In any construction project, no matter the size, building materials and their management is always a critical factor in profitability.
A general rule of thumb in the industry is that spending on construction materials and equipment can account for up to 70% of a project’s capital cost, making proper management of this particular expenditure an absolute necessity.
This, though, is far from straightforward, particularly since a materials management plan requires input from several key project personnel – from supervisors to engineers and quality control staff – and is constantly updated throughout a project’s life cycle.
The good news, however, is that there are certain tried and tested ways to optimize this process, and here we’ll walk you through some of them.
Managing Building Materials: An Overview
The most important objective when it comes to managing construction materials is ensuring that quality, quantity, and costs are all at an optimum level at all times.
Some of the key fundamentals of building materials management are:
• Procurement is planned and managed based on sales forecasts and production plans. This includes setting a purchasing budget, forecasting inventory levels, scheduling orders, and making timely adjustments whenever required.
• Setting a schedule for each stage of the project to help the materials manager and supplier develop cohesive strategies.
• Finding a reliable supplier who guarantees timely deliveries and products of the requisite quality.
• A common mistake made by contractors looking to manage costs is partnering with suppliers offering the lowest prices, often at the expense of quality and punctuality. More often than not, this approach leads to problems that disrupt the workflow and ends up costing more in the long run.
• A reliable supplier will not only provide quality products on time, but also bring industry experience to the table. Their advice on materials and their applications can often prove invaluable.
• A good supplier will provide high-quality products from top brands at competitive prices to suit a contractor’s budget and will be open to adjustments according to a project’s needs.
• While choosing a supplier, it is always a good idea to go through evaluations made by other customers, particularly about their after-sales services.
• It is essential that a supplier has the logistical capacity to deliver products directly to the construction site. This will protect materials from unnecessary wear and tear, as well as ensure that workers have direct access at the site, saving precious time and energy.
It’s always good to have a plan for storing building materials on site to ensure the smooth flow of work, enhance safety, and reduce construction waste. Here are some points to keep in mind:
• Building materials must be categorized and organized, particularly hazardous and flammable items. For example, storing chlorine with ammonia runs the risk of releasing toxic gases, while materials such as paint are highly flammable.
• Follow occupational safety rules by storing materials in places that do not obstruct pedestrian traffic or the movement of vehicles and construction equipment.
• Store materials according to weight, with lighter ones on upper shelves and heavier ones nearer the ground. Make sure to install heavy-duty shelves that can handle the load.
• Avoid keeping materials on the ground, where they can absorb moisture, which affects their quality.
• There can never be enough emphasis on safety at construction sites. All necessary precautions must be taken when materials are being transported or stored to avoid accidents that can cause severe, or even fatal, injuries.
• Planks should be stacked in a self-supporting order, not exceeding 20 feet in height, and bricks should not be stacked more than 7 feet high.
• Monitoring systems, alarms, and locks are highly recommended to prevent misuse or theft of expensive materials, such as copper and steel pipes. There should be security systems in place at warehouses, with entry limited to only authorized personnel.
• The environmental impact of construction waste is a major area of focus in modern-day construction. Recycling should be a priority at all times and there should be separate containers for different types of waste, such as chemical, glass, sawdust, metals, paper, etc.
Contractors should ask suppliers to provide materials needed for each specific stage of a project.
For example, suppliers should provide customized packages for work in a particular area, such as rooms, bathrooms, etc.
This helps reduce waste, costs, and leads to overall better management and flow of work.
Keeping a track of quantities in storage is more useful than forecasts and rough estimates.
Periodic monitoring allows for timely restocking, averting possible delays that can prove costly in terms of both money and time.
Good stock management also means being able to get access to required materials even when they are scarce in the market.
There are several mobile applications and programs to track stocks and access warehouse information remotely at all times, even for multiple construction sites simultaneously.
Isn’t that exactly what we’re trying to avoid? Won’t it lead to waste of materials?
In most cases, yes, but there are certain instances when buying in bulk makes better business sense: Think large projects, or several construction sites with similar design, specifications, and material needs.
Here, buying in bulk will be an excellent strategy to cut down on unnecessary expenses.
This also applies to basic construction materials that feature in almost every project, regardless of size and design.
We’re referring to things such as concrete, framing materials, and drywall, all of which are best purchased in bulk and at wholesale prices.
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