How many tools does your construction business need?
Spoiler: not as many as you think
Reducing your tool park to increase productivity feels like a counterintuitive concept. After all, if you have more equipment available, surely workers will always have the right tool for the job?
While this appears to be a logical stance, construction businesses with large tool parks are often far less efficient than those who have leaner, well-managed stock. Large tool parks can lead to increased waste, downtime and cost - having the opposite effect on construction site productivity than intended.
The concept of ‘lean thinking’
The idea of doing more with less in business is linked to ‘lean thinking’ - a methodology focused on improving organisation and value through the elimination of waste. Since the term was coined in 1996 from the researchers James P. Womack’s and Daniel T. Jones’ study of the famous Toyota supply chain, the concept of ‘lean’ has evolved across different approaches to improving business processes.
Across these different variations, lean thinking approaches tend to follow 7 core principles:
- Optimise the whole: This requires businesses to understand how the separate elements of their organisation integrate, and how value flows throughout. In other words, efficiency and productivity is something that needs to be considered across all aspects of the business.
- Eliminate waste: In lean thinking, waste isn’t necessarily overspend, but refers to something that does not add value to the customer. This can be functions, processes or assets - anything where money is being invested with little return.
- Create knowledge: When businesses start out, only a few people understand how everything works. As a business grows, this knowledge needs to be transferred across the company through sharing, training and documented processes.
- Build quality into the system: This principle is all about standardising and automating processes in order to make the business as error-proof as possible. By having a clear way of operating and automating processes where possible, human error is reduced and efficiency is increased.
- Deliver fast by managing flow: When a road is jammed with traffic, cars can’t move and nobody gets anywhere. If the road is half full, however, traffic flows easily. By reducing the burden on staff to work at capacity, workers can be more efficient and companies can deliver value to customers quickly.
- Defer commitment: This principle is easy to misinterpret, as it requires decisions to be made at the last responsible moment. As opposed to last minute thinking, this concept is designed to allow businesses to make decisions based on what their customers actually want.
- Respect people: Lean environments need happy, dedicated staff to ensure growth and productivity throughout the business. At a fundamental level, this means respecting your staff and creating environments where they can work comfortably.
To achieve a truly ‘lean’ business in the strictest sense of the term, these principles need to be followed and applied across operations. If this is something you are hoping to achieve, it won't happen overnight. Lean working requires a long-term cultural change, which takes considerable time and investment to achieve. However, the benefits of lean working can have a significant impact on growth and profit on the bottom line.
In terms of construction site optimisation, some of these principles can also help us think about how to increase efficiency through reorganising processes and reducing excess assets.
Why having too many tools creates inefficiency
There are a number of issues associated with having an overstock of assets in your tool park.
Firstly, a large number of tools requires more time and money invested in maintenance, with larger stocks having to be managed more carefully. If you have duplicates of the same item, it’s likely that certain tools aren't being used. From a lean thinking standpoint, overstock is considered to be waste - as there is little return on investment for you or your customers.
When considering waste, it’s important to differentiate between a large tool park that has accumulated over time and one that has been created by investing considerable upfront capital. For the latter, when investing in new tools, it’s important to consider the value you're getting from each asset in terms of the frequency of use.
For tool parks that have been built up over time, overstock often occurs when new tools are added without existing assets being removed. Having duplicates can make it difficult to keep track of what needs to be repaired and when - increasing the investment needed in maintenance. If a company is using a manual asset management system, such as an Excel spreadsheet, this may be even harder to track.
By not knowing what condition your tools are in, workers may be given unusable or dangerous equipment - reducing productivity, increasing downtime and putting staff at risk of accidents.
The benefits of a lean tool park
By reducing the amount of tools in your tool park, you can increase jobsite productivity in a number of ways. For workers, having a smaller selection of tools allows easier access to the specific equipment they need for the job, with less time spent searching through old or faulty tools.
A leaner tool park also minimises the cost and time spent on procurement, as well as maintenance and repair - reducing overspend and manual hours spent checking stock. From an administrative standpoint, it makes the auditing process much easier, while allowing for quicker decision-making in terms of procurement and tool rentals.
It even improves efficiency through better organisation, saving you time, financial investment and the stress associated with managing large, dispersed stock.
At Hilti, our productivity experts have helped thousands of Hilti customers to streamline their tool parks and optimise the way their assets are managed. By identifying the areas of waste and hidden costs throughout your tool park, we can help you to make changes that will improve productivity whilst reducing your costs.
Ready to get started? Click the link below to request a productivity analysis!
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