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Four Tips to Eliminate Waste in Construction

Celebrate Earth Day 2015. Go green!Waste costs the construction industry billions of dollars every year, and while eliminating it from job sites sounds simple, that’s certainly not the case. The most common wastes in construction are a result of waiting, unnecessary motion and transportation, defects, and inventory. What we can do to combat these areas?

Waiting: Whether you’re waiting for instructions, a colleague, others to finish their work, or tools and parts. Whenever materials, people or machines are sitting idle, or aren’t ready when needed – time is wasted. Waiting occurs when time required for workers or machines to conduct a value-added process are out of sync, or when a value-added process is not properly planned. Tips to eliminate waiting include:

  • Always have contingency plans available to communicate to crew members.
  • Use radios as communication tools.
  • Involve pertinent people in early planning processes.
  • Stay ahead of the needs of crew members on materials and tools.

Motion and Transportation: Whether you’re walking to find tools, materials, or a colleague, or you’ve forgotten materials/tools and are going back for them – any movement of people that does not add value is considered unnecessary motion. Any movement of machines or materials that does not put items at the point of use is considered unnecessary transportation. Faith Technologies’ has a 30/30 rule in place where everything crew members need on-site is to be within 30 seconds and 30 feet of their work area. Other tips to eliminate unnecessary motion and transportation include:

  • Ensure work carts are well-organized and maintained, and contain the materials needed for the day’s work.
  • Use scissor lift rail boxes whenever possible when working on lifts.
  • Move critical equipment, when possible, to where work is being performed.
  • Use radios as communication tools.
  • Wear tool pouches and tool belts to help make sure you have your tools where and when you need them.
  • Have a dedicated material handling person available to make deliveries and run parts and tools to the job.

Defects: Rework, breakdown of tools, damaged materials, the loss or careless handling of material, and theft are all examples of defects. Defects disrupt procedures and have a negative effect on morale, and in turn, poor quality increases costs in both wasted materials and labor. Tips to eliminate defects include:

  • Have a thorough understanding of job specifications.
  • Update drawings to ensure everyone is working off the latest versions.
  • Lock tools up at the end of each work day.
  • Inspect incoming freight to ensure damaged freight is identified and noted on the freight bill.
  • Red tag/take broken tools out-of-service, and then ordering replacement tools ASAP.
  • Have contingency plans in place.

Inventory: Too much inventory, not enough inventory, or the wrong inventory. Having too much inventory is wasteful and often times we need to return the material, or in some cases move the material so much that it ends up costing us more than the actual cost. Having too little inventory or the wrong inventory result in waiting and morale issues. The ultimate inventory would be to have enough material for your people to install in one to two weeks, depending on the size of the job. Tips to manage inventory include:

  • Have one person on the job site in charge of all the common material. This person would also be in charge of all the common material ordering, which will also reduce the chances of double-ordering material.
  • At the 80-90% point of the job, keep a closer look on inventory and order only what is needed. We will need to return any excess materials, so it’s important to not order extra.
  • Have a well laid out material setup. Everything should be labeled, so people know where things are.
  • Help combat treasure hunts by using radios, or asking where items are.
  • Remember to put materials away when you’re done with them.

This Earth Day, eliminate common wastes on the job site, reduce costs and increase productivity. Please share any other tips or suggestions you have in the comment section below.