Why having the right tools for the job will increase jobsite productivity
Having the ‘right tools for the job’ may seem obvious when working in construction, but you'd be surprised how often the 'right' tool is pushed aside in favour of cheaper alternatives - especially those with lower upfront costs. This is understandable, as procurement teams are under a lot of pressure to keep costs down. However, these so-called ‘cheaper’ tools can actually end up costing businesses more by reducing productivity and delaying projects - so much so that costs can soar beyond the original price of the most appropriate tool.
Why are workers given the wrong tools?
The main reason workers are supplied with inappropriate tools is because of increased financial pressures within the construction industry, resulting in procurement teams opting for cheaper tools with lower upfront costs. Not only has the price of raw materials risen, but with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Covid and the lasting effects of Brexit, there's a growing pressure to reduce costs elsewhere in order to sustain margins.
In addition to the financial pinch being felt across the industry, workers often find themselves equipped with the wrong tools due to poor asset management. Manual systems like spreadsheets lack reliability and efficiency, which can lead to difficulties if workers require specific tools at short notice. Inadequate asset management systems may show tools as available when they actually aren't, causing workers to waste time searching for equipment that was never there. It also means they have to make do with whatever tools they can find, which are unlikely to be the most suitable option.
The productivity implications of using the wrong tools
While the above reasons are valid and can't always be helped, using the wrong tools can have major implications on jobsite productivity. For example, tools with a lower initial outlay are often far less reliable - resulting in repeated breakdowns and subsequent downtime. Cheaper tools may also be larger, heavier and difficult to lift - requiring workers to take more breaks to recover and thus minimising productivity.
They are likely to have reduced functionality too, which could lead to overheating (meaning longer cool down times). Similarly, operators may have to cut their working hours short due to reaching their daily Hand Arm Vibration limit - compared to AVR tools that can be used for much longer.
In addition, procurement teams may not understand the practical implications of supplying workers with alternative equipment. Buying corded tools instead of cordless, for example, could prove a bad decision if workers don't have access to a power source on a particular jobsite. An electricity supply would then need to be provided from elsewhere, resulting in time wasted and perhaps added costs.
Productivity factors to consider when buying tools
While reducing costs is important, providing workers with inappropriate tools can easily become a false economy. Within your tool park, there needs to be a fine balance between initial outlay costs and long-term productivity. There are a number of factors to consider that will help you achieve this balance:
1. Suitability for the job
Equipment selection must be appropriate for the specific demands of the task at hand. This means ensuring suitable tools are provided for the particular site and environment, as well as the job each worker is performing.
2. Ease of operation and maintenance
It’s important to note the operational elements of the tasks being undertaken, as well as how easy the tools are to maintain. Are the tools being lifted overhead? Will workers be near a power source? Are tools likely to overheat? These factors can have a huge impact on jobsite productivity.
3. Lifespan of the tool
Tools with lower upfront costs will likely have a shorter lifespan than higher quality equipment. How much service a tool can provide in relation to its cost is an important consideration.
4. Total cost of ownership
The purchase price is just one cost associated with tool ownership, so it’s worth researching the various other direct and indirect costs too. As well as the initial outlay, other costs include repair, admin, battery replacement, hire, cost of capital and theft. With these additional costs added on, the purchase price may not seem quite as significant.
Having the correct tools in your tool park will help you complete jobs faster, reduce downtime and - most importantly - keep costs to a minimum. Purchasing alternative tools with a lower initial outlay, therefore, can sting you later on - costs that could have been avoided through better tool procurement.
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