What a Waste of Time

Søren Wandahl1, Hasse H. Neve2 & Jon Lerche3

1Professor, Dept. of Civil and Architectural Engineering, Aarhus University, Denmark, +45 4189 3216, [email protected],
2Consultant, Senior Associate, PhD, PwC, Aarhus, Denmark, +45 2879 1838, [email protected],
3PostDoc, PhD, Department of Business Development and Technology, Aarhus University, Denmark, +45 6013 3595, [email protected],


The elimination of waste is a core focus of lean construction. Reducing waste will increase work efficiency. For several years it has been debated how flow and the efficiency of processes can be measured. Kalsaas, Koskela, and others conclude that in order to operationalize workflow measures, it must be disconnected from productivity and throughput measures and instead focus on work efficiency. However, an extensive and valid baseline of work time efficiency is missing in the community. The establishment of such becomes the objective of this research. The method is an extensive litterateur review that identified 474 case studies of time waste measures from the 1970s until today. This sample is analyzed in different ways, among others showing that the average direct work time is 43.6%. The results show that the sample contains considerable uncertainty, which is mainly due to an inconsistent understanding of direct work, indirect work, and waste work in the many different studies. Besides, the results show no statistically significant difference between the performance of varying trades or between countries. The construction industry can use this research as a baseline for the current direct work level and apply this as a benchmark in a continuous improvement process.


Waste, time, work sampling, productivity



Wandahl, S. , Neve, H. H. & Lerche, J. 2021, 'What a Waste of Time' In:, Proc. 29th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction (IGLC). Lima, Peru, 14-16 Jul 2021. pp 157-166

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