Image credit: GoCodes
Every construction project comes down to its building blocks – the materials – that are required to create a structure from the ground up, renovate it, or expand it. Investing in material management in construction allows both owners and stakeholders to keep a track of two of the most important construction aspects: procurement and material tracking. Most construction teams face challenges in material management when they do not know how to manage their orders, store materials, and track equipment properly. This results in lots of details disappearing through the cracks with no clarity on where the resources are or when they should be used. In this article, we will talk about the importance of good material management and ways to achieve it.
Material Management In Construction
Definition And Purpose
Material management refers to the use of technology and different services to optimize the procurement, storage, allocation, utilization, tracking, and disposal of construction materials. It follows the life cycle of each material, tool, or equipment from the moment it gets shipped for delivery to the point where it becomes a part of your constructed building.
The main goal is to source the required materials for your project on time and within budget for each stage of construction. This ensures the quality and efficiency of a construction project through effective inventory control. Missing materials, damaged equipment, and poorly stocked resources can disrupt the workflow immensely and lead to costly reorders and delays, so good material management in construction eliminates issues with budgets and schedules. It covers everything from purchasing materials at reasonable rates to getting the last unit out to the jobsite.
Some of the activities associated with material management include:
- Negotiating supplier contracts
- Selecting the right vendors
- Planning the type, quality, and quantity of materials needed
- Purchasing the right type and quantity of materials
- Handling logistics
- Managing delivery schedules
- Storing/stocking materials
- Tracking inventories
- Managing and limiting waste
- Replenishing stocks
It is important for construction managers and contractors to source the right materials at the right time. They should be compatible with the project scope and quality standards, and you need to decide the correct quantities for each resource to prevent excesses or leftovers. In addition, your materials should be delivered to their respective locations on your jobsite and be easily accessible where needed to prevent double handling (which refers to frequent material relocation due to incorrect placement around a jobsite). Proper material management strategies in construction take care of all of this and streamline the whole process by giving you a clear roadmap and an excellent head start on the work.
Some common materials used in construction include timber, cement, bricks, gravel, stone, steel, lead, soil, adhesives, glass, oil, paints, and plastic.
Since factors like inflation and high demand create material shortages, construction companies need to coordinate their material management tasks to select the required materials based on their availability and place reorders for the same (to ensure timely restocking).
Benefits Of Material Management
Material management offers several benefits to construction managers and contractors. We tried to summarize them into a short list for a quick read – and failed tremendously – so here is a deep dive into the range of benefits you can get from using material management in construction:
- Increased productivity. With good material management, jobsite workers receive everything they need for the day at the right time and place and in exact quantities. This prevents labor downtimes and unnecessary delays, keeping the project focused and on track. Otherwise, a lot of valuable time is wasted searching for the required items – or worse, waiting for them to arrive on the site just before they need to be used in construction.
- Better site logistics. Proper material management in construction places your materials and equipment just where they are needed on a site (usually in a dedicated storage area), ensuring that they move from point A to point B as efficiently as possible and do not require any further relocation. This makes them accessible to the right workers depending on where each resource is needed (which further simplifies task allocation and lets everyone know clearly what materials they need). By reducing the number of times your materials travel, you can prevent duplicate handling and the risk of damaging your inventories in the process – all of which can cause project delays and costly reorders.
- Streamlined communication. Using effective material management strategies helps you keep relevant stakeholders and workers updated on the procurement and inventory aspects – which improves communication and allows teams to prepare for the upcoming project stage. This also supports instant quality checks so that managers can place timely reorders for the right materials in case the delivered ones are not up to the mark.
- Improved budgeting. You can prevent overspending on materials and stay within reasonable budgets by using material management techniques. For example, bulk ordering comes with good discounts and is excellent for optimizing budgets. You can place timely reorders to restock your inventory using the most competitive pricing available to you. Material and equipment costs can take up to 70% of your project costs, so it is important to pay close attention to them.
- Better storage and safety. Construction material management reduces the “idle time” of your materials in which they are waiting to be used. The more quickly and efficiently you take them to the task at hand, the lower the chances of them getting damaged by rain, storms, dust, or other construction hazards. With smart material management, you can organize proper storage conditions required for different materials on the jobsite, and this includes considerations for weather-proofed enclosures and temperature controls.
- Less wastage. Through improved site logistics, correct deliveries/quantities/types, and better material safety, you ultimately reduce the number of wasted materials in your project. The problem with receiving extra materials is that the unused units will go to waste, causing you to spend additional planning and money on their storage and eventual disposal. Likewise, materials that get damaged or expired in storage are a huge loss for the construction company, as this leads to expensive reordering when it could have been avoided through careful storage planning.
- Data centralization. Lastly, all of the above benefits of construction management are made possible through the use of construction management software that centralizes your material data for everyone to see on one platform. This streamlines inventory updates for those working with these materials, boosts real-time communication, supports material tracking from wherever you are, enables quick material documentation, and facilitates reporting. These app-supported systems offer automated services that work smoothly behind the scenes and present all the data you need instantly on your smartphone or iPad. Therefore, it is important to leverage the digital power of material management, and we will visit this further below.
Tips For Better Management
The most common challenges with material management in construction include material shortages, delivery delays, miscommunications, incorrect material types or quantities, deliveries to the wrong locations, inventory tracking, and storage issues. Here are some tips to improve your material management process to ensure the longevity of your resources and the overall success of your project:
- Place orders in advance and prioritize your schedules based on each shipment.
- Establish crystal-clear communication with your vendors, other stakeholders, and site workers.
- Use a relevant material management app that also integrates with your existing construction software.
- Automate inventory tracking to restock materials on time and prevent excessive reordering.
- Invest in warehouse or site automation to streamline inventories for larger projects.
- Ensure proper ventilation, temperature controls, weatherproofing, and correct placements in terms of material weight.
Construction Material Management Software
So far, we have seen that material management is a key consideration for construction companies and that a relevant software system is needed to make it possible. To understand how this actually works, we will take the example of the GoCodes tool tracking software. It is one of the best material management software technologies in construction designed to improve the visibility of your procurement stages, inventories, and disposal tasks.
The whole system is based on these two simple elements:
- Barcoded or QR-coded identifier tags: you can attach a tag on each material unit or equipment for tracking.
- Your smartphone: to enable QR code scanning for reading the unit’s information.
Since GoCodes is a cloud-based software, you can access material information anywhere, anytime. The tags include details like quantity, location, scanning history, notes by other workers, and so on. This streamlines site logistics by helping you check in and check out each unit easily, which in turn automates inventory updates so that everyone knows the current levels and can place reorders on time. GoCodes also automatically sends out email alerts for low inventory levels, so you can trust it for improving the real-time visibility of your inventories.
By tagging your construction materials in this way, you will have no more issues with missing materials or equipment. You can easily track where your assets are, who is using them, how much is left in stock, and so on. With features like GPS tracking, scheduling, and QR-code tagging, you can centralize all your material management activities on the same platform. You can use the right type of tags with hand tools, industrial equipment, machinery, or vehicles – so you are not just tracking construction materials with GoCodes. It is a complete asset management solution that brings all your resources on one map for simpler tracking.
GoCodes is particularly ideal for tracking and managing high-risk materials that are crucial for your project – so you can use the system to store them in the best way and manage their movements throughout the site. With all of these processes available at a click, you can optimize material documentation aspects as well and simply improve your managerial standpoint.
In order to use a material, tool, or equipment in construction, you have to find it first, and this can be challenging in busy jobsites with so many resources to manage and track. Good material management skills in construction can help you connect several dots and achieve clarity on this intricate process. By leveraging material management software, you can rely on end-to-end services that follow each unit through its procurement, shipment, storage, utilization, and disposal phases – so everything appears on your management radar, and nothing goes out of sight, out of mind.