, precisely, and locate the tendons and then these voids non-destructively. We then operate like surgeons on the structure—we open the area and make the necessary repairs. The post-repair inspection is the last step of our service process, and a key part of delivering safety of the structure, safety of the public, and peace of mind.

And how do you do that?

The first step is to locate the tendon. In the past, we were looking at the technical drawings or used conventional cover meters. However, technical drawings are not always accurate or even available to begin with, and tendon ducts very often are too deep in the structure to be detected by cover meters. Then, we were using single-channel instruments and some really slow methods to estimate whether the tendon was grouted or not. This process was time-consuming and caused extensive damage to the structure. And this made the inspection process very expensive, considering time constraints such as the limited time we have available overnight to test e.g. rail structures used by the public intensively.

That sounds really challenging.

Indeed. It used to be. Over the past years we have used more and more sophisticated technology to get this done. Nowadays, we have a breadth of modern technologies in the form of Proceq solutions. Our excellent personnel together with our excellent NDT equipment by Proceq make our job really effective and allow us to fulfill the motto of HTA: “For definitive answers, not guesswork”.

Pundit Live Array Pro
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Proceq GPR Live
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How so?

Let me explain how we approach such an inspection job nowadays. First, we subscribe to Proceq GPR Live Unlimited—a best-in-class product that in subscription mode reduces our operating costs while providing continuous software performance improvements.  GPR Live focuses us in on the tendon that we want to look at. We start like this, because GPR is good at detecting metallic objects. The Stepped-Frequency Continuous-Wave GPR in Proceq GPR Live makes it exceptional at doing so deeper in concrete, and with great clarity.

So, now thanks to SFCW GPR technology we know where the tendon is, instead of assuming where it could be. Once this is done, we run Pundit Live Array Pro with its AI positioning along the profile of the tendon to accurately detect where the voids are.

That is exactly the breakthrough—since we started using Pundit Live Array Pro 18 months ago, we have been able to reliable find various defects. For example, we find grouting defects in tendon ducts, as I just mentioned. But we also find other defects, such as honeycombing and delaminations that GPR technology cannot detect.

This represents incredible progress. We have done jobs in the past, where by using other techniques we were not even able to determine the position of the tendon as accurately as we would like to.

That sounds like a multi-technology approach is the key to success…

Indeed. It needs to be said aloud: there is no single technology that would address it all. Period. The multi-technology approach is not an option. It’s an absolute must. If you want to eliminate guesswork and achieve peace of mind when inspecting concrete structures, adapt your toolbox to the work you do and the challenges you face in the field. Use Proceq GPR Live for metallic object detection and Pundit Live Array Pro for spotting defects within the investigated structure. Especially, if you continually strive to provide the right service, at the right time, at the right price, as we do.

What makes these devices special?

Apart from the obvious technical advantages of Proceq GPR Live and Pundit Live Array Pro, the great thing is that they are both wirelessly linked to the iPad. Both products use iPad apps for visualization, and follow the same software workflow principles, so it’s straightforward to use both on-site. Another thing is that both apps have a simple, yet powerful user interface. We also use the Logbook functionality a lot, and since we are a team, we also regularly share measurements with each other over the cloud, even across job sites. Altogether, these two products work great for inspecting post-tensioned concrete structures, which is an important service. I’d say, each of those is a brilliant bit of a kit that makes our services cutting-edge.

That’s very nicely said. Let’s talk about the future. You have been so many years in the NDT space. How do you envision the future of NDT? How far are we from what you consider to be your vision? How will this space develop?

What I am trying to do is to get across what the client sees. This means using more NDT technologies rather than having to extract cores, break them up, and do all kinds of intrusive work on a structure beyond the bare minimum that is necessary for the repair. That’s exactly what every structure or bridge owner wants: less damage to his structure. This we achieve with more brain power, the right combination of technologies, and cutting-edge NDT solutions. In fact, this is what this imaging kit is doing for us.

Great. So, if you had to transmit our readers a single idea from your experience in the concrete NDT space, what that would be?

More NDT, less intrusive testing!

Contact the author or contact us via email if you would like to take part in the discussion. 

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