Horizon Newsletter • January 28, 2023
Maximizing Construction Production: A Step-by-Step Approach Based on the Theory of Constraints Framework

The factor that most determines construction cost on a paving, milling, or grading job is the job site production rate. Given that various factors can influence the maximum production rate, it is not possible to set an organization-level target that can be managed at the job level. Therefore, extra consideration must be given when planning the target production rate for a job production plan since everything else will be subordinate.

Beige and green soviet-style control room, street art

Use the following step-by-step approach to set the target production rate.

  1. Calculate the theoretical speed of production: The first step in maximizing production is to calculate the theoretical speed of production based on the site measurements, site shape and obstructions, and capabilities of the production equipment. This can be done by using tools such as site maps, drawings, and equipment specifications.
  2. Gather empirical data: The next step is to gather empirical data about the production on comparable job production plans. This can be done by looking at data from similar projects based on the job site conditions. This will give you a sense of what has been possible in the past.
  3. Find the highest sustained production rate: Once you have the data, find the highest sustained production rate within the comparable projects. This will give you a benchmark to work towards.
  4. Check for under-resourcing: Check if the highest sustained production rate could have been under-trucked by checking for very low trucking surplus and GPS confirmation. If it was under trucked, then the maximum production rate might be higher. Perform this same analysis on other types of support capacity to determine if a support resource such as trucking, rollers, or a material site may have become the bottleneck.
  5. Triangulate on the ideal production rate: Triangulate on the ideal production rate by comparing the theoretical maximum rate to the empirical maximum rate. This will help identify any errors in the analysis.
  6. Determine the quantity of support capacity required: Once you’ve determined the ideal production rate, determine the quantity of support capacity required to achieve that production rate. Use a similar process of triangulation to do that research.
  7. Adjust to actual bottleneck: If you have insufficient support capacity based on the ideal production rate, then dial back the target production capacity and other support capacity to the bottleneck.
  8. Test higher targets: To the extent that the ideal production rate is uncertain, you might consider adding extra capacity to test how high the production rate could be. Ensure that you communicate about this plan to the crew explicitly so that the extra capacity is utilized for the test.
  9. Determine the optimal production window: Perform similar analysis to determine the production window for the day considering mobilization time and expense, work rule limits, opportunity cost, and overtime rules. As a rule of thumb, favor longer production windows given opportunity cost and the leverage of mobilization and setup.
  10. Compare and adjust: At the end of production, compare the actual results to your expectations and adjust future plans accordingly. This will allow you to continuously improve and maximize production in the future.

In summary, to maximize production, it is important to calculate the theoretical speed of production, gather empirical data, find the highest sustained production rate, check for under-resourcing, triangulate on the ideal production rate, determine the quantity of support capacity required, adjust to the bottleneck, test higher targets, determine the production window, and continuously compare and adjust plans. By following these steps, you can ensure that job production plans are set to maximize production.

If you’re interested in learning more about this approach, read up on the Theory of Constraints, a management philosophy developed by Eliyahu M. Goldratt in the 1980s. I remember first reading his novel “The Goal” in FME (Freshman Management Experience) at Babson College in 1996. The clarity of his “Five Focusing Steps” stuck with me.

There are many tools in the XBE platform that support this process. In particular, ensure that you’re up to speed on segment-level planning, the job summary report, the job history report, the job monitoring screen, and material site monitoring screen.

We’re always looking for innovative ways to make this process more effective and efficient. If you have ideas, let us know. If you’d like any support in implementing this process, we’re happy to help.


Sean Devine
Founder & CEO, XBE