Productivity project wins new life with industry funding

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by Richard Gilbert last update:Oct 16, 2014

Several general contractors are making a significant financial contribution to support a unique research project at the University of Calgary, which develops innovative tools and best practices to improve construction productivity.


“The significance of this financial contribution is that this is the fourth time these contractors have decided to fund this project, which means they recognize the value of this type of research,” said Dr. Janaka Ruwanpura, a professor in the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary.

“They are also contributing more each time, so they recognize the need for the research and are sastisfied with the results.”

EllisDon Construction Services Ltd., Stuart Olson Dominion Construction, Graham Construction and Engineering Inc. and PCL Construction Management are each contributing $100,000 to the next phase (2013-2016) of the research project titled I3P – Innovation, Improvement and Issues on Productivity.

The funding announcement was made during a Calgary Construction Association breakfast meeting held for John Schubert, chairman of the Canadian Construction Association at Buildex Calgary.

The Calgary Construction Association made a $45,000 contribution.

Ruwanpura, who is the director of the Centre for Project Management Excellence at the University of Calgary, has been involved in a Canadian Construction Productivity Improvement research project since 2003.

The project has received more than $1.5 million in funding from these contractors and several others in 2004, 2006 and 2009.

During this period, the research team led by Ruwanpura has developed more than 25 tools and best practices that have been successfully implemented in the construction industry for productivity improvement, project planning, risk management, decision analysis and sustainability.

According to Ruwanpura, the two key projects being developed by his productivity researchers are a new position called a construction productivity officer and a new product, the i-Booth, to manage information on construction sites.

The latest round of research funding will allow the development of the 3rd Generation i-Booth, which is an advanced kiosk designed to improve information integration between office and site, as well as on-site communication between different project personnel and construction workers.

The kiosk has a large-scale multi-touch high-definition display and the latest advancements in distributed data warehousing and security technologies.

There are two versions of the information kiosk – a mobile kiosk and a wall-mounted kiosk.

They include design drawings, shop drawings, safety instructions, specifications, BIM or three-dimensional models of assigned work, certifications, weather forecasts, maps and productivity targets.

The second generation i-Booth was launched on April 18 and the third generation kiosk will be linked with handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets for Windows, Apple and Android platforms.

The i-Booth was designed by Ph.D. candidate Lahiru Silva and the information software framework was designed by research associate Kamal Ranaweera.

Ruwanpura also sent a graduate student to work at a couple of jobsites for a period of 10 weeks as a construction productivity officer.

This involved monitoring, collecting and analyzing data about specific trades and identifying site-specific practices that reduce or eliminate inefficient practices.

The officers were able to increase productivity by 20 per cent and tool time by eight per cent in a twenty week period.

This was achieved by bringing about 52 best practices into these sites.

Using these results, Ruwanpura proposed to introduce the construction productivity officer to all jobsites.

In this new role, the officer will work with the site team to develop a productivity plan and then collect information to monitor the plan and come up with solutions to problems.

This person will make suggestions at team meetings, but can’t speak or give direct instruction to workers, as this is being done by the trade superintendents and supervisors.

As part of the breakfast meeting, Ruwanpura was also renewed in his position as a Canada Research Chair by Ted Menzies, Minister of State for Finance.

The five-year position is for exceptional emerging researchers, acknowledged by their peers as having the potential to lead in their field.

As a result of Ruwanpura being renewed in this position, the university receives $100,000 annually for five years.

last update:Oct 16, 2014

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