3 Must-Do Practices for Shipping Construction Materials Like a Pro

From the desk of Scott Griffith, Logistics & Project Management Supervisor

The on-time delivery of construction materials directly affects productivity and scheduled commitments on behalf of the general contractor, subcontractors, and tradesmen.  Ensuring your materials and heavy equipment arrive when expected seems like an obvious component to maintaining tight schedules, but several moving parts exacerbate the pressure of meeting contractual obligations.  A late or failed delivery can derail an entire project, caused by outside factors like weather, mechanical failure, over-dimensional highway regulations, and of course, human error.

Basic pre-construction planning between all parties allows for nimble adjustments to construction schedules when snags occur.  The following are must-do’s when working to plan material delivery, minimize human error and tackle extraneous factors when they pop up to keep your projects running smoothly:

1.  Develop a material logistics plan.

The material logistics plan should be created and shared early in the construction project scheduling process.  A detailed plan allows for efficient management of materials, procurement, vendors and costs.

An effective material logistics should include: 

  • the project production schedule with all necessary materials, equipment and manpower requirements
  • vendor selection and contacts at each vendor related to materials
  • delivery urgency, timelines and expectations
  • raw material production schedules
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2. Develop the dedicated materials logistics team.

Every construction employee has a defined skill set.  Many times, companies make the mistake of tasking personnel to control the materials logistics delivery schedule, only to fail because it’s not their expertise.  Inexperience causes delays, errors, and unnecessary stress to an already stressful process.  For these reasons, it’s essential to identify a dedicated materials logistics team.

The materials logistics team should be comprised two roles:  a management team and an execution team.  The management team is responsible for analyzing the delivery schedule and identifying potential inconsistencies while overseeing the relationship.  The execution team is the driving force behind the daily logistics of the materials delivery performance, and responsible for the communication of possible delays in the schedule.  This team ensures proper coordination of pickup and delivery of supplies daily, which is crucial to the overall production timeline on the jobsite.  Without it, delays and errors turn into cost overruns that are detrimental to overall project success.

3. Establish clear and open communication.

Seems like a simple concept, right?  As stated above, there are several stakeholders when it comes to material delivery and logistics; it’s easy to assume they all know one another.  Due to the complex network of suppliers and end users, open communication is critical to the success of the project.  Identify ALL parties affected by the overall performance of the delivery schedule and share with your logistics provider.  This includes:

  • jobsite laborers and PMs
  • vendors
  • sales and account managers
  • support staff in accounting and billing. 

Without aligning these parties, the likelihood of communication failing only increases. 

The method of communication is equally important.  Remember “time is money” and under certain conditions, an email may not be as efficient as instant communication via the phone; that one phone call could cost or save thousands of dollars in lost labor time, detention, and missed project deadlines.  Utilizing your logistics provider’s interactive shipper tools to have real-time shipment visibility is also an option for complex projects. 

The logistics of your construction projects should not be understated.  As the age-old saying goes, “plan the work, and work the plan”.  The foundation set by having a plan for your materials has a profound impact on the company’s budgetary goals, on-time project completion, and ultimately, customer satisfaction. 

This article is written with the help of our friends from Handle.com