Communication Roadblocks Creates Transportation Waste

Even if you have the right people at the right site at the right time, they won’t be able to complete their tasks if the correct equipment isn’t onsite or if vehicles that aren’t needed are blocking the way.
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In one of our recent articles, we highlighted the challenge of talent not being utilized correctly. Now in this post, we’re swinging the spotlight onto another common waste of lean construction: transportation. Even if you have the right people at the right site at the right time, they won’t be able to complete their tasks if the correct equipment isn’t onsite or if vehicles that aren’t needed are blocking the way. Let’s look at why transportation mistakes happen and what can be done about them. 

One of the most vexing inefficiencies faced by construction crews and their supervisors is waiting. As we stated in a previous piece, this doesn’t happen by accident, but is typically triggered by other wastes that have knock-on effects further down the line. Transportation is a prime culprit. Logically, a construction worker can’t operate a front loader if the vehicle isn’t available when it’s required. Even if it does arrive on time, he or she won’t be able to complete their work for the day if other heavy equipment has been left onsite when it should’ve been removed. In either scenario, the worker must remain idle while waiting to be unblocked. 

It isn’t just this one individual’s time that goes down the drain. Calls have to be made and messages sent requesting that the correct vehicle is brought to the site as soon as possible, equipment that’s no longer needed is collected, or both. This scenario is troublesome enough on its own, but if it’s repeated across multiple projects, it creates a logistical nightmare that impacts project timelines and budgets and drives up labor costs. Then there are the ancillary expenses like fuel and vehicle storage to consider, and situations in which vehicles break down and require repair. 

The Costs of Transportation Waste

Whether a construction company owns vehicles and other heavy equipment, leases them, or gets them from a third party, fleet management is one of the most critical components of the construction process flow. For things to run smoothly and cost effectively, dispatchers need to know the exact kind and quantity of equipment that’s needed, when, and which jobsite it should be sent to. 

This cannot be a static process, because conditions change and timelines get adjusted on the fly. Sometimes a vehicle is no longer needed, workers are finished with it early, or they won’t be ready for it until the next day. Reasons for such changes include weather, delays in previous stages of a project, and compliance holdups. For a fleet to be managed effectively, dispatchers need to know about such delays and timeline changes the moment they occur so that they’re not sending equipment and workers to sites where they’re not required. If a change is noted in real time, vehicles and manpower can be reassigned to other locations, but if workers don’t send notification back up the chain, both will be misallocated or left idle. 

On the other end of the scale, it’s no use for a crew to expect one type of vehicle to arrive, only for another to show up. Or for a 12-foot truck to be waiting when they start work even though they requested a 20-footer. Another problem can unfold when the job specs have changed but nobody bothered to tell the general contractor or their subcontractors. The message might have been sent but is languishing unread in someone’s inbox or in a feed in one of the three to six apps that the typical construction worker uses daily. 

Fleet Management Fixes

Such snafus create frustration, a slew of admin tasks, and costly project delays. For every single mistake that’s made in transportation, many actions must be taken to remedy it. And almost all of them stem from incomplete or incorrect information being shared between stakeholders, wires getting crossed, and data getting stuck in siloed systems. As a MachineMetrics blog post on lean manufacturing wastes put it, “poorly designed processes or processes that have not been changed or updated as often as required” are frequently at the root of transportation waste. 

Fortunately, the key to fixing this pressing problem is fairly simple. If workers are kept up to date on which tasks they should be performing, when, and where, they will know what equipment they require to do the job and can schedule its transportation. Similarly, when dispatchers have a birds-eye view of upcoming tasks on each jobsite and are informed immediately when changes occur onsite, they can send the right equipment and drivers only where they’re needed and reallocate pieces of their fleet.

To enable this, what’s required is a communication app that ingests data from all relevant systems and presents pertinent pieces of it to the stakeholders who need to see it. Such a platform would replace a rat’s nest of disparate tools that don’t talk with each other and put all the information that construction crews and their supervisors need in their pockets so it’s available at a glance. The result? Better collaboration, clearer communication, and less waste. 

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