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Creating High-Quality Work Instructions for Construction Workers

Project Team

Martin Fischer, Rui Liu


Current methods of producing work instructions for construction workers do not focus sufficiently on the value added to the final building product, on workers’ concerns, and on incorporating last-minute changes in designs, specifications, work methods, or plans. We propose to develop a method to create high-quality work instructions for construction workers. The work instructions will apply the part concept to structure value-focused information about the building components. The work instructions will also address workers’ concerns and unpredicted changes. Last, the work instructions will be generated automatically to make them digital so that they can be just-in-time.

Project Background

Work instructions could help effectively convey design and construction information to construction sites, where construction workers build and add value to the final product. Given that research on work instructions for construction workers has been limited, this research intends to develop high-quality work instructions. “Value-adding” is the core characteristic that this research aims to achieve through the formalization of a method to generate high-quality work instructions. Hence, this Seed Proposal is using the concept of “part” defined by the previous CIFE Seed Proposal – Managing Construction Parts, because a part is value-focused and will ensure that construction workers continuously add value to the final building product.

We see the following extensions necessary to previous research on generating field instructions:

  • Extend criteria on high-quality work instructions for construction workers; the main differences to Mourgues’ method are that work instructions would be more value- adding, informed of changes, attentive to worker’s concerns and just-in-time;

  • Build a part-related information structure to represent value-focused design and construction information based on the part concept;

  • Identify workers’ concerns regarding health, safety, and payment;

  • Identify changes with high likelihood of occurrence and severe consequences; and

  • Develop a framework that enables automated creation of high-quality work instructions.

Research Objectives

This research intends to develop high-quality work instructions which are more value-adding, informed of changes, attentive to workers’ concerns and just-in-time. We will try to achieve the listed primary goals:

• Study existing work instructions in the construction industry;

• Develop and validate high-quality work instructions; and

• Automate the process of creating high-quality work instructions.

Expected Results

Expected contributions of this research are as follows:

• Extended criteria on high-quality work instructions for construction workers: value-adding, informed of changes, attentive to workers’ concerns and just-in-time;

 A framework and an automated method of creating high-quality work instructions, which will provide construction workers with more value-focused information so that they can continuously add value to the final building product;

• High-quality work instructions that address changes and workers’ concerns. 

This research presents innovative efforts towards developing high-quality work instructions which can contribute to construction management at construction sites. The high- quality work instructions can also function as a formal way to document on-site instructions so that upstream actors (e.g., contractor) can get a better understanding and control of tasks at construction sites. In addition, as we are applying the part concept from the previous CIFE Seed Research – Managing Construction Parts, we think a most effective way to disseminate the part concept is to embed it into construction workers’ routine tasks. High-quality work instructions provide the channel to make this transformation happen. We estimate that it may take 2-5 years, including the time for validation, for the whole industry to adopt the high-quality work instructions. Throughout the processes, we will generate reports and/or papers to publicize the research results.

Field Study with Accu-Crete

For the past year, I collaborated with one of our CIFE members, Accu-Crete, to conduct a field study on the validation of field work instructions.

Before giving the instructions I developed to the field crew, I investigated the current way of how they were performing tasks on the jobsite. My observation showed that oral instructions were used as the superintendents and/or foremen gave directives to the laborers. Miscommunications sometimes occurred and led to problems (e.g., rework). In addition, the superintendents and foremen were carrying drawings as their major reference, which implied that the main focus of the crew was the product information. Regarding information about different construction processes, the laborers might know how to perform their tasks based on their prior experience, or the superintendents and/or foremen told them what to do by giving oral directives.

To make sure that the instructions I developed were applicable, I customized the instructions based on the information of ongoing projects. For qualitative analysis, I asked for field crew’s opinions on the usefulness of field instructions, and superintendents, foremen and laborers indicated that the instructions could be helpful to them. However, it was difficult to collect quantitative metrics to evaluate to which extent the instructions could help field crew improve their performance. In addition, I observed that field crews were not so willing to include the use of instructions into their daily processes.

The reasons accounting for the above-mentioned results are as follows:

• Field crews already developed their own ways to do tasks and they thought it was not necessary to refer to the instructions, which could be cause extra work for them;

• The instructions were delivered in a way which was not convenient for the field crew to use;

• The instructions could not be easily understood by some of the field crews as they have varied levels of education; and

• For quantitative analysis, CY/MH was collected at the project level and therefore the data could not be used to evaluate the impact of instructions.

Original Research Proposal

Research Proposal

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