What is logistics construction?
Logistics are often overlooked when planning a project, yet poor logistics can cause bottlenecks which literally strangle the life out of your project. It impacts production and productivity causing delays and adding to costs. Usually the larger the project the more important and complicated the logistics become.
Logistics includes mobilizing people to the project site, getting them to the project every day and then moving them around the project to where they are working. A project with a dozen, fifty or even hundred people can be simple to coordinate, but some projects can have thousands of workers. Sometimes the project may be in an operating facility which already employs thousands of workers.
Somehow the construction workers have to get to their job site without impacting the owner’s workers. Then the owner’s workers still have to get to where they are required without hindrance or being endangered by the construction work. This must happen safely and quickly.
Even if every person in a hundred person team is only delayed by five minutes in the day, the total impact on the project is more than 8 hours – put simply we have to employ an extra person every day to make up for the lost time. Five minutes on most construction projects is nothing and it’s often more like fifteen or twenty!
Construction Project Logistics – avoiding bottlenecks in your project
Some industrial and mining facilities can cover huge areas and the distanced between work locations can be significant. Lengthy delays in getting personnel to their work areas at the start of the days and after their rest breaks can reduce productivity dramatically.
Then there are facilities that have extraordinary security that causes huge delays. I have for instance worked in diamond plants and precious metals refineries where security has been very strict and getting materials and equipment in and out of work areas took time, patience, paperwork and effort – tying up staff and disrupting progress and productivity.
Vertical transportation in high-rise buildings can be particularly challenging. I’m sure we have all experienced frustrating delays on these projects waiting for hoists to take up men and materials, Project Logistics or cranes to lift materials to where they are needed.
Logistics is about getting materials and equipment from their point of origin to where they are needed at the work face at the correct time and without damage. Logistics includes offloading the equipment and material safely, and installing them when required.
Some material and equipment can be over-sized – either being extra wide, long or high or very heavy. Special transport may be required as well as permits and escort vehicles. Can the roads leading to the project site handle these loads? Are the roads on the project site designed for these loads? We need to consider radii of bends, road widths, height restrictions and weight restraints.
In addition projects are changing on a daily basis and routes may become restricted or even dug up. What could be a simple exercise of getting an item onto site at the start of the project can turn into a nightmare later as structures are built and roads are changed. Many contractors have suddenly found routes unsuitable part way through the project when new bridges were built over the road restricting the height of loads that can use the route.
Lack of Equipment
Projects frequently don’t have sufficient cranes or material handling equipment. This lack of equipment not only delays getting the materials to where they’re required but could also delay offloading the trucks bringing the material to the project. These delays impact productivity, delay trucks from returning to collect the next load (meaning more trucks are required) and can lead to additional costs from transport companies whose trucks are delayed.
Double handling and even triple handling of materials is a result of materials being off-loaded in the wrong place, or materials arriving ahead of time and the work area isn’t available. The additional handling of the materials results in additional costs but it can also risk damaging materials and equipment.
Lifting operations need to be done safely with trained personnel. Improperly rigged loads can cause accidents resulting in injury and damage to equipment. Lifting operations can be delayed because of wind, equipment breakdowns, inexperienced operators, poor rigging and slinging techniques, cranes being incorrectly positioned, repeated moving of the crane between loads or workers installing the equipment and materials not being properly prepared.
Too often work areas aren’t ready for items that have to be lifted, leaving expensive cranes standing idly waiting, while other areas are themselves waiting for the crane. Proper organisation and planning of work areas can free up the cranes to do more work.
Crane congestion can be a major problem – especially on large contracts with many different contractors and subcontractors, each with their own crane. This can lead to dangerous situations which need to be avoided such as the risks of crane booms clashing and cranes lifting loads over workers. At the very least it leads to reduced productivity.
A major part of logistics is about getting the right item arriving on the project site at the right time. We need to ensure that suppliers have a delivery schedule which they stick to. Far too often we receive the materials we require last before the items we require first. This leads to a congested work area and double handling of materials.
Often projects don’t consider the laydown areas where materials will be stored before they are needed. These areas may have restricted access. Sometimes they aren’t cleared and leveled properly which could lead to dangerous situations when trucks and cranes are parked on sloping ground. This might result in them overturning.
Materials stacked on sloping ground could also over topple causing damage and even serious injury. These storage areas need to be well drained so stormwater can drain away. I have seen storage areas flooded resulting in damage to the materials or at best the material storage area couldn’t be accessed until the water was drained away.
Storage areas also should be firm underfoot so that trucks, cranes and the materials don’t sink into the ground. Crane outriggers sinking into the ground can lead to dangerous situations of the cranes overturning. Materials must be stored in such a way that they don’t become damaged by the elements or contaminated. Materials must be easily accessible and when necessary so the oldest materials can be used first.
Many contractors don’t plan their project logistics well resulting in delays to the project, additional costs and in some cases even damages to materials. Contractors sometimes just place an order for an item of equipment or materials required for the project without considering how the items will get to the project, how they’ll be off-loaded, where they’ll be stored and how they’ll be installed.
Well thought out logistical procedures and plans will pay dividends to your project.
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