The construction industry is no stranger to resource planning, but it tends to have multiple meanings depending on which general contractor you’re talking to. For some, types of resources might include machinery and equipment, while for others resource means strictly their workforce. In fact, we recently ran a survey with general contractors to gain some insight into what they were searching online when looking for tools to manage their workforce allocations.
Resource planning (23%)
Resource management (24%)
Workforce planning (23%)
Workforce management (18%)
As you can see, for a quarter of general contractors surveyed, construction resource planning is a term used to describe managing their workforce allocations as opposed to equipment, materials, and machinery. Others refer to that process as construction workforce planning, construction workforce management, or construction resource management.
So, why the confusion?
First and foremost, let me reassure you that there is no confusion. I think Shakespeare put it best when he wrote “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” In the context of construction resource planning, that implies that it doesn’t matter what you call resource planning – as long you’re taking the steps to do it, you’re going to see the benefits that come along with it.
Construction resource planning is officially defined as “the act of allocating and utilizing resources to achieve maximal efficiency of those resources.” Even the definition is slightly open-ended when it comes to defining specifically what a resource is. The key takeaway here is that regardless of how you define resources, you need to ensure that everyone within your construction company knows and understands how your organization defines these terms to eliminate any confusion. We can take that first step with this blog post right now and let you know how we, at Bridgit, define construction resource planning.
It feels good to clear that up, right? Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty of resource planning.
Why is construction resource planning crucial to projects?
Having an understanding of how to best use your workforce to achieve essential activities helps to drive general contractors forward during a time when utilizing data is creating competitive advantages within the construction industry. The more decisions being made on gut feel, the further away you may get from having a realistic view of who your workforce is, what they’re capable of, and which projects they’re working on or should be working on. This can have a significant impact on how well your organization is able to achieve your business’ plans and goals.
From the biggest construction companies to smaller general contractors, construction resource planning is essential for effective project management regardless of the specific build type. Under-allocating resources to a project increases the risk of missing targeted completion dates and milestones, while over-allocating resources will result in time being wasted – both of which can be very costly and impact future projects and repeat business. Operations teams and project managers need to understand the resources a project already has, and the resources a project needs to develop accurate construction resource planning to impact your organization’s bottom line. For more information about resource management, check out our guide to construction resource management.
Breaking down construction resource planning
Resource planning is unique for construction as the nature of resources needed to accomplish project milestones will be different from project to project. It involves the allocation of your workforce and understanding utilization.
The first step will be to determine the workforce requirements for your project schedule. You may need team members with specific skill sets to complete specific project tasks, or you might be using external contractors. You will also need to ensure your team has everything, and everyone, they need to get the job done. This includes deciding on required project roles, what those roles will be responsible for, and putting together the best team for the project based on skills and experience.
Next, you’ll want to decide on how you want your workforce allocated. Project Managers will be taking on multiple projects, Site Supers will likely undertake one project at a time, which means you will have to take into consideration how much time, or percentage of time, you want specific resources allocated to each project. This helps to prevent under-allocating team members, leading to poor utilization, and also over-allocating projects which leads to time potentially being wasted on site. Finding the right balance will vary from team member to team member and will require some troubleshooting. Once you have a handle on the workload your teams are capable of you can really begin to optimize your construction resource planning.
Lastly, you will need to allocate your team members to your projects to determine if you have the workforce requirements to get your projects completed by your targeted dates. It’s also helpful to run scenarios and decide on worst case scenarios for your construction resource management and resource availability so that, should issues arise, you already have a plan in place to not miss a step.
Construction resource planning software
Using whiteboards and Excel spreadsheets for construction resource planning certainly comes with limitations. Error-prone spreadsheets tend to be highly personalized to the individual that uses them the most, which prevents high level collaboration within the organization and leads to gut feel decision-making . Whiteboards, on the other hand, stay in one place and all it takes is someone erasing something they shouldn’t to throw your entire resource schedule out of balance.
The construction industry has recently seen an influx of construction resource planning software and technology, but choosing the right one for your organization means understanding the benefits they can provide. Whichever software you choose, you should try to ensure that it provides a high level of visibility over your entire resource plan in direct relation to your project timeline – you want to see the big picture. You will also want to ensure that it provides you with the ability to customize the tool to fit your company-specific needs – not all general contractors will want to track the same information, and the tools you choose should reflect those differentiators without having to force it to work for you. Ultimately, you want your resource planning to be a strategic approach to optimize your workforce to meet project milestones. Your construction resource planning software needs to not only simplify those processes, but offer new ways to look at your resource and project planning. For example:
Manpower meetings: Action-oriented meetings will give your construction operations teams and managers the ability to openly discuss all project roles and allocations in relation to your resource plan. Resource planning software can help to keep these meetings focused on sharing data-based strategies for long and short-term planning. Effective manpower meetings help to build a project culture and provide your leadership teams with frequent and accurate check-ins to correct or clarify your resource plan
Capacity planning: This involves deciding whether or not your allocated resources and their respective skills will be sufficient enough to complete existing and upcoming projects.
Resource utilization: This involves ensuring that your resources are all actively being productive and is done by calculating the planned productivity hours versus the actual productive hours completed by your workforce. Most importantly, it involves taking action if you find your utilization rate is poorer than expected.
Forecasting: This is a quantitative assessment used to estimate the planned, allocated, and actual resources needed for your project timeline. It is incredibly useful in helping determine the quantity and cost of the workforce needed for projects, as well as gaining insight into your workforce needs over time.
Bridgit Bench is a construction resource planning tool, built for the unique needs of the industry, that simplifies your resource planning process. It provides you with a single source of truth for your workforce data and gives you the ability to gain greater insight into your utilization and capacity planning. It is updated in real time and gives your leadership team the ability to get everyone involved in their organization’s construction resource planning, and is also available on mobile so that project teams can stay up to date on project allocations while on the move.
Lauren Lake is the COO 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.
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