This paper was first published in the Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering, Vol. 21, 1994 pp 939-953, under the title "A Pragmatic Approach to Using Resource Loading, Production and Learning Curves on Construction Projects". It has been modified only to the extent necessary to make it presentable in web page format.

Published here October, 2001.

Abstract | Introduction | Resource Loading | S-curves | What can be Learned?
Productivity Improvement | Learning vs. Experience | Original Theory | Two Approaches
Illustration | Issues | Conclusions | References | Appendix 1 | Appendix 2 


In order to optimize productivity on new facility construction, the input of resources including men, materials and equipment, is varied according to the planned timing and availability of the work. This applies on all but the smallest construction jobs where minimal crew size may limit flexibility. However, even on quite small "maintenance projects" this flexibility may be facilitated by managing the manpower levels over several concurrent assignments. This optimizing of productivity results in an initial period of build up, a period of peak loading, followed by a period of progressive demobilizing. This typical profile, or curve, when plotted cumulatively over time for a whole project, results in another typical curve in the shape of the letter "S".

The purpose of this paper is to present some rules of thumb relating to these curves which have resulted from experience on new civil and building construction work. These rules of thumb suggest simple ways to draw first approximations for cumulative resource or production curves over the life of the project. The first relates to resource loading, i.e. men, materials, equipment or cash. A second relates to the consequent production output. The two curves are closely related and it is suggested that the difference can be accounted for by the effects of learning. The phenomenon of learning itself is also explored to show how it may be used for planning or tracking repetitive tasks on construction work.

These relationships have been found by the author to be most helpful for preliminary project planning, for checking the validity of proposed plans, or for analyzing the records of completed work. Since the author has used these techniques while employed variously by owners, developers, and general contractors, it is hoped that they will be seen as beneficial for anyone in similar positions.

In the following discussion, unless otherwise stated, the presumption is that the project is or will be "well run". For the definition of a well-run construction job, refer to Appendix 1.

***  Abstract

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