Imagine you are the site manager. You and your construction team are handling materials and equipment around the clock to accomplish project goals. And here is your client expecting the project to be completed next week and has to be on time. Obviously, you are responsible for tracking those materials to make sure they do not run out and stay replenished.
Sound familiar, right? It is a challenge that every project manager commonly deals with in many cases. Restock slowly, and construction materials may run out and delay the projects. Restock too early, and you will find yourself spending unnecessary money that you might not get back.
It can be a harsh truth to face. And that is why material tracking is crucial for this matter, especially in your construction business that requires material inputs to succeed. Read this blog to discover some of the most effective strategies to track your construction materials successfully, stocks, equipment, etc.
1. Embrace Technology
Have you heard the saying, “Every company is a software company”. Even if you own a construction firm and have not developed your software, this shows that you can benefit from someone else’s software and solutions. In fact, today’s technologies make life and businesses simple and much more manageable.
So, where do you start? Use construction scheduling software that will synchronize data across sites despite being in different locations. These software solutions provide critical information in real-time so you and your team can respond to any inquiries fast, such as sending updates to site managers and contacting suppliers for restocks within seconds.
2. Use Unique Tracking Identifier
Tracking identifiers such as barcodes are a must-have. Barcodes provide each construction material unit with a unique identification. With these unique serial numbers, you can easily track materials from procurement, delivery to storage, and material usage.
Several standard identifiers being used in industries are:
- QR Codes
Many items are being shipped with UPC barcodes on their packaging. In most cases, you can use these barcodes for your construction inventory identifiers.
3. Use Real-Time Tracking
Real-time tracking is a great feature provided by the current modern solutions. Real-time tracking allows you to further track the movements of construction materials on the go.
For instance, some platforms even incorporate real-time tracking for all three core project components – assets, inventory, and materials, with specific project timelines, further improving the overall productivity of your construction business, which is a real win.
4. Plan Your Construction Inventory Management System
It is smart to plan your inventory supply system for common scenarios. Asking the following questions will help you:
- If a project site is out from the primary coverage area, where are the secondary points?
- Where is the main storage and delivery point for inventory?
- Where should inventory deliveries be sent for last-minute orders?
- When should you consider paying fees to expedite delivery?
All the questions above must be addressed in your inventory system groundwork. Moreover, train your team to be well-versed with your company’s warehouse and storage locations. Run them through the procedures to know how to mitigate issues like incorrect deliveries and damaged materials when an order arrives. This is for better service and improved efficiency.
5. Keep a record of every location, status, and custodian change and report on usage
Maintain a record every single time that a material changes location, status, or custodian. This creates a clear audit trail and practically drives accountability. By simply making a habit of checking and scanning items in and out through the process, you can determine bottlenecks.
You will also quickly determine assets and parts that are not being utilized. This is very helpful since it drives efficiency as they can be re-allocated.
6. Get out of spreadsheets
Are you familiar with spreadsheets? Spreadsheets are amongst the widely used software tools in every business. And for an excellent reason, everyone is using it. This comprehensively row-column setup provides an excellent means for structuring a massive amount of data. However, spreadsheets have their drawbacks and cons. Major downsides of spreadsheets when it comes to tracking construction materials are:
- Collaboration by many users is limited
- Tons of data = slower spreadsheets
- Data is not updated in real-time
- They are prone to human errors
- Lack of data integrity
- It is complex to set permissions for various roles and manage security
- They do not send out automated alerts and notifications
- · Limited to no integration to other systems and hardware
- There is no historical changelog of who did this, that and when.
7. Make sure all documentation is available to the teams
Once your online inventory software is actively used, start attaching and adding relevant material documentation for every item, from manuals to certifications, inspection documents, instructions, dockets, warranty forums, etc. Record preservation history to constantly maintain warranty entitlements. Ideally, you want to add images that provide evidence of the condition of all materials at the specific time of the transaction.
By simply maintaining everything in the cloud-based system, you and your team will have the necessary information despite being in different locations. This provides all the data you need to manage the entire lifecycle of construction materials.
8. Proactively Manage Supplier Relationships
Inventory supply partners are a crucial aspect of your inventory planning processes and your company operations. It is important to implement best practices to help you get the most from your construction suppliers. This includes:
· Become more transparent when dealing with your suppliers so they can understand why you specifically need the materials. Let them know as well when you might be willing to pay a premium for expanded processing. The better your communication with them is, the minor problems you will encounter ordering materials.
- If you work within a strict timeline, observe last-minute delivery services to hustle up your orders. Last-minute delivery service providers specialize in rushed orders, so there is a lesser risk of them losing and damaging your materials.
- Cost overruns and project delays can often arise from contract disputes which end badly. Ensure to clarify key performance points to ensure that you are all on the same page. Clarify delivery dates, refund and return policies, expected product quality during negotiations and prices, including tax and miscellaneous fees)
Through this way, you lessen supplier disagreements from significantly affecting your overall operations.
Managing Your Inventory and People across Jobsites
Between your materials/equipment and people, plenty is invested in each job site. Managing your team and inventory across different job sites, timetables, and plans can become crucial with locations in many phases, each demanding other materials and equipment. Hence, the challenges only increase. Missing products and minor delays can frustrate the team and may slow down progress. In worst cases, it shuts down the entire operation.
Managing your stocks and people requires a facility-wide, diligent approach to inventory. So with a strong plan, alongside the right tools to automate construction inventory, you can get an assurance that the right work gets done on time.
- Tracking Your People and Materials at Scale – Multiple job sites require inventory and juggling teams across projects at every stage. So, products, materials and people all need to arrive at the right time, preventing roadblocks and shutdowns that cost money. Inventory includes all materials and tools needed to get the job done, but overstock and understock often occur at scale.
- Problems with Inventory across job sites– Every job site needs its inventory outside the central store. Tool cribs might store the most common items for your team, but the inventory with the correct list and specialized equipment has to be there first.
- Managing Team-Wide and Local Tool Inventory – Keeping track of your inventory before the job is the fastest and easiest way to determine what tools in and out stick across stores and sites. How do you track your equipment with multiple sites? Both construction inventory lists and specialized inventory software can make a difference.
- Managing People and Specialized Equipment – Getting vehicles and people to sites on time require the same inventory and specialized techs to automate the whole process. And like any other product, fleet vehicles can be tracked as inventory, with details on when the car is in use and what set of resources it requires.
With everything that has been stated above, it all points to one – a reliable inventory management software to keep track of the entire moving parts. This specialized software helps you manage your inventory and assist you in monitoring your warehouse much better since you have a centralized system of monitoring.
All you ever need is Pro Crew Schedule – a super simple inventory and cloud-based project management software that can help you seamlessly track your materials, items/stocks, equipment, etc. It keeps tabs on your entire inventory across multiple sites.
Get started with a 30-day free trial and see why Construction Professionals trust Pro Crew Schedule.
Construction firms are low-margin businesses where smaller inefficiencies in inventory management may quickly add up. Use the tips/strategies above to drill down some inefficiencies of construction materials. This is also to ensure that your company builds real-time success now and in the future.