Undertaking a construction project is a tough job. Besides internal factors such as process delays, construction projects also need to be prepared for external factors like weather constraints, price volatility, temporary contractors, etc. All of these can impact the project’s progress on different levels. The onus is on the project manager to keep these limitations at bay and ensure successful project delivery.
One must use the allocated project resources efficiently and effectively in such a situation. The talent and motivation of the workforce will be finally the guiding factor for the successful delivery of any project. Therefore, resource management plays a significant role in the construction industry. Simultaneously, rising insurance costs and the increasing difficulty of recruiting skilled labor have made the construction project managers’ jobs challenging.
This article aims to explain the challenges of construction resource management and provide a strategic approach to making it more efficient.
But before diving deep, let’s first understand the definition.
1. What is Construction Resource Management, and why is it important
Construction resource management is the process of planning, allocating, and managing resources, including personnel, equipment, materials, and finances, to complete construction projects successfully.
It helps to accomplish every task with precision and meet the project objectives within time. It allows managers to deliver projects successfully by fulfilling project resource demands on time. Effective resource management also maximizes productive utilization.
With this approach, the construction firms can also avoid mistakes such as hiring too many workers, project delays due to late delivery of supplies, etc.
Let’s delve deep and find out which are the essential construction project management resources.
2. Necessary resources in the construction industry
The construction business has its specific requirements and challenges similar to any other industry. Here is a rundown of all the essential resources of construction industry.
Human resources: They are the most critical part of the construction management resource pool. It is the people behind the project that make it a reality. The following are the vital roles required in the construction industry:
- Estimator: The estimator is responsible for estimating the costs, materials, and labor needed to complete a project.
- Architect: The architect’s job is to envision the client’s needs and develop a creative solution in a blueprint.
- Supervisor: The supervisor acts as an intermediary between the field workers and the management office. He/she ensures effective communication between the two parties.
- Quantity Surveyor: The quantity surveyor provides the client with advice on building costs and contractual matters throughout the building process and acts as a consultant to the architect.
- Engineer: Engineers are vital on a job site and may specialize in building, electrical, mechanical, highway, etc. For example, civil engineers use computer software technology to create plans for their projects. Electrical engineers monitor the power requirements in the project and ensure all hazards are negated.
- Construction Worker: Construction workers are the driving force of every project. Once the project is planned, the workers get their hands dirty to make it a reality.
Equipment: Construction projects require heavy equipment. The selection of the equipment depends on the time and cost of the project. Some of the heavy equipment used in construction projects are bulldozers, excavators, cranes, trenchers, etc.
Materials: Materials such as wood, cement, metals, bricks, concrete, clay, etc., are the most common type of building material used in construction. Selection criteria such as cost-effectiveness and quality play a significant role.
Facilities: Facilities not only improve workers’ welfare but also enhance efficiency. As per the CDM regulations, all construction sites must include the following facilities:
- Living accommodations for the workers.
- Sanitary and toilet facilities.
- Drinking water facilities.
- Changing rooms and lockers.
Now that we are aware of the resources in construction project required, let’s understand the benefits of effective construction resource management.
3. Benefits of an effective Construction Resource Management
Resource management provides an array of benefits to construction project managers. Here are is a list of some of those benefits:
A. Gain visibility of all construction management resources
Often, you won’t have the required resources at the primary location. You may have to look at cost-effective resources from a different location within the business. But without enterprise-wide visibility finding the right resources with the desired skills and cost becomes challenging.
An efficient resource management solution provides a centralized view of skills, qualifications, experience, cost rate, and other vital information. You do not need to reconcile multiple spreadsheets to identify and allocate appropriate construction resources for the project.
For example, if a project manager needs a construction worker for a project, he/she can quickly see an available person’s schedule and identify the resource using advanced filtering capability. The identified person can be assigned using a simple drag-and-drop facility.
B. Reduce construction project costs
Construction projects are subject to numerous constraints such as resourcing costs, price volatility, uncertain nature of the projects, and more. Due to these limitations, construction projects are vulnerable to budget and timeline overruns.
Construction resource management software monitors critical project financial indicators such as costs, revenue, profit margins, and overheads. Tracking project financials helps to avoid budget overruns. Project managers can control costs by periodically tracking and comparing forecast vs. actual spending. If there is a variance, necessary corrective measures can mitigate project risks ahead of time.
It also helps in monitoring shared construction resources who are working on multiple projects. Accordingly, project managers can adjust the resource mix to control project resource costs in advance.
C. Improve productivity of construction resources
Construction resource management ensures that appropriate construction resources are deployed to suitable projects at the right time and cost. This approach maximizes workforce efficiency and improves productivity.
An effective equipment scheduling tool can help managers forecast the effective utilization of equipment and other resources ahead of time. Accordingly, they can mobilize resources from non-billable to billable and strategic work periodically and increase efficiency.
Efficient resource planning enhances the productivity of the workforce by scheduling them to billable work. For instance, a resource management solution helps allocate competent resources to tasks within seconds. It allows the operations teams to reduce errors and perform tasks that are more inclined towards achieving the business goals.
D. Helps plan construction pipeline project activities
Lack of visibility of pipeline projects leads to scrambling for competent resources at the eleventh hour, resulting in unnecessary hiring/firing costs and compromised quality.
For example, suppose a mall construction is scheduled to start in 2-3 months down the line and needs a substantial number of resources. You suddenly realize that your project is not suitably staffed at the last minute, and you need to hire some additional resources to kickstart the project. Without sufficient lead time, you cannot onboard them immediately, causing further delays and budget overruns.
What could you have done to avoid this in the first place?
A robust resource management solution can help avoid this last-minute scuffle and allow managers to create a skilled construction resource pool ahead of time. It provides intuitive forecasting that predicts the future project demand well in advance.
Resource capacity planning enables managers to plan the future/pipeline construction project requirements and meet the deliverables. It helps managers compare the resource capacity against the demand to identify the excesses and shortfalls. Accordingly, managers can apply appropriate resourcing treatments such as training, adjusting project timelines, hiring, or selling excess capacity to bridge the gap.
E. Facilitate construction team collaboration
Team collaboration is necessary for everyone to have clarity about the project responsibilities. Since, in a construction project, tasks are interdependent, team members need to remain on the same page at all times. For instance, an engineer will have to rely on the architect for the project design. A supervisor has to remain in constant contact with his/her workers and look over their progress.
Resource management enhances collaboration which supports healthy relations between the whole project team. Real-time collaboration on the tool streamlines effective communication between various construction project team members and ensures everyone is on the same page.
Moreover, problem-solving becomes easy with effective team collaboration. One gets a different perspective on the same issue making it easy to deduce a solution. It also fosters trust and enhances morale in the organization, building a positive environment and strengthening the team.
4.Challenges associated with Construction Resource Management and how to mitigate
Numerous roadblocks in construction resource management can cause missed deadlines and cost overruns. Here are some of the challenges of resource management in construction.
A. Shortage of skilled labor: Skilled labor plays a vital role in the success of every construction project. But, with the increasing demand for construction services, there is a shortage of skilled labor.
Numerous factors influence the shortage of skilled labor. Some of which are:
- Workers who lost their construction jobs moved to other industries.
- Professional construction resources are retiring.
- Construction businesses haven’t innovated their hiring process with technology.
A limited workforce creates additional strain for construction companies due to the vast project workload. The resources get overwhelmed with the projects, resulting in delays and poor outcomes.
Solution: To address the shortage of skilled labor, construction firms need to invest in all employees’ training such as;
- Refresher training courses for all resources
- Mentorship programs, where senior workers will guide new workers
Moreover, experimenting with new approaches while recruiting construction resources will also mitigate the issue. Here are some of the additional ways that will help negate the shortage of skilled labor:
- Secure skilled workers beforehand
- Empower resources to select projects of their interest
- Hire part-time or contractual employees
- Offer loyalty points to your current employees
B. Lack of resource planning and scheduling tools: To gain a competitive edge in this technologically advanced era, managers need to have the right tools at their disposal. Silos of spreadsheets or home-grown tools are limited to basic admin work. They fail to address construction resource management challenges efficiently. They are also time-consuming and error-prone, resulting in scheduling conflicts such as double bookings.
Solution: A resource planning tool can map out your resources’ skill sets and schedule tasks for them accordingly. Using the software, you can assign resources to tasks best suited to their unique skills. You can forecast, schedule, and allocate tasks as required.
Resource scheduling software captures employees’ schedules and their time off, such as vacation, annual leaves, or public holidays. It also provides visibility of other available resources when needed and keeps the project resource plan on track. Resource capacity planning helps to identify and bridge the capacity gap using appropriate measures.
Also, it would help if you had a backup plan in case someone gets unwell or has some personal emergency. Effective resource planning strategy allows buffer on resources during unforeseen events.
C. Changes in project scope due to various external and internal factors: Scope creeps can adversely impact resource productivity and increase workload. It leads to burnouts and turnovers as resources get overwhelmed with the last-minute changes.
Also, managers face a massive resource crunch and struggle to find suitable resources at the last moment.
Solution: First and foremost, you must ensure that the scope is clear to everyone working on the project. The client should understand what is in the scope and what isn’t. Excellent and transparent communication with the client can negate the last-minute hiccups.
Here is how you can save the project from scope creep:
- Determine and agree upon a change management process upfront.
- Prioritize the tasks and accommodate new requests if necessary.
- Communicate with clients and stakeholders about any scope creeps.
- Analyze impacts of changes and present solutions to your client or stakeholder to tackle them.
- If scope change is the only way possible, then find out ways to incorporate the changes.
D. Poor resource utilization: Resource utilization is one of the KPIs in construction project management. But finding the resource utilization metrics right is tricky. At times, managers oversee utilization when resources are not working on any billable task. Overlooking utilization leads to disengagement and decreased morale of employees. Resources get more prone to mistakes as they lack focus. Consequently, they fail to adhere to the company standards.
Solution: Knowing your team’s current resource utilization rate will tell you if your team is overwhelmed/underwhelmed with the workload. Reviewing the utilization rates will help you re-plan and reassign tasks if needed.
Both overutilization or underutilization can have adverse effects on the project. Here are some simple steps to improve resource utilization:
- Define appropriate variables to measure billable utilization.
- Improve your resource deployment upfront by comparing planned versus actual reports. It will also help you to prepare for future projects.
Proper resource planning and resource capacity planning ensure that none of the project vacancies go unfilled or excess capacity goes wasted. You can maximize your resource utilization and also ensure timely delivery.
E. Poor communication: Poor communication is one of the factors that can hamper project success. The project manager has to foster team collaboration. Otherwise, communication challenges will grasp the construction project management.
Solution: A communication plan will make team collaboration much more effortless. There must be constant contact between the team members as well as the managers and stakeholders. Modern resource management solutions facilitate real-time collaboration using discussion boards or personalized chat rooms. Project members can effectively communicate, update, share documents, and more.
Thus, implementing a single collaboration platform for the team and stakeholders will help build communication. It will help the team members to:
- Understand the goals of the project
- Access and use approved project documents
- Update their tasks when needed
- Track the overall progress of the project
- Log risks and issues
For example, instant desktop notifications, chatbots, task reminders, etc., enable faster communication. It will help the team stay connected and well informed.
5. Four steps to Identify Resource Requirement for Construction Industry
There are four basic steps to arrive at resource requirement for the construction industry:
A. Create a project plan and identify milestones
A project plan ensures that everything remains on track and gives a clear view of the project scope. Moreover, a proper understanding of project milestones and deadlines helps in effective resource allocation in construction projects. With the help of a WBS, you can better understand what is required for the project’s success. It also works as a roadmap of tasks and elaborates the skill set requirement.
B. Identify resources required for project success
First, one needs to identify the specific work that needs to be done. Based on that, estimate the type and number of resources required at different stages. Plan for resource acquisition so that there is no idle time and enough work for the workforce that is onboarded. Plan for ramp-up and ramp-down activities as appropriate.
C. Evaluate resource availability and reusability for other projects
Ensure the availability and reusability of your project resources to meet project milestones. You must ascertain if you can use a resource for multiple tasks on the same project or if that resource would be better suited for another project based on the skills.
D. Have an authorization process for proper resource planning
A consistent authorization process will help the managers and the stakeholders ensure everyone is aligned to the objectives. This way, you can stick to the milestones and deliver within the deadline.
Construction resource management can be tricky. However, with proper resource planning and scheduling, managers can maximize productivity and ensure that resource conflicts are minimal. Resource management software is key to deliver construction projects successfully within the stipulated time and budget.
7. SAVIOM Solution
SAVIOM has over 20 years of experience helping multinational clients manage their resources efficiently and effectively. With over 20 years of experience, this Australian-based MNC has a global presence across 50 countries and has helped 100+ clients meet their specific business goals. Saviom also provides tools for project portfolio management, professional service automation, and workforce planning software. So, SAVIOM can help your business to establish an efficient system geared towards your specific business challenges.
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