why having the correct tools is the key to improving construction site productivity

construction site productivity

Having the ‘right tool for the job’ is not just a common saying, but a vital approach to improving construction site productivity. However, while providing the correct equipment for each task is preferable, this popular expression doesn’t take into account the various pressures placed on procurement teams when it comes to supplying tools.

With financial and time restraints - as well as wider issues beyond our control - often the ‘right’ tool for procurement teams is not always the most appropriate for the job, but the one with the lowest initial outlay.

However, these so-called ‘cheaper’ alternatives may not provide the best value over time, as they can have major implications on productivity. Workers equipped with the wrong tools will take longer to perform a task, while these alternatives often cause more downtime for repairs.

These are some of the issues that can lead to project delays, and increased costs far beyond the purchase price of an individual tool.

Why are workers equipped with the wrong tools?

Despite these negative outcomes, workers often have to make do with tools that are inappropriate for the task and inconsistent with others being used across the site.

Unfortunately, this is a direct result of the increased financial pressures within the construction industry. The Construction Products Association’s (CPA) 2017 Construction Trade Survey found that 86% of contractors in the construction sector were affected by a rise in the costs of raw materials. Combined with the tender prices remaining flat during this period, and the ongoing uncertainty regarding Brexit, there is an increased 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. Although all businesses put plenty of time into tool management, often systems rely on pencil, paper and spreadsheets, which lack reliability and efficiency.

This can lead to various difficulties, particularly if workers require specific tools at short notice. Poor asset management systems often result in tools that are in stock within the plant manager’s records actually unavailable in practice. As a result, workers are often required to make use of whatever is available in the toolpark at the time, which can often mean using inappropriate alternatives.


The productivity implications of using the wrong tools

While these reasons are understandable, as mentioned at the beginning of this blog, workers using the wrong tools can have major implications on construction site productivity.

Tools with a lower initial outlay are often far less reliable, resulting in repeated tool breakdowns and additional downtime. Furthermore, alternative tools may be larger and heavier, making them more cumbersome and harder to use - particularly if they require lifting for operation. Workers then require more breaks to recover, which will reduce productivity and efficiency on site.

Inexpensive tools also have reduced functionality, which can lead to a number of other productivity implications too. These alternatives can have issues with overheating, which requires longer cool down times, or decreased hammering functionality. Similarly, operators may have to decrease their time with the tool due to reaching their Hand Arm Vibration limit for the day faster than with more advanced equipment.

As well as these technical issues relating to the equipment itself, procurement teams may not understand the practical issues of supplying workers with alternative equipment. Using corded alternatives over cordless tools offers a good example, as workers may not have access to a power source on certain jobs. If a corded alternative is purchased, then an electricity supply will have to be provided from elsewhere resulting in time wasted.

Finally, providing inappropriate tools can also lead to safety issues for workers, which could potentially result in prosecution for the duty holder should an accident occur under the Health and Safety Offences and Corporate Manslaughter Guidelines.


Productivity factors to consider in your toolpark

While reducing costs is important, providing workers with inappropriate alternative tools can easily be a false economy. Within your toolpark, there needs to be an effective balance between initial outlay 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 consider the operational elements of the tasks being undertaken, as well as how easy it is to maintain tools. Are, for example, tools being lifted overhead? Will workers be near a power source? Are tools likely to overheat? These factors can have a huge impact on construction site productivity.

3. Lifespan of tool

Alternatives with a lower initial outlay will have a shorter lifespan than higher quality equipment, and 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 - and it’s vital to consider 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 toolpark speeds up work, reduces downtime, and most significantly - reduces costs for your business. Purchasing alternative tools with a lower initial outlay, therefore, can create a substantial opportunity cost that could have been avoided through better tool procurement.

With over 75 years of industry knowledge, at Hilti our Productivity Experts have helped thousands of customers identify opportunities to optimise and streamline their tool park, digitalise the way their tools and other assets are managed, and keep hidden costs to a minimum to boost overall productivity.

Our Productivity Experts can help you understand the direct and hidden costs of your tool park. We can help you to make changes that keep your productivity up, and your costs down.