Unlike manufacturing, wherein materials are assembled at home base, construction happens remotely, where literally tonnes of materials are being moved around each day.
Bullets don’t win wars, but logistics do. The same rules apply with construction. If the proper materials aren’t in the right place at the right time, downtime accumulates quickly.
Building a house involves dozens of stakeholder groups all contributing to the whole, while prioritizing their own individual interests. Their logistics are largely their own, because they’re not motivated to collaborate. Lean thinking seeks to pivot the focus toward the value of the project as a whole, rather than its individual pieces. When partners collaborate with more than lip-service, value goes up, cost and frustration go down, and everyone benefits.
If the plumber needs to run to the store, maybe the electrician needs something. Rather than making two separate trips, the two could be tackled at once, saving time. With our current system, a process like this may feel like science fiction. However, if you change the conversation so the “task list” becomes a series of commitments that everyone is engaged with, in order to bring more value to the product, it’s not far off.
This sounds self-explanatory, and it largely is, but it can also fall through the cracks when you’re rushing through setup time, trying to get started.
Take the time to map your jobsite, indicating where to stage your equipment, trucks, and materials. Mark your traffic flows and walkways. Ensure your delivery drivers have a reliably open path to the stage to avoid honking, panic, and overall chaos.
Distance Trumps Discounts:
Where are you buying your materials? Often, far away suppliers will tantalize you with discounts, but do your logistical math. If the fuel costs check out, and you’re not having to build up excessive inventory levels (more on that later), it may pay off for your initial shipments.
During the job, however, don’t send your foreman driving 40 km for fill-ins. You’ll always need last-minute deliveries, but there will always be local businesses to supply you. The 20% extra is well worth the cost of saving fuel and keeping a senior person at the jobsite for hours at a time, rather than on the road.
Check the Address:
This is the biggest “facepalm” Waste of them all. It’s also inexcusable in our technological age, and low-hanging fruit for improving Transportation Waste.
You should have zero tolerance for wrong address deliver. Bad handwriting or false inputting should never be an excuse. Your drivers should always confirm the address with someone on-site and take the extra 20 seconds to use Google Maps.
Keep Accurate Logs:
Many stakeholders in any construction project hate paperwork, but if you let your mileage logs fall behind, you’re sending your trucks out blind. It’s a sloppy habit that can easily snowball into massive Waste.
It may not catch up to you for a while, but it will hurt when it does. Roadside breakdowns or failed roadside inspections are profit killers. Even worse is finding yourself replacing critical and expensive equipment pieces because routine maintenance fell behind (due to improper logging). As painful as they may feel at the time, keep up to date with logs and prevent breakdown further along the line.