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By John Biggs
November 13, 2017
Any construction project is a virtual ballet of resource allocation, from ensuring the right materials are ordered in the proper quantities, to securing the correct machinery and vehicles to get the job done. Any shortfall or excess can affect the project’s bottom line, resulting in a mad scramble to obtain additional materials, which can be costly and time consuming.
That said, construction companies are employing technology to track these resources in a more granular way than allowed by paper-based tracking in days past as a time and cost-savings measure. This Information and Communication Technology (ICT) helps cut waste, reduce cycle times and facilitate product procurement in the purchasing phase.
Large-scale projects are especially vulnerable to cost overruns and waste because of inaccurate materials ordering or jobsite downtime. When time is money, any waste that can be cut out of the project invariably saves both.
GPS systems are being widely adopted by the industry on vehicles and other heavy machinery to hedge against theft or misuse, which can lead to lower insurance costs. With such a system, managers can also better keep track of their fleets, which allows them to better allocate equipment to jobsites that need it, reducing downtime of having unused equipment collecting dust on another project.
Some systems can track and document each time a piece of machinery is turned on or off, or even when they stop or start moving. Geofencing technology can be used to create invisible boundaries and immediately alert the company if a vehicle leaves its designated zone. This same technology can be used to alert workers or managers if someone wanders into an unsafe area.
Site materials management is another way project managers are using technology to get a real-time view of the quantity and location of building materials. Materials are equipped with barcodes or RFID sensors that allow real-time inventory tracking of both quantity and location using a mobile device. This ensures each ongoing project has the requisite materials on-site, even automating the purchase process so additional materials can be ordered before the supply runs low.
The tracking of actual workers is a bit of a touchy subject, as employees might feel like their company doesn’t trust them or that their privacy is being violated. But equipping vests or other worker gear with GPS or RFID technology can show managers at a glance where each worker is at any given moment, which can improve worker productivity as well as safety. This is especially useful when overseeing multiple concurrent construction projects with dozens or hundreds of employees.
Technology that keeps track of vehicles, materials and even workers can help construction companies ensure all project elements are working seamlessly together and generally tighten up operations by cutting downtime and reducing wasteful redundant materials ordering. When dealing with warehouses full of building materials, fleets of vehicles and heavy machinery and scores of employees spread out over various projects, technology is a great way to keep track of it all. With a relatively low upfront investment, construction companies can save considerable money and time harnessing this technology.
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