Procurement in Construction

Procurement / How important is it?

The issue of procurement is vitally important to the success of any construction project.

What is procurement?

Procurement is the proper and timely ordering of materials, equipment and merchandise to ensure that there is no delays in the construction schedule, nor the opening of the store, the school or whatever project you are currently the project manager of.

I have recently been asked to complete a number of projects that have gone astray. They are behind schedule and financially in the toilet. I have been requested to complete the work and attempt to resurrect the relationship between the contactor and the owner.

The real question for this website, is why do I have to salvage this project and this relationship?

The answer to this question is simple. No one spent any effort or due diligence trying to anticipate what was needed to be procured and at what time in the project schedule, to successfully complete the project. There was no effort to anticipate the construction schedule and parallel the material, equipment and subcontractor requirements with this schedule.

This is as mandatory a task as filling the tank of your car with fuel, without the proper materials and equipment on the project, you will never get to your final destination.

There are always the same issues that will cause scheduling havoc on a construction project, and they are extremely simple to list. There is no magic to the completion of a construction project. It requires the same due diligence in anticipation of the project requirements, whether it is a small or a large project. In fact, the smaller the job and the tighter the schedule, the more important is the procurement schedule.

Are there standard procurement items and issues that must be anticipated and scheduled to properly complete a project, whether small or large?

YES! / I only identify this answer in capital letters due to the fact that I have seen repeated mistakes and errors in procurement made on every project. Procurement is not an unknown entity, research and investigation can be done to ensure that the proper time is allowed for all products, equipment and other entities to arrive on the jobsite as required. This is not magic, it only take some due diligence and honest work to anticipate and schedule the products for timely delivery. With the current capabilities of the internet to research basically, everything, there is NO excuse for lack of material on a jobsite.

What are some of the basic procurement issues that every project will encounter?

There are basic project requirements for every construction project. They are repeated, each time you start a job and must be evaluated on every project. The list is a custom list that you should develop as your experience increases. You will be caught off guard with some materials and equipment, however, learn by your mistakes and try to anticipate their influence on your next project. Listed below are some of the basic items that are ALWAYS on my procurement list.

  • Concrete test reports. How many times have I waited for the design mix to be approved after the excavation of a foundation? Get the concrete supplier to issue you their concrete test reports for submission to the engineers of record. The delays incurred with open excavations that cannot be backfilled due to a delay in the foundations can devastate your construction schedule at the onset of the project.
  • Rebar drawings. If the documents require reinforcement documents to be submitted and approved, do it. There is nothing as frustrating in the field as pushing your excavator to dig the foundation and pushing your concrete sub to form the footings, only to find out that there is a requirement for approved reinforcement documents, which have not been submitted nor approved. Don’t forget the accessories for the reinforcing. On many projects the engineers are very detailed with their requirements for chairs, tie wire, etc. Make sure all of these items are approved and on the project, prior to excavating the trenches.
  • Masonry products such as brick, specialty block or even spec mix design specifications. Normally there is a long lead for special brick, especially glazed brick and block and special shapes. A simple call to the supplier will immediately provide you with the procurement information necessary to properly manage these items. Once again, like the concrete, do not forget the accessories for the masonry. As engineering codes and requirements become more stringent, the masonry accessories such as dur-o-wall, cavity drainage material, mortar mix, grout mix, etc. must be approved and on the project, prior to the commencement of masonry.
  • Structural steel and miscellaneous metal . Of special importance in regard to procurement are any specialty structural or miscellaneous metal requirements. Stair details, handrail details, miscellaneous embedded items in the concrete, etc. All of these items are critical procurement items and must be properly managed.
  • Doors and hardware. If there are any specialty doors, windows or hardware items, these products must be expedited immediately upon receipt of the projects contract. Specialty enclosures, whether it is doors, windows or special hatches always take considerable time. Any specialty item on the project must be managed immediately upon initiation of the project.
  • Specialty siding, soffit or roofing materials. There will be projects that have specialty products specified, which will take time to obtain. It is important to analyze and research all the exterior products that have been specified and make sure of the delivery to the project.
  • Elevator and lifting mechanisms such as escalators or lifts. The ability to order and procure lifting devices is normally a very difficult procurement item. The documents and specific design requirements of lifting equipment, usually takes substantial time. It is important that these items are specifically targeted to ensure compliance with scheduled delivery dates. In many instances the rough openings for specialty lifting equipment is required, prior to the construction of the primary framing for the project.
  • Mechanical diffusers and grilles. For some reason the procurement of special diffusers, grilles and linear diffusers always causes difficulties in ordering and long procurement times. It is VERY important to identify any specialty mechanical items such as these, that will cause delays in delivery to the project.
  • Light fixtures !!   Light fixtures are always long lead. Some suppliers will indicate that this is incorrect. In my 40 years of construction management, I have yet to have a project that the light fixtures were not a procurement issue and issue.
  • General rough openings. The coordination and management of all rough openings for the project is a procurement necessity. I have always made a special rough opening document that includes all of the rough openings necessary for doors, windows, hatches, elevator pits, etc. on the project. In this manner, the field will have all of the necessary dimensions that will be required to construct the project, without delay.

Experience and knowledge will continually add to the list of procurement concerns and considerations. It is important to log items that require special consideration on every project. There is no sense being delayed, due to lineal diffusers, the second time.

Learn once, that should be it! Do not be fooled again, once you have learned what items have caused you delivery issues in the past.

How do you acknowledge the lead times of long procurement items and fit them into the construction schedule?

Whether your favorite scheduling program is Microsoft Project, or another, it is mandatory that procurement be a key feature of your scheduling analysis. Develop a separate procurement schedule. The identification of long lead items and delivery times is paramount in the success of any project, especially a construction project. Management and coordination of long lead items is vital to the success of a project in the field. There is nothing that will delay the flow of construction, than waiting for light fixtures, linear diffusers, ceiling pads, etc. Like all other operations, you must have the proper materials and equipment when they are required on the project.

What is the best method for developing an accurate procurement schedule?

Follow these steps:

1.) Review the project specifications and contract documents and make a list of all items, that based upon your construction experience as well as the awareness of others within the office, will require a long lead time to procure.

2.) Make an excel spreadsheet of all the items that you anticipate will possibly cause a delay on your project due to submittal times, approval times and eventual delivery to the jobsite. Do not forget that the anticipated lead times from the manufacturers are usually after the item has been submitted and approved by the architect, engineer and owner of the project.

3.) Once the initial list is made, and you have researched anticipated lead times, review this list with ALL of your subcontractors and material suppliers. You may gain additional insight into the actual delivery times and dates from these other participants in your project. Assign the task of procurement research to the appropriate vendors and subcontractors, in an effort to include them in the liability of the schedule.

4.) One all data for procurement is accumulated and assembled on the spreadsheet, analyze the dates in reference to your overall construction schedule. Construction knowledge and experience is required to properly analyze this data.   Use individuals in your office, as well as the expertise of the subcontractors when performing this analysis.

5.) Integrate all the procurement data from the excel spreadsheet into your construction schedule. Again, it does not matter what type of scheduling program you are using. You must identify milestones for anticipated and required delivery dates for all products and equipment on the project.

6.) Once the procurement data is integrated into the construction schedule, this comprehensive scheduling document MUST be formally issued to all the participants in the project. This includes the architect, engineers, owner, subcontractors, material vendors and any other entity that has a responsibility on the project. It is important to make all parties complicit to the construction / procurement schedule!

7.) Continually manage and coordinate this schedule as the project advances. Identify successes as well as delays on the schedule. The proper and complete management of the construction / procurement schedule is mandatory for any type of success.

This is a summary of my recommendations for properly and professionally controlling procurement on a construction project.

The keys are knowledge, experience, diligence and management.

Like everything else in the construction industry, talk is very cheap and easy, performing the task takes energy, enthusiasm, dedication and genuine interest.

Good luck / to simply have an excuse why the material or equipment is not on the project, when it is needed ,will not get the JOB DONE!

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