A Beginner's Guide to Construction Resource Management

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Good construction resource management is the foundation for success for any construction company. This guide will help you understand what's involved in this process and how to do it right.

Construction resource management may seem like an abstract concept, but it's not -- at least it wasn't for a homeowner and county locked in a battle over construction equipment left abandoned in an Atlanta-area community recently.

The Dekalb Roads and Draining Department reportedly was supposed to fix a retaining wall in 2018, but a homeowner claimed workers walked away from the job and left the equipment in her yard, tanking her home's value (Dekalb County claimed she was holding the equipment hostage).

Regardless of who's at fault in that situation, it's an illustration of what happens when resource management goes wrong. In this case, whatever plan was in place didn’t account for a snag like this, so equipment brought to the site was left unusable for months due to a dispute.

As a construction manager, your resources are your project's lifeblood, so you must manage them properly to avoid major problems like this one. You need a plan in place for each phase of your project describing what resources are needed and when.

This guide will help you understand what construction resource management is and how to use it to your benefit.

Overview: What is construction resource management?

Construction resource management refers to how a company tracks and uses equipment, workers, facilities, materials, funding, or anything else that might be considered a resource by a construction firm.

Effective resource management is necessary for construction companies that want to avoid waste and boost their bottom line.

By managing their construction resources effectively, firms can avoid mistakes like hiring too many workers, not having the proper equipment available, delaying a project due to late delivery of supplies, and other resource-related problems that are common on construction sites.

Benefits of construction resource management

Construction asset management is foundational to construction management as a whole. It offers a host of benefits, but these three in particular should convince you to place a high priority on this part of the job.

1. Increases efficiency

Good construction resource management results in greater efficiency, which in turn leads to lower costs.

By effectively managing your resources, you're not facing a costly project delay because you underestimated the number of workers you'd need, or overspending on extra excavation equipment that ultimately wasn't necessary.

2. Improves management

You'll have an easier time managing construction projects by having a bird's-eye view of everything that's going on, and the only way to do that is to properly track and manage your resources.

A project's resources are all the aspects of a project that make it come together, so by understanding where all your resources are and where they fit in, you'll be able to run the project better.

3. Lowers risk

Construction projects can be thrown off track by debilitating delays and cost increases. These risks threaten to eliminate your profit margin and leave you scrambling to catch up.

By properly managing resources, you will be able to spot these risks and take mitigating actions to either prevent them from ever happening or have a plan B in case they do happen.

How to create an effective construction resource management plan

Creating a construction resource management plan takes some time, but it is more than worth it in the end. Take these steps to get started creating your own.

Step 1: Use software

It's unwise to try to manage your resources without software. Construction project management software platforms have extensive tools that will help you with the complex process of resource management.

This software can manage milestones, tie resources to each milestone, assign roles, and handle all of the other ins and outs involved in this task. Trying to do it with a spreadsheet -- or worse, pen and paper -- is a recipe for disaster.

Tip: The Ascent has reviewed the top construction management software options. Try a few of them out to see which work best with your business.

Step 2: Identify milestones

Milestones are markers in a construction schedule that will help you figure out how to schedule your resources. These milestones will help you determine what resources you need and when you need them.

List each milestone, even relatively insignificant ones, as long as they have resources attached to them. You will use these milestones as the basis for your construction resource management plan.

Tip: Create some wiggle room in your milestone schedule. Give yourself a few extra days and some extra resources rather than hoping for maximum efficiency. This will make you better prepared for any unknowns that may pop up.

Step 3: Identify resources

With milestones identified, list each resource you will need to complete each milestone. For example, if you must complete plumbing by a certain date and you plan to have a subcontractor do the work, list resources such as pipes, plumbing subcontractor hours, and the funding needed to complete the task.

Tip: List all resources, not just the big ones. It could be something as small as "five nails." Even the little things are necessary for the completion of a project, and they need to be on hand so workers aren't wasting time looking for things they need.

Step 4: Assign responsibilities

All key stakeholders should have designated responsibilities and should be accountable for how resources are managed and used.

For example, assign someone to be responsible for equipment usage -- i.e., they will know where equipment is at all times, what time slots are available, what workers are approved to use them, and so on.

Tip: Don't dictate -- ask your workers for help in dividing up responsibilities. Find out what they have experience in and what they'd be most comfortable managing. This will increase your chances of success.

Step 5: Review and analyze

You won't nail construction resources management on the first try, and that's OK. Even if you didn't, your project will go better than it has in the past just by implementing these measures.

Once the project is complete, do a thorough review and analysis of how you performed. Hopefully, you have construction management software that does this data-crunching for you.

Then you can answer some questions:

  • Were you accurate when you listed the resources needed to complete a milestone?
  • Were the correct people made accountable for the right resources?
  • What could you do differently next time to improve your resource management?

Armed with this knowledge, you'll be able to get better with each construction project.

Tip: Experiment on a small scale based on the results. If you spot some opportunities to do things differently based on the data but are afraid to take the leap, institute a small pilot program to try things out, like using two workers on a task where you might usually use three (but suspect that not that many workers are necessary). Keep that third worker on reserve just in case.

Become a construction resource management expert

When it comes to good resource management, it's all about being willing to learn. Research innovative resource management techniques. Study other firms for resource planning examples to get an understanding how they do things.

Invest in training for yourself and your team so you can learn more about resource construction principles. The Ascent has plenty of articles on how to be a better construction manager you can start reading now.

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