It’s time the construction sector adopted good SC practice

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As British MPs contemplate the unwelcome prospect of decamping from the splendour of the Palace of Westminster to a near by building while building work is undertaken on the mid-nineteenth century structure, construction logistics comes very much to mind.

Discussions at a Green Supply Chain Management conference, held in London last week, brought to light the potential savings in both energy and costs that can be achieved through consolidating loads and materials prior to delivery to a construction site in an urban environment. Transport for London has been working with developers and construction companies to streamline the flow of material to a number of building sites in London and indeed, won the Environmental Improvement category in our European Supply Chain Excellence Awards last year.

However, the construction sector seems to be tediously slow at adopting, sound and well-proven, common supply chain practice. Why is this?

Considering the complexity involved in scheduling and delivering materials to a site that may be located in the very heart of a busy city with congested roads, it would seem obvious that this is an application where logistics specialists are required. Good planning could reduce costs by kitting prior to delivery to site, consolidating deliveries and delivering on a JIT basis, as per schedule, for on-site sub-contractors.

The problem seems to be one of ownership of the task at hand. As sub-contractors are usually responsible for the procurement of the materials required for their task, a complex and disparate network of trades is involved in brining a project together. But this generates a huge potential for inefficiency and waste. Perhaps the margins involved in property and construction are so large that waste on site is tolerated? Then again, budget over-runs are fairly common.

It is time that the construction sector looked to logistics professionals for guidance and assistance. The issues faced are typical of well run supply chains, it’s just a matter of applying well-proven principles.

Surely a company that is able to tender for a large building contract with the confidence that it has logistics firmly under control – to keep the operation lean and efficient – stands to make a killing.

Members of Parliament would do well to ask plenty of questions on construction logistics before they vacate the building.

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