The Right Approach to Material Management Can Save Time and Money
By Kevin Sturm, Construction Executive
Four Areas That Make the Most Impact
Material management is the system for planning and controlling to ensure the right quality and quantity of materials are specified in a timely manner and at the lowest possible cost through all construction phases.
For the contractor and subcontractor, implementing effective material management can have a significant impact on four key areas of the project’s time and cost. It’s never too late to rethink and improve material management strategy.
INCREASE LABOR PRODUCTIVITY
Labor productivity is the number of man hours it takes to install a specified unit of material, and is a vital metric on construction projects. Tracking the quantity of material in real time as it is installed creates visibility for contractors and owners to identify early warning signs of a problem before it creates a serious impact to the project’s budget or schedule. Labor productivity analysis provides valuable data to estimate the percentage complete throughout the project schedule, and also serves to increase confidence in accuracy of bids on future projects.
IMPROVE OVERALL PROJECT EFFICIENCY
Material handling tasks can consume up to 40 percent of a field crew’s effort on a project, and has been recognized as a major cause of unproductive time on the jobsite. Tracking material can create significant reduction in time spent locating and moving material by referencing accurate storage locations, improving overall project efficiency and reducing potential delays in the project schedule.
Depending on the size and complexity of the construction project, there are a number of technology solutions that can enhance effective material management processes. GPS locations, RFID tags, Bluetooth/NFC devices and QR codes can be implemented to track individual pieces of material. Drones and remote access cameras can be used to track and identify the location of large storage locations as well as equipment required to manage installation of material.
Additionally, with or without the technology solutions outlined above, construction management software offers contractors the ability to notate on drawings the exact location of materials delivered to the construction site––decreasing time spent looking for required material.
It’s estimated that new construction projects generate up to 53 tons of waste in the United States each year. Material waste in new construction includes rejected structures or materials, materials that have been over-ordered or are surplus to requirements and materials which have been used and discarded.
Effective material management processes and implementation of Lean Construction methods can effectively decrease material waste and will, in turn, have a positive impact on project costs.
Two primary areas of focus that decrease material waste during the construction phase are the project schedule and material storage. Closely managing these two areas ensures that:
- material is stored securely in optimal locations in order to reduce theft and potential loss of material; and
- material arrives when it is needed in order to decrease unnecessary storage time and avoid potential deterioration during storage.
Implementing additional lean construction methods can decrease material waste in all phases of the construction project.
IMPROVED PLANNING AND BUDGET ACCURACY
Lastly, improved project planning and budgeting is a vital outcome of an effective material management process. Since materials make up a major percentage of the project budget, accurately forecasting and planning for material costs throughout the project ensures the previously outlined key benefits are better achieved and potentially improved.
The implementation of construction management software and good material management processes also gives contractors access to invaluable historical project data. This data empowers companies with the ability to analyze material costs and better execute current and future projects based on data-driven decisions.