Completing any project on time and on budget without planning ahead is a challenge for any general contractor. In their Pulse of the Profession survey, the Project Management Institute revealed that 23% of respondents blamed inadequate resource forecasting as the primary cause of failure for past projects.
There is often a wide range of resources that a general contractor will consider – money, equipment and machinery, building materials, office staffing in construction, technology, and software. Basically any asset that an organization will use to complete projects and function effectively combined with the time available for each resource.
Resource allocation in the construction industry plays a critical role in project management. Staying ahead of, and prioritizing, your team member allocations helps to build workforce planning strategies to ensure organizational goals are being met and projects are progressing efficiently.
Effective resource allocation will mean understanding the scope of projects and availability of team members within the organization. This will often include input from the Project Manager in terms of project scope, task dependencies, required resources, and resource dependencies. Ops Managers will then identify available team members that meet the skills and experience requirements demanded by the project.
Understanding the full scope of the project, individual project phases, and the required resources will help to create strategic resource allocations that positively impact each project. Developing an accurate project road-map will help provide an overview of what needs to happen and when. It can help to identify your performance metrics, help the Project Manager determine whether the project is on schedule, and help to allocate resources accordingly.
Developing a schedule for the required resources is one of the most important steps in managing a construction project. With a thorough understanding of the project, the Project Manager is capable of identifying all of the moving parts and required resources.
It also helps to develop a clear modification process. Having an in-depth understanding of the project helps to reduce the response time of change orders and create contingency plans for their resource allocations.
When should you allocate resources to a project? The earlier the better. Projects are won and lost in the preconstruction planning phase. Resource allocations should be no different. Waiting too long to make adjustments will make it increasingly difficult to get projects back on track.
Take some time during planning to identify where and when you might not have the available resources required, project risks, or project dependencies.
Setting up a procedure to allocate construction resources early helps to identify potential red flags and figure out different ways to respond to them beforehand. This helps to handle any allocation issues efficiently when they inevitably happen.
In a perfect world, every member of your team is readily available and perfectly qualified to take on whatever project role you need them for. Sounds pretty nice – but we’re all aware that isn’t a realistic expectation in the real world.
Risks in your construction resource allocation plan can vary:
It may be difficult to address every potential risk in your resource allocation plan. However, taking the time to identify the risks can help to stay ahead of their impact on your project pipeline.
Identifying and documenting your resources helps to create the foundation for strategic resource allocations. Construction resource management solutions will allow you to identify the people you need to track and customize the workforce data you plan to capture and document. This should include things like:
Properly identifying and documenting your resources will also help to identify skills gaps and inform recruitment based on project demand. It will also help to ensure you are allocating the best-fit resources for the task at hand.
Construction is a stand alone industry given the dynamic nature of each project. While there are plenty of project and workforce management software solutions available to general contractors, most (if not all) aren’t optimized for the construction industry. Meaning they quickly wind up becoming a temporary “band aid” solution.
Managing construction projects and allocating resources productively can be extremely complex since every individual project has so many moving parts. Construction workforce management software that was designed to simplify the complex nature of a construction project. They can help to drive operational efficiencies and streamline resource allocations through the entire lifecycle of the project.
Tools like Bridgit Bench were built exclusively for the construction industry. They allow general contractors to create custom fields for construction resource management, and do simple workforce allocation filtering for smart allocation suggestions.
Over-allocation of your workforce happens when more project assignments are assigned than your team members can reasonably handle. It’s inevitable that organizations will have a single team member assigned to multiple projects. However, the more projects a team member is assigned to, the higher the risk of over-allocation. It’s important to monitor your team members that are assigned to multiple projects to ensure they aren’t being spread too thin.
Over-allocating resources can quickly lead to burn-out by putting unreasonable pressure on team members to meet deadlines. Construction workforce management tools can help to identify over-allocated resources and create balanced workloads across the project pipeline. If over-allocation is unavoidable, be sure to clearly communicate high priority projects. This can help to lift some of the pressure and also helps identify which lower priority tasks or projects can be assigned to an available team member.
Proper time tracking can be a painful, cumbersome process, but the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Time tracking allows general contractors to:
Construction projects can come with a lot of internal, external, and mandatory dependencies. It’s important to keep these dependencies in mind when allocating resources to prevent idle hands waiting for tasks to be completed and costing the organization unnecessary costs. During the project planning phase, efforts should be made to identify and record all potential project dependencies to ensure resources are being allocated accordingly.
Be sure to continuously monitor dependencies and regularly discuss how different linked tasks are progressing and if adjustments to the workforce plan are needed. Project dependencies are unavoidable, but good communication with the project team and relevant stakeholders will help to ensure that projects are kept on track.
Operations teams will often meet on a regular basis to discuss and create a strategic workforce plan. These resource planning meetings are a good opportunity to reflect on and evaluate how effective your resource allocation plan is. Reports can be generated to give a holistic view of individual projects and how they’re progressing. This can help to balance your resource allocations on a regular basis to maintain your organization’s utilization rate.
Regularly evaluating your resource allocations also helps to identify periods of time when team members may be under or over-allocated, and help with construction resource capacity planning. Forecasting resource availability will also help to inform recruitment and layoff decisions to ensure the supply of workers will consistently meet the demand of work.
Even the most carefully planned projects will encounter times when the expected complexity of work, and the resources required to complete the work, will change. Construction can be unpredictable, whether it be time-loss incidents, material delivery delays, changes in client demands, or weather that can bring work to a stop. Having an effective resource allocation process in place can help organizations pivot when needed and easily adjust to project changes.
Construction resource management tools, like Bridgit Bench, have streamlined project allocations that allow general contractors to track when project phases and subphases are expected to be completed. They also help to reference historical projects of similar scope to better estimate the resources and time needed to complete new projects in the pipeline.
Construction resource management tools that are cloud-based help to ensure all changes are updated in real time. They also help to identify adequate alternatives should the change in project scope require more or fewer resources.
There are times when a project can be delayed by the lack of availability of skilled workers. It can often be assumed that the workforce required to build the project will be ready, willing and waiting whenever you need them. In reality, the availability of a general contractor’s workforce is influenced by supply and demand.
Effective construction resource allocation helps when forecasting field and office labor requirements. This helps prevent a lack of supply or demand from creeping up on you and causing delays.
Resource allocation in construction management can also help to identify potential allocation conflicts before they become problematic. Overlapping project schedules can often lead to high-performing team members being allocated beyond their capacity, causing a stressful work environment.
On the other hand, having too many team members available for work when demand is low can be very costly to an organization. Having a holistic view of your workforce allocations can prevent potential conflicts before they begin to cost you money or team members.
There are many different factors that can impact a team member’s availability to take on a new project role such as:
Not to mention the new factors we will be dealing with for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Having an accurate record of availability and being able to forecast your resource availability is challenging for even well-crafted spreadsheet systems. Construction resource allocation software helps track periods of unavailability for your individual team members. They provide an accurate, up to date record of availability to inform strategic resource allocations.
Allocating resources in construction typically involves assigning them to specific tasks or people based on priorities. Resource management software is a very important aspect of this as it can help you keep track of allocations and adjust them based on shifting needs.
Resource allocation is absolutely crucial in construction. Without it, you’d be lucky to complete your project on time without any major snags.
Effective resource allocation ensures team members have the tools required to keep a project on-schedule and on-budget.
Speaking abstractly, this is the concept of using limited resources wisely today to achieve an end goal in the future. After all, construction companies don’t have unlimited assets; teams often need to share pieces of equipment with one another, for example.
Resource allocation ensures processes like these take place without conflicts.
Say a company has access to two excavators but currently has on its plate 10 projects that will need them at some point.
Resource allocation will ensure each project has access to the equipment when needed. This may mean limiting the time those excavators sit idle on a job site when they could be used elsewhere.
Effective resource allocation for construction should be a focus for any general contractor that is looking to maximize their workforce productivity and performance. It’s a process that involves consolidating all relevant information to enable strategic, data-driven decision-making in order to reach organizational goals.
Balancing resource allocations is a challenge. However, with the use of construction workforce management software, general contractors are able to automate many of the manual processes involved, avoid over and under-allocating team members, and stay ahead of their allocation strategy to gain an operational advantage.