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Streamlining construction: logistics solutions to protect your bottom line

Industry views | 20 March 2017

Wincanton construction vehicle on building site

By Chris Fenton, Managing Director of Industrial and Transport at Wincanton plc

Pressure to deliver construction projects on time and to budget has never been higher. However, according to a recent government commissioned review of the industry, there exists an almost accepted perception that many businesses in the sector are unable to accurately deliver to plan.

In many instances, it’s often the non-availability of essential materials that causes the biggest disruption to keeping projects on-track. Delays at one stage of a project, often stemming from poor logistical management, can have a knock-on effect for subsequent stages and can impact significantly on costs and overall operational profitability.

Unfortunately, the situation is only going to become more complex as the trend towards wide-scale use of sub-contracting and tiered transactional interfaces becomes more commonplace. The sheer number of different suppliers delivering materials on-site means it’s almost inevitable there will be delays at one point or another for many projects.

It’s time for the construction industry to target a smarter, more joined-up way of working and managing how construction materials flow into a project is key in this respect.

Unfortunately, too often logistics solutions are added on at a later stage, almost as an afterthought. To help ensure projects are delivered on time and to budget, factoring in a logistics strategy right from the concept stage is the way forward. This is where a leading third-party logistics provider like Wincanton can really add value.

Having a single expert company overseeing project logistics from the very start can make all the difference to optimising inbound material flows and raising productivity.

For instance, as projects become more complex, one way to minimise on-site delays is to use consolidation centres. These offer a faster, smarter, greener way of working with multiple suppliers, providing a centrally located facility that manages the delivery and fulfilment of building materials to nearby sites.

Virtually all the materials needed for a project arrive straight into the consolidation centre and are then delivered in smaller quantities to sites on a ‘just-in-time’ basis – with materials being centrally checked to ensure they’re on-spec and damage-free. As a result, unnecessary delays are minimised and site teams can be assured that all building materials delivered are immediately available as required and fit-for-purpose.

The benefits are far reaching, not just in terms of speed and efficiency, but also carbon and cost savings. In our own experience, we’ve seen delivery reliability rise to 97% from an average of 50% and expensive downtime has been minimised as construction workers have exactly what they need, when they need it.

Another solution that’s becoming increasingly prevalent for streamlining project delivery and cutting out delays, particularly for residential builds, is the use of more modular methods of construction.

While this may conjure up comical images of a whole house being delivered pre-assembled to a building site, in reality, such an approach is neither practical or realistic. Instead, at Wincanton, we are able to support our customers in delivering components of modularisation – from pre-assembled floor cassettes and timber framing, to pre-fabricated bathrooms, the latter of which can be fitted into place, tiled and then plumbed in as soon as it arrives on site.   

Whilst there are certain logistical challenges that can limit the scale and scope of a modular approach, (for instance, road traffic issues and site egress restrictions), there are huge benefits to taking a more component focussed modular approach.

Rather than the traditional approach which sees all the materials arriving on-site individually (and potentially from several different suppliers), a modular approach means you can deliver something that’s already semi-assembled and pre-engineered. This can make a massive difference to the overall time required to finish a build on-site (therefore boosting productivity). Indeed, a recent government White Paper estimated that a modular approach to residential construction could mean homes “can be built up to 30% more quickly… and with a potential 25% reduction in costs”.

Modular approaches can also improve resource efficiency, cut down the number of inbound deliveries, lessen the noise, dust and local disruption caused by developments, improve site safety and reduce material waste. It’s a staggering fact that up to 13% of the materials purchased for construction projects go unused and are discarded.[1] Modularisation, by pre-engineering components in controlled settings, eliminates much of this waste.

At Wincanton, we deliver more than half a million loads to construction and building sites across the UK every year. This includes everything from bricks and mortar to heavy machinery and tools. Needless to say, to do this we deploy the latest, and often specialist, vehicle equipment and technology. But our role goes far beyond the physical movement of goods. We work closely with our customers, providing much valued consultancy that helps them plan projects more effectively and implement new, more advantageous supply chain practices.

From the consolidation of inbound logistics, to the use of specialist equipment to support the delivery of modular construction methods, we have the experience and the expertise to help streamline supply chains and ensure our customers deliver to plan, every time.