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Construction Resource Management – Solutions & Concepts
Great commercial construction managers are often the unsung heroes of building projects. Thanks to their skills and diligence, construction projects can be delivered without delay, on the budget, and within scope. It takes exceptional resource management skills to ensure the right staff is working with the right equipment on the right tasks at the right time. Below are several resource management techniques, solutions and concepts to help your team mitigate risks and increase profits.
The Resource Management Plan
If just one of these four factors (staff, equipment, tasks, and time) is mismanaged, projects begin to run late, lose money, and even worse, lose clients. When you factor in multiple construction projects that rely on scarce and shared resources, it becomes apparent that making an effective resource management plan for your commercial construction firm takes more than jotting down notes on a scratch pad.
An important concept to remember is resource management and project management are interdependent in the construction industry, but they address different important aspects. A project management plan is designed according to the objectives and customer requirements. The project management plan lays out, for example, that in two weeks from now you will need to complete the retaining wall for the office you are building. It may also tell you that you will need six appropriately skilled workers for five days, but the plan won’t tell you where to find the workers, or even if they are available if you’re not using software to track their activities.
The goal of a resource management plan is to identify and reserve resources to meet those objectives and requirements. Its purpose is simple but takes exceptional skills to manage. The resource management plan should:
— Identify resources (workers and equipment) to ensure their availability, and resolving potential conflicts. For instance, a crane cannot be on three construction jobsites at once.
— Optimize time, effort and money, for example by having field workers work on succession tasks to minimize downtime or lengthy transport between jobsites. The resource planning process itself should be fast and efficient to address these issues when assigning teams to specific project tasks.
— Apply experience and prudent staff management. Allocating the same worker to a variety of different tasks can be as counter-productive as specifying the same monotonous task to be repeatedly done. The manager should take account of individual employee preferences where possible, or at least strive for a positive balance when larger teams are involved.
— Incorporate the realities of the construction jobsite, such as any limitations on access for vehicles, or the unique issues for delivering materials to where it’s needed to speed up work and decrease worker effort.
— Respond to changes in project objectives to reassign resources as required and maintain good overall productivity and profitability.
— Track resources and utilize labor and materials in a timely fashion and immediately respond to potential conflicts.
— Dealing with conflict. In some cases, resource conflicts for competing projects with the same priority, such as a crane being deployed to two construction sites, require leadership to step in and make the final decision.
Creating Your Resource Management Plan
Four steps for building a resource plan that will deliver excellent results:
1. Start with the latest version of the project plan with clear project phases, milestones, and deadlines. It’s also good practice to review the contract. Without an agreed project plan, your resource management plan will completely miss the mark.
2. Assess which types of resources are necessary for completing the project. The project plan may already identify resources but always validate the information. Calculate the different tasks using your experience, expertise and industry resource standard support units. In most cases, your judgment is a mix of know-how and analytics.
3. Identify resources and verify their current availability for allocation, re-use, and optimization to be used for specific tasks and possibly across different projects.
4. Secure authorization and approval for allocating the resources in advance of kicking off the project. Depending on your organizational structure, you may or may not be competing with other Managers and projects.
Always list the key items about resources, per activity:
The level of detail and the precision needed for successful resource management make precise organization mandatory. Your construction resource plan must be crystal clear and concise to all stakeholders, while at the same time maximizing resource efficiency and productivity. To manage the resource plan, you may benefit by using one of the following approaches:
The resource planning template. A template provides you with a checklist of all the activities and resources needed for a particular construction project. It also provides other stakeholders with a standard format (e.g., if you a presenting the resource plan) to identify information that is essential to their roles. In digital format, the resource manager can easily update and share changes with other stakeholders.
The resource planning matrix. A matrix or grid can be highly effective in displaying resources by name, description, and purpose. The matrix and using color coding can create visuals to identify potential risks, overlapping allocations and or underutilized assets and resources.
Shifting and leveling resources. With limited resources, subcontractors are often faced with schedule conflicts and need to maneuver activities or make tasks sequential instead of concurrent (resource leveling) or by allocating activities to other team members (task shifting). Great resource managers who understand their projects and team members will utilize these techniques without impact on the overall schedule, budget, and scope of work for a particular construction project.
Creating a coding system for resources. Coding systems replace lengthy text descriptions and make resource planning much more concise and easier to organize, analyze and retrieve data on present and past construction projects. Efficient information retrieval is only possible when the company (not just the Resource Manager) uses a standard coding system. MasterFormat® is a widely used tool across construction for using standard codes.
Resource development (training or equipment). It cannot be stated enough that resources change over time. Investing in people and equipment not only reduces risks but also creates a competitive advantage for subcontractors. This means investing in existing employees and materials, sometimes is a better long-term investment and bringing in the new. However, as it relates to technology, there new tools that can accelerate efficiency and productivity like never before in construction.
Mobile and Cloud-based Technology. Software designed for the Subcontractor takes resource and project management to all-time high levels. As companies scale and take on larger projects, manual preparation of a resource management plan such as using an over glorified Excel spreadsheet becomes laborious and error prone. The cloud-based and mobile software offered by eSUB is designed to automate workflows and resource management. As projects involve repeat tasks, previous project data and resources can be used to optimize existing or future construction projects.
Having managers use their intuition will not always identify opportunities to save time and effort, but a software platform designed to help you build projects can automatically pick out inefficiencies, possible roadblocks, and resource issues.
The stakes are high in commercial construction, so it’s crucial to invest time and money in developing a great resource strategy and plan. Lost profitability, risks of litigation, the current labor shortage, all require the attention of companies to limit their impact on the business of building. Every project is an opportunity to streamline and increase the efficiency of resource utilization across the subcontractor firm. The use of mobile software designed to manage resources and projects in an ever increasing complex environment goes without question for consideration.