Transforming Construction : The Power of Digital Material Management

Material Management in Construction

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Ever wondered why your construction project, which was all set to be completed within budget, ended up emptying your pockets? The answer might lie within the dusty old ledgers and disorganised stacks of receipts, a proof to the traditional practices of recording and maintaining material usage. You guessed it right! Poor material management in construction projects has been a consistent reason in the history of cost overruns.

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Material management in construction is the process of procuring, allocating, and disposing of construction materials. It’s more than just purchasing and delivering materials, it involves a wide array of activities aimed at sourcing materials on time and at a reasonable cost for every construction project. It’s safe to say that this process is vital as it ensures meeting project goals.

Material management issues

While the traditional methods of manual or pen-and-paper material management in construction have served the industry for a long time, these practices are increasingly being recognised as inefficient and error-prone, leading to several pain points for different stakeholders. 

For the construction owner, manual material management can lead to budget overruns and missed deadlines due to the lack of real-time visibility into the inventory levels and the status of material procurement and usage. Moreover, this lack of transparency can lead to strained relationships with clients who demand accountability and progress updates.

Clients, on the other hand, are affected by the inability to accurately forecast project completion times and costs due to inefficient material management. This uncertainty can negatively impact their own planning and budgeting processes.

For site engineers/supervisors, manual material management often means additional workload, as they have to constantly update inventory records, track material usage, and coordinate with suppliers. Furthermore, the lack of a centralised system can lead to miscommunication and errors, ultimately affecting the overall project execution.

The issues faced in traditional material management are:

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1. Lack of Real-Time Visibility – Traditional methods do not provide real-time updates on inventory levels and material usage, leading to inefficiencies and potential delays.

2. Budget Overruns – Manual tracking can lead to errors in procurement and usage, leading to budget overruns.

3. Inaccurate Forecasting – The inability to accurately forecast material needs can lead to project delays and increased costs.

4. Increased Workload for Site Managers – Without a centralised system, site managers are left to manually update inventory records and coordinate with suppliers.

5. Lack of Accountability – Without a clear and transparent tracking system, it’s hard to establish accountability for material usage and procurement.

6. Strained Client Relationships – The lack of transparency and the potential for delays and cost overruns can strain relationships with clients.

The Digital Revolution – Apps and Software Systems

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Effective construction material management often includes activities such as planning and acquisition of materials, scheduling and transportation, quality control, storage and inventory management, and waste management. Digital tools have the potential to greatly enhance construction material management, which is the process of procuring, allocating, and disposing of construction materials. 

Digital tools can help in several ways:

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1. Planning and Acquisition – Digital tools can help in identifying the right materials that fit the project requirements in terms of quality, type, and purpose. They can also assist in ensuring that materials are ordered in sufficient quantities to meet the project demands.

2. Scheduling and Transportation – With digital tools, companies can ensure that materials are ordered and delivered on time, and that they are delivered to the right construction site. This can help to avoid double handling and unnecessary delays.

3. Quality Control – Digital tools can assist in monitoring the quality of materials, ensuring they meet the required standards and specifications.

4. Storage and Inventory Management – One of the biggest benefits of digital tools is in inventory management. Regularly updating inventory records is necessary to avoid running out of resources in the middle of a construction task. 

5. Waste Management – Digital tools can help track waste generation and disposal, ensuring that waste management practices comply with environmental regulations.

Regular monitoring and updating of inventory records, facilitated by these tools, prevent shortages of resources crucial to ongoing construction tasks. Asset tracking software provides a comprehensive overview of inventory, enabling timely replenishment of stock levels and prevention of over-ordering.

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A recent survey indicated a significant reduction in material wastage and improvement in project timelines when digital tools were used for construction material management. These tools not only help in tracking and managing materials but also play a crucial role in generating and analyzing daily material reports and bills. 

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Coordinated construction material management activities can significantly improve a company’s operational efficiency. Following the “Five Rights” (Rs) in construction material management can aid in planning and executing material management strategies. These include obtaining the right materials, in the right quantities, at the right time, delivered to the right place, and at the right price.

Conclusion

In conclusion, material management techniques have evolved significantly over time to meet the demands of the construction industry. However, our acceptance of these new digital tools seems to be moving at a pace reminiscent of a snail racing against a hare. It’s high time we embraced these technologies that could potentially revolutionise our construction projects.

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Imagine the day when a missing bolt can be traced with a few clicks or a crane operator gets notified just in time to reorder fuel. That’s the power of digital material management in construction, waiting to be harnessed.

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Kumar Abhishek Anand
Kumar Abhishek Anand

Kumar is a digital content professional with more than 2 years of experience in Blog writing, copywriting and scripting. His passion lies in the art of creating convincing content that plays a major role in converting leads for SAAS businesses.

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