Good construction equipment management keeps projects moving forward on schedule. In this article, we’ll explore best practices, including tools professionals use to manage equipment effectively.
What is construction equipment management?
Construction equipment management involves maintaining and scheduling job site tools. Effective managers do this in a way that promotes productivity by ensuring equipment is where it needs to be – in the condition required – at any given moment.
In a broader sense, the goal is to ensure investments in equipment remain profitable. This involves continual work, especially since any busy construction company’s equipment needs are constantly changing as projects progress and new opportunities arise.
Equipment management falls under the umbrella of resource management. It’s used by contractors along with companies providing construction equipment rentals.
Dangers of ineffective construction equipment fleet management
It’s easy to grasp the importance of construction equipment fleet management when you consider the pitfalls of handling it poorly.
Poor return on investment
Construction equipment can be quite expensive to purchase, store, and maintain. With improper management, those costs can bite into – or even exceed – the fleet’s economic benefits.
Here’s an example.
Let’s say your company purchases a cement mixing truck. As a result of ineffective construction equipment management practices, the truck never receives scheduled maintenance.
Consequently, it becomes increasingly inefficient and slows down productivity on the job site. When it eventually breaks down, the cost of repairs is much higher than it would’ve been with routine maintenance.
Combined, the cost of inefficiencies and extensive repairs may be greater than whatever economic benefit was derived from the truck’s use.
Equipment that isn’t where it needs to be is among the most obvious symptoms of ineffective management.
Picture workers on the job site filling time with low-priority tasks while waiting for equipment to be delivered so they can keep the project moving on schedule. This is a tremendous waste of resources. The equipment is not delivering economic value while in transit. Instead, economic value is being destroyed as the project stalls.
An incomplete financial picture
Any investment has an opportunity cost. Companies must consider whether their capital would be better spent elsewhere. It’s very difficult to determine this, however, with ineffective construction equipment fleet management.
You see, a key part of equipment management is attaching and tracking equipment’s cost of ownership. This helps companies make informed decisions about scheduling their equipment and making additional investments.
Tips for improving construction equipment fleet management
Now that you know the dangers of ineffective equipment management, let’s look at some tips for handling the process well.
Use construction equipment management software
Construction equipment scheduling software is an absolute must in the modern world. Equipment management has a massive impact on any construction company’s bottom line. As such, you’re at a competitive disadvantage without the most effective management tools.
By using software for this purpose, you’ll also benefit from a single source of truth. This is crucial when managing something as data-intensive as an equipment fleet.
Check out this article to learn more about the benefits of centralized construction software.
Keep track of your equipment utilization ratios
It’s essential that you track every piece of equipment’s utilization ratio. This will tell you whether the equipment is being used to its full potential or whether it’s spending too much time idle in a warehouse.
Possessing this information comes with a few benefits.
If you notice equipment is being over-utilized, you could compare the associated cost (i.e. increased wear and tear along with reduced efficiency on the job site) with that of obtaining a second unit.
If a piece of equipment is being under-utilized, on the other hand, you could consider selling it and renting a comparable unit as needed instead.
Set time aside for inspections and maintenance
Any piece of mechanical construction equipment requires regular maintenance. Good software will help you plan maintenance in a way that minimizes project disruptions.
Often, it makes sense (both in terms of scheduling and keeping the equipment in good working order) to conduct inspections immediately after using a piece of equipment on the job site.
If you provide construction equipment rentals, a great time to conduct inspections would be once a customer has returned the tools. That way, you’ll also be able to hold them accountable for abnormal damage to the equipment. For more information about asset management, read this blog.
Know your equipment’s limits
Construction equipment has the potential to work much harder than humans. Its capacity is not limitless, though. There are still very real practical constraints.
For example, jackhammers come in a variety of sizes. If you choose an inappropriate size, the equipment may not be capable of completing the task in the allotted time.
Avoid these sorts of situations by carefully considering your equipment fleet in light of your project needs.
Build a system for handling equipment requests and returns
Managing construction equipment on a first come first serve basis is not necessarily the best approach.
Competent construction equipment managers typically have some formal process for handling equipment sign-outs and returns. This helps personnel keep track of equipment, which in turn facilitates effective communication regarding scheduling.
Consider giving job site workers in management roles access to your construction equipment scheduling software so they can see allocations and dependencies for themselves. You may find they’re much less likely to remove equipment from its intended location if they understand the ripple effects that might cause.
Implement anti-theft measures
Unfortunately, equipment theft is a very real problem in the construction industry. With so many different companies operating on a large job site at any given time, equipment has a tendency to go missing.
According to the National Equipment Register, between $300 million and $1 billion dollars worth of construction equipment is stolen each year. Less than 25% of this equipment is ultimately recovered.
You can decrease the potential for unrecoverable theft by incorporating security measures into your equipment management process.
Warren CAT suggests familiarizing yourself with the market factors that make equipment attractive to thieves. This includes:
an identifiable lapse in security
ease of selling certain types of equipment
light consequences for anyone caught stealing
Once you’ve identified which pieces of equipment – and job sites – are most prone to theft, take measures such as:
giving each piece of equipment an identifying market
keeping detailed records of your equipment (including serial numbers)
installing physical anti-theft devices such as locks and GPS trackers
requesting frequent patrols by local law enforcement
hiring private guards
Recognize that workforce and equipment management are intertwined
Construction equipment and workforce management are quite similar. In both cases, the goal is ultimately to make the most efficient use of available resources.
These processes are also often intertwined. It’s not uncommon for pieces of equipment to essentially follow workers that are qualified to operate them. This underscores the importance of using construction equipment scheduling software that can help you visualize your entire resource management flow, including dependencies between individual items and personnel.
We hope this guide has given you some concrete strategies for improving your construction equipment management workflow. For more resource management tips, visit our blog.
Lauren Lake is the CCO and co-founder at Bridgit. She holds a degree in Civil Structural Engineering and is well-versed in construction workforce management and resource planning processes. Lauren has been named to the Forbes Manufacturing & Industry 30 Under 30 and Best Of Canada Forbes Under 30 Innovators lists. Lauren has presented at industry events and conferences, including BuiltWorlds, Canadian Construction Association, Procore Groundbreak, and more. Follow Lauren on LinkedIn and Instagram.