Tips for More Effective Materials Management

Save time and money with these 7 strategies.

Materials management has a huge impact on project productivity, not to mention project costs. Whether you’re constantly bringing in deliveries, wasting time sitting around waiting for needed materials or spending too much time getting materials where they need to be, inefficient management costs you time and money.

Careful materials management is even more important now, as material prices continue to shoot up. Start with these practices.

Use a reliable supplier/distributor

Getting materials before you need them can be half the battle. Rather than choosing the lowest-cost supplier, build relationships with reliable ones you can trust so you don’t end up with the wrong materials, faulty materials or late deliveries. These relationships will pay off, particularly when you find yourself in a pinch to get new product in a rush. A good supplier will also work with you on optimal delivery frequency so you’re neither spending your time taking too many deliveries nor waiting for product.

Track delivery times

If a supplier doesn’t deliver materials on time despite promising to do so, it may be time to find a new one, unless the manufacturer has, for whatever reason, run out.

Know your inventory

If you can’t find it, you can’t use it — and you’re likely to overorder it. If you’re a smaller company and you’re not using a cloud-based inventory system, consider assigning someone to manage inventory. Regularly checking product levels against the evolving schedule will give you time to act if material counts are off. And no, checking inventory doesn’t mean glancing into storage to eyeball the number of 2x4s left; it means getting accurate counts and checking them against book figures or established safety stock levels.

Embrace tech

There are plenty of inventory management software programs available to help manage this task. AddingaGPS label, RFID tag or QR code to your custom curtainwall units or pipe spools could make finding the right items in your laydown yard as simple as glancing at your tablet for the exact coordinates and simple directions.

Related: Using Drones to Track Jobsite Materials

Keep materials close

Having needed materials close at hand keeps people working rather than moving back and forth for supplies. Solutions might include using pre-stocked rolling job carts that move customized inventory to the installation point; job trailers that secure materials; and vendor-managed inventory services in which a third party manages inventory replenishment at the building site.

Secure your materials 

Materials make up the largest cost of a project, and if they’re stolen, your project costs go up. Good lighting, including motion sensor lights, is an effective first step for securing jobsites. Fencing, with limited entry points, can also help limit this crime of opportunity. Keep in mind, too, that disorganized inventory is more likely to “walk away” with an employee. When employees know you check inventory frequently, they’re less likely to risk taking materials off-site.

Related: Project Security: How to Keep Your Site Safe around the Clock

Limit storage by using product kits

Just-in-time delivery demands careful preplanning, but it’s possible from a reliable supplier. Look for a supplier who is willing to package and deliver product kits as needed, based on your schedule. With upfront kitting, in which components that are used together are pre-packaged in one kit, contractors can significantly speed installation while also reducing on-site waste.

In construction, efficiency is key to productivity — and boosting profits. Good materials management processes can help you avoid overordering, keep crews working at maximum speed to help you complete projects on time and on schedule.

Megan Headley has been writing about every aspect of the built environment since 2004. As owner of ClearStory Publications, LLC, Megan demonstrates her passion for helping contractors create more productive and safer jobsites, and more sustainable and successful projects.

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