Blog: The Crucial Role of Logistics in Construction Projects – how good are yours?

07 December 2023

How good are your construction logistics now?

Karine Bartle, SECBE Board member and Head of Development for Infrastructure Logistics at Wincanton 

In her blog, Karine reveals that getting logistics right isn't just about moving construction materials — it supports all project’s efforts, innovations, and success. 

Her vision helps strengthen SECBE's CLOCS workstream, a national Standard that encourages all stakeholders in construction to take responsibility for health & safety beyond the hoardings.

Look beyond the glamour of architectural marvels and technological innovations and you’ll realise it’s the seamless coordination and timely delivery of materials, plant and people that can make or break every construction project. On time delivery of supplies, optimisation of resources, collaborative planning, inventory management, environmental and community considerations, and above all, logistics safety, play a crucial part in the art that is good logistics. With costs of logistics estimated to be up to 6% of total project costs (EY 2022) coupled with the inherent risk of poor logistics (delays, changes, penalties, injury etc.) is there a need to focus more of our attention on good logistics?

So, what are the pivotal components that ensure efficient and effective logistics for project success and is there a significant room for improvement in your projects?

How effective is our logistics planning?

Well planned logistic ensures the right resources reach the construction site in the right quantities and at the right time, minimizing project delays and cost overruns. Without meticulous planning and execution on the logistics front, even the grandest projects can be mired in setbacks, hindering progress and inflating budgets.

The challenge is not just in securing resources but in transporting them to often remote or challenging locations. Whether it's hauling massive steel beams for a bridge or time-critical delivery of materials to a constrained city-centre site, efficient transportation logistics are paramount. Timely arrivals/removal of materials and equipment ensure that construction schedules remain on track, preventing costly delays and ensuring the project meets its deadlines safely.

Is it the time to invest in collaboration?

In the interconnected global economy, construction projects often involve sourcing materials and expertise from various corners of the world. Here, logistics is not merely about moving goods but orchestrating a symphony of international collaboration. Efficient logistics must navigate customs, international regulations, and complex shipping routes to seamlessly integrate components from diverse sources. The ability to synchronize these global movements is critical in avoiding bottlenecks and ensuring that the project's timeline remains in check. Recent experiences through the Covid pandemic are a stark reminder of the importance of robust and collaborative supply chains.

Do we know where your construction materials are across your projects?

Good inventory management and control ensures your construction sites receive the necessary materials when needed, minimising the need for extensive on-site storage, reducing costs and optimising space. Moreover, it mitigates the risk of materials deterioration or theft, common issues when dealing with large volumes of valuable resources.

Will communities want us to do more work around their area?

In an era where sustainability and being a good neighbour are key considerations, logistics in construction builds can play a crucial role in minimizing environmental and community impacts. Optimizing transportation routes, employing fuel-efficient vehicles, consolidating materials into fewer deliveries, and reducing unnecessary waste through better inventory management are all ways logistics contributes to a greener construction industry. By adopting eco-friendly practices, projects can align with global sustainability goals and have a positive impact on the communities in which we operate whilst leaving a legacy for future generations.

At SECBE we are driving good logistics through CLOCS – Construction Logistics and Community Safety. CLOCS and its national standard requires collaborative action across logistics networks delivering to construction projects, to ensure the safest, leanest, and greenest logistics outside construction site hoardings. As we look toward the future, the importance of good logistics in shaping our world cannot be overstated.

Do we underestimate or disregard the significance of logistics related risks?

Construction projects inherently involve a degree of risk, ranging from unforeseen weather events to geopolitical challenges. Logistics management acts as a risk mitigation strategy by introducing planning and flexibility into the supply chain. Having alternative suppliers, diversified transportation routes, and contingency plans in place allows projects to adapt to unforeseen circumstances without causing significant disruptions. In essence, logistics serves as a safety net, ensuring projects remain resilient in the face of challenges.

The future of logistics?

In an era buzzing with terms like AI, MMC, augmented reality and digital twins, the focus on the safe physical transit of resources to worksite might seem underwhelming. Yet, neglecting this crucial aspect could undermine the impact of all other project efforts and innovations. We aim for our project to stand out for all the right reasons.

So how good are your construction logistics now and how much better would your organization perform if they were great?

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