Jobsite Material Management

Norb Slowikowski

January 2005

Many factors add up to the cost of materials on the job site. The planning process must recognize the costs associated with each one of the following items and realize that optimizing one at the expense of other contributing factors is poor management.

  • Materials.
  • Shop drawings and submittals.
  • Inventory.
  • Warehousing.
  • Warehouse manager.
  • Shipping.
  • Waste/spillage/theft.
  • On-site handling.

Do your people really understand the cost impact of each of these items? You may want to take the time to calculate the costs for each item and review them with your field supervisors, and discuss ways of minimizing the cost of each item.

Step 1: Develop the plan before materials will be on the job site:

  • Where is the laydown area?
  • Where is bulk storage?
  • Is it located where I want it to be (closest to the crew as possible)?

If you haven't addressed these items, start negotiating with the general contractor.

Step 2: Know when materials will arrive. Make sure you have material delivery tools available to you-schedules and checklists. Develop a Material Handling Checklist that includes the following information:

  • Access: route, unloading points, delivery truck.
  • Provisions for unloading trucks: Is there a loading dock?
  • Man and material hoists: Location? Ready access?
  • Tower crane-location and capacity.
  • Horizontal movement of materials-Does the GC have a system available?
  • Vertical monument of materials: How do you get men and materials to an installation point?
  • Trash removal: Does the GC have a system for removal of trash and other obstructions?

Step 3: Know what the special handling requirements are. Will you be able to handle the materials in ways to avoid danger? Is your storage area set up to avoid spoilage? Are you ready for the materials at the time they're being delivered?

Step 4: Assign someone for implementing the plan for managing jobsite materials. If it's not the foreman, then delegate to a responsible person.

Step 5: Make sure the delivery is in the condition, amount and type as promised.

  • Inspect and check it.
  • Communicate discrepancies right away to your supplier and project manager.

Step 6: Know what the return policies are for each of the materials delivered. Check with your PM. If you receive materials you don't need, send them back.

Step 7: Make sure the foreman gets a Material List and has a clear understanding of how expensive materials are. This will emphasize the importance of doing effective material management.

Here's an exercise you can do with your PMs, superintendents and foremen to create an awareness of making material management a priority:

  • Identify how many times materials are being handled at the job before being installed. Calculate the cost.
  • What are the factors influencing this? Which of these factors can the foreman control? What can you do to minimize the number of times materials are handled?
  • Set up a process for minimizing material handling on your next job.

Remember: Materials can represent 30 percent to 50 percent of a project. If there is 5 percent extra waste, you could have missed the estimated margin for that job.

A primary responsibility of a foreman is to mak sure the materials on the job are handled in an effective and efficient manner to increase the productivity of the crew and the profitability of the contractor.

About the Author
Norb Slowikowski is president of Slowikowski & Associates, Inc., Darien, Ill. Associates, Inc., Darien, Ill. See his ad on page 73