Managing Visibility Across the Construction Supply Chain

The construction industry is increasingly turning to offsite prefabrication to lower construction costs and improve quality. Moving work offsite does, however, impose challenges – most notably, the need to manage and track items as they are manufactured. Tracking item progress and managing delivery becomes problematic, yet is even more critical to the success of the project. These challenges force a project to seek ways to actively manage its supply chain, so that it can fully maximize the benefits of offsite construction. Let’s look at a few options:

Option 1 – Do Nothing:

You hope things show up at the right time, in the correct order, and at the right location. Obviously, the least-preferred method!

Option 2 – Conventional Tools: (Excel, email, phone)

Better then option 1, but still filled with challenges. This option involves manually tracking the supply chain with Excel, and using email/phone as your primary communication vehicles. You can track progress… but only at the cost of a lot of effort. Typically, one worker-bee is tasked with chasing down details, logging status, and coordinating the activities of other team members. It’s a reactive exercise that can still – in spite of your best efforts – lead to bad data, coordination mishaps, and lost time/revenue.

Option 3 – Collaborative Platform:

The best option is to use a collaborative platform that lets all stakeholders engage and participate. Efficient, rich collaboration maximizes the chance of capitalizing on the benefits of offsite construction while minimizing the risks. Supply chain management becomes a proactive exercise, with all key stakeholders engaged and working in one unified system. Such a system must provide: participation for all stakeholders, shared access to status, flexibility in process, and end to end tracking through all stages of the supply chain.

Prefabrication and offsite construction can yield substantial benefits to a project. However if not managed correctly, the effort and the risk can quickly eat up the gains. As the industry embraces prefabrication – and moves more construction offsite – we need to ensure that we have the appropriate tools and processes in place. Then, we can realize the benefits of moving more and more work offsite: speed, cost, quality and safety.