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BLOG: The six key time-stealers that are killing your productivity

Operational Excellence through Lean Thinking

Published 23rd Nov 21 - by sophiecoyle

Marc Roberts, Operations Director at LC International, discusses the six main time stealers found within a construction manufacturing process and outlines how to combat them.

Today, construction is as complex and technologically advanced as it’s ever been. In some areas, in fact, it’s becoming increasingly indistinguishable from manufacturing – and that’s meant thousands of construction businesses are beginning to confront challenges that manufacturers have been tussling with for decades.

Among the biggest is simply wasted time. Here, I want to examine the six most common time-stealers I see sapping productivity at ambitious construction firms around the country.

1: The breakdown loss
Equipment breakdowns cost time and money, stopping the flow of production and creating all sorts of knock-on impacts to lead times, product deadlines and project schedules.

Preventing them is often very simple. Ask yourself – just how reliable is the machinery you’re using? Are you regularly servicing it? In the long run, is it worth investing in new machinery rather than dealing with the aftermath of frequent shutdowns?

There could be some quick and easy fixes to machine-related downtime.

2: The changeover loss
So much time is lost when either a product or shift is being changed over, because everything is put on hold as the equipment is reconfigured, or the new workers prepare for the next shift.

In total, how long do these change overs take per day, week or month? No doubt, valuable time is misspent and could be used elsewhere.

Optimising your workflow to minimise these unwanted and costly disruptions might be a way to save a lot of time and money.

3: Idling and minor stops
Interruptions to work is a classic example of how time can be wasted in a production line. Rather than having everything ready before starting the job, work is stopped to fetch the materials to feed the station.

Maximise the productivity of your team by making sure they have what they need to do their job from the get-go.

It’s a simple solution that can lead to massive time savings.

4: Reduced speed loss
There are two key things to consider when you want to cut reductions in speed – people and machines. A piece of equipment is designed to perform at a certain rate, but if the settings aren’t configured properly, the machine won’t be performing at the level its manufacturers intended.

Address this issue, and you could achieve drastic improvements in performance.

When it comes to the team working on the production line, each member will have a different level of experience. A skilled person who knows the intricacies of the line will understand all the nuances of the job inside and out, compared to someone new.

To prevent reduced speed losses, it’s fundamental that all new recruits complete a comprehensive enrolment programme so that they too can learn the same ‘dark arts’ as the more experienced employees.

The results? Each person can work safely at an equal rate, and deliver exceptional quality.

5: Quality loss
Failing to make products right first time causes delays. Whether it’s issues with the materials supplied, the approved drawings or the machines, consider what can be done to fix things at the source as opposed to just sticking a plaster on the error and making do.

Reduce the number of reworks, or eliminate them completely, by teasing out the root cause of the problem and finding a proper solution.

6: Start-up and set-up loss
The biggest time vacuum on site is start-up and set-up losses. It’s rare to see a project kick-off exactly as scheduled, because the right resources aren’t always ready when they’re given the green light.

Everything should be set up and in place ahead of time so that nothing falls behind and off-track from the critical path of the project.


The good news is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to stop these frustrations and unnecessary losses. Understanding what the solutions are and how to apply them can have a real positive impact on the supply chain and manufacturing process, resulting in big savings on time, money and materials.

The School has a wealth of free material available to support you to spot the six time stealers within your organisation, take a look here. We’ve also worked with LC International to secure access for organisations to utilise their CITB levy to pay for Lean Foundations skills training. For more information about how LC International can work with you to spot the six time stealers click here.