Construction worker looking at plans

What Can Construction Managers do to Improve Asset Management at Their Site?

What Can Construction Managers do to Improve Asset Management at Their Site?

In the textbook version of construction management, construction managers often see a process-based approach that presents a polished view of the project life cycle. The reality is somewhat different. Instead, with project complexity, tight deadlines, and mounting demands, some construction managers are often jugglers trying to keep things on track. Before they know it…

Technical negotiations. One ball.

Design development. Two balls.

Supervision. Three balls

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). Four balls.

And the balls keep coming.

Round and round they go while legs carefully balance the thin boards of the client relationship and cost control. One grave mistake and the whole project could become a circus.

But unlike the juggler, who is an entertainer, the construction manager is not in the entertainment business: the construction manager has to focus on each ball—not just keep them moving.

Despite best efforts, some balls fall to the ground unnoticed or don’t enter the motion of twirling obligations. Asset management is one ball that often gets overlooked until a project risks crashing to a halt.

The “What” and “Why” of Asset Management

ISO 55000 defines asset management as the “coordinated activity of an organization to realize value from assets.” Effective asset management over the entire lifecycle of an asset involves a proper balance between costs, risks, and opportunities to establish the asset’s value. This definition is not limited to a particular part of a construction site but considers both multi-functional and multidisciplinary aspects.

Why is it important? Asset management directly influences decision making during a project. These decisions play a crucial role in financial planning, project delivery, and profits. Therefore, industrial asset management is not an afterthought that only takes center stage when there is a problem to resolve.

But how can construction managers realize the value of assets when bombarded with so many moving balls? We look at three tips below.

Don’t Take Construction Theft Lightly: Mark, Record, Protect – and Repeat.

Gone are the days of merely installing a rickety wire fence around the perimeter of a construction site fitted with a “do not trespass sign” that rattles in the wind. Petty thieves and organized criminals overlook these modest security measures and have become more advanced in their approach to stealing valuable construction equipment and tools.

Their determination is evident in yearly construction theft losses totaling almost one billion dollars in the U.S. construction industry.

table of top 5 theft targets
Source: An Exploratory Look at Thefts from Construction Sites
Joseph Shrestha, Dustin L. Osborne

Elsewhere worldwide, the situation is equally alarming, with annual construction theft reaching 800 million pounds in the U.K.  

Research analyzing 15,000 incidents from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) shows that opportunistic thieves often capitalize on the low recovery rate (mere 7% in the U.S.) and high return on stealing embolden their criminal behavior. In other words, they rarely get caught ‘enjoying’ the fruit of criminality. Reluctance by construction companies to invest in expensive CCTV, alarms, bright lighting, and other security measures they deem as unnecessary spending further compounds the issue.

However, extra spending on appropriate security measures quickly becomes apparent with high insurance claims, higher premiums, project delay/downtime, and strained investor relations are pushed into the spotlight due to construction theft.

So how can a construction manager prevent a site from being targeted by opportunistic thieves? The reality is that preventing thieves from coming to a construction site may not be feasible in all situations, but limiting what they take is a better approach. Strategic measures to inhibit, monitor, and record activities on-site include:

Doing thorough background checks: Knowledge about the types of equipment and tools that are available on a construction site usually comes from an insider (a.k.a worker). Knowing the types of people hired and their background can help to curb certain thefts.

Mark, record and protect: Stolen construction equipment and tools that are marked are likely to trigger an alarm bell when sold (even on the black market). Equipment and tools should be labeled, and where possible, these should be welded in both visible and concealed places. Other methods include installing GPS on large assets, using anti-theft devices, putting machinery and tools in visible locations during and after use, using secured shortage for smaller tools, installing Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), and removing keys after use.

– Invest in security measures that facilitate remote accessibility and real-time monitoring. These might carry a hefty price tag, but the benefits far outweigh the initial costs if used and installed strategically. If possible and cost-effective, wireless security systems can be an alternative to traditional approaches where thieves deactivate devices by cutting wires.

Explore New Ways of Doing Old Things

For many years, the construction industry was classified as being among the least innovative. Risk-aversion and a certain degree of reluctance to invest resources in new processes and technology are singled out as the reasons for this lagging modernity. But things are changing as construction managers adopt new technologies to streamline different methods and focus on what matters.

One example of this shift lies in digital asset management (DAM). Instead of relying on a patchwork of paper-based systems from various applications, construction managers can incorporate DAM into their daily work routine. This approach liberates them from the suffocating reigns of paperwork by making it possible to store, share, and organize information in one central location. By digitizing paperwork, there is less wasted time, information is readily available, stakeholders are in sync, and assets are trackable.

Another less obvious example is Building Information Modelling (BIM) in asset management. While possible, most construction companies only cling to the traditional approach of using BIM during the design and construction stages of a project with little thought about the operation and maintenance stage. Researchers have noted the scant examples of BIM in asset management and rallied for an increase in implementation by having a “balance between exploration and exploitation.” In simple words: adopting a new way of working.

A.I. & machine learning are being integrated into safety measures on construction sites. Potential risks are highlighted by combining information from algorithms with cameras images. There are many examples of construction tech that are being adopted.

Construction worker with equipment
Under construction

Think about Life Cycle Cost from Beginning to End

Wear and tear of an asset affect its functionality. If this functionality is reduced, then downtime and delays are the usual outcomes. By focusing on optimum asset usage, construction managers enable asset comparisons and lifetime costs to be considered as early as the design stage. These comparisons make it possible to assess alternatives that offer better value over a more extended period and implement them at critical steps in the decision-making process.

Life cycle costing also facilitates asset maintenance, which plays a crucial role in value. Guidelines about the maintenance plans for a particular asset are governed through techniques such as preventative maintenance and condition-based monitoring. Reactive maintenance is, therefore, minimized and uptime of construction equipment optimized.

This is valid for cases where the construction equipment belongs to the company executing the project. If the equipment is rented, the construction manager should assess the maintenance history of the equipment to determine how future maintenance plans will affect project execution. By being able to foresee this, early action will avoid machine downtime and project delay.

In a Nutshell 

Effective asset management focuses on creating value. This value is not linked to one particular strategy and depends on the type of asset considered.

To put things into context: a screwdriver (while important) will not usually get the same attention as an excavator that costs thousands of dollars when considering measures to prevent construction theft. However, if a task on a construction site that is usually done manually can be automated with new equipment, then a construction manager should look for alternatives to reduce labor costs and improve efficiency —hence a new way of doing an old technique. In both cases, the asset (the screwdriver) has a different focal point, which depends on its value in a particular context.

The take-home point is that asset management should be considered throughout the project lifecycle to maximize project delivery and service delivery while keeping a lid on asset costs. Doing so guarantees good stewardship as a construction manager.

How eSUB Can Help

eSUB is a cloud-based project management platform built especially for subcontractors. It seamlessly integrates with leading construction software systems so you can easily switch from your current RFI process to a cloud-based system to upgrade RFI process.

eSUB organizes all of your project information in one place, allows for smooth collaboration, and streamlines communication through its intuitive interface. It also works on your mobile, so you can track projects on the go—no matter where or when—and stay up-to-date.

About the Author:

Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO at Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy to use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.