Equipment tracking to reduce idle time and avoid site delays

jobsite equipment idle time

Optimizing equipment idle time is easier with collaborative construction management - Discover how to increase jobsite productivity and enhance profitability with equipment tracking

Equipment idle time is a term often used in manufacturing and construction management. It is known to impact productivity and profitability at a project’s jobsite. Right here, we discuss the equipment idling, its causes, how to begin equipment tracking to reduce idling in a construction project. 

Equipment idle time is the period a machine, equipment, or asset is waiting to do its task. As it is yet to complete the assigned task, the equipment is not available for use for any other job - it is essentially rendered idle in waiting. Every minute an equipment on site is idle, it accounts for loss in productivity and profitability. While no construction site can function at 100% efficiency, project managers target to minimize equipment idle time. 

Difference between Idle time and downtime

Equipment idle time is when the machine can do what it's supposed to, but for specific reasons, it's not. Possible reasons could be a power failure, waiting for another machine to finish its job, or workflow inefficiencies. 

In equipment downtime, the asset isn't operational due to scheduled maintenance or a general failure that couldn't be foreseen. It is considered standard equipment time since machines need periodic maintenance and upkeep. Also, while companies can avoid machine breakdowns with proper upkeep, sometimes the machinery can become inoperable.

So, the main difference is that during equipment idle time, the machine can run, but it doesn't, and in equipment downtime, the device doesn't run because it can't. Project managers calculate the two machine times separately.

Causes of equipment idle time

Work Force related

All human beings function differently; some workers will always be more efficient than others. When it comes down to worker inefficiencies, sometimes they result from new employees going through the training phase. To help improve worker efficiency, tracking daily work logs and training employees is essential. 

Process and workflow related

Many times, technical problems and unexpected equipment breakdowns can stop or delay operations at the site. Medium and high-priority assets must go through regular maintenance and have a contingency plan. 

Beyond the listed causes, idle time can increase due to unforeseen reasons like natural disasters, power outrage and accidents on site.

Impact of excessive equipment idle time on a construction project

Extreme equipment idling can be the result of external conditions; or internal management lags. This impacts the construction labor productivity and soundness of the machinery. It can result in increased project costs and delays in project timelines. Alternatively, monitoring the idle time can optimize performance of employees and equipment. 

For example, when a truck is waiting to be loaded with material, the construction company incurs unnecessary charges like extra fuel, driver, and other staff non-productive hours. On a construction site, companies can use integrated software to monitor the entry and exit times and usage hours of equipment via computerized work orders, and GPS tracking.

construction project equipment idle time

Ways to optimize equipment management

Machines and humans can't function with 100% efficiency all the time. Humans get tired, and devices get worn out. In a realistic scenario, companies can't eliminate equipment idle time from a construction site, but they can make efforts to reduce it as much as possible. Here are ways to reduce equipment idling on a construction site: 

Optimize workflow at a job site

Identify and acknowledge workflow and process inefficiencies resulting in idle time and implement actions to eliminate the causes. Have multiple teams on-site and create balanced work schedules and easy operating procedures. Make sure that tools and materials are available as per schedule. Even machines should be scheduled to operate by trained workers for maximum efficiency with planned maintenance and rest time. 

Regular equipment maintenance and upkeep

All the assets on the construction site should be kept in good shape. Faulty machines can reduce productivity and cause site delays. Companies should not push machines beyond their working limit to avoid damage and malfunctioning. There should be a preventive maintenance plan for all assets. 

Improve equipment management

As the scale of the construction project grows, the number of administrative tasks and processes also increases. Construction companies can clearly define roles and responsibilities to reduce inefficiencies such as equipment idle time. Accessible communication channels between off-site and on-site teams can be a valuable management aid. Here, construction companies can opt to use integrated construction management software to automate tasks, speed communication, and track workflow of individual equipment. 

Finding a solution to equipment idle time often has less to do with setting up the perfect system. Rather, it focuses on eliminating unnecessary habits that add up to slowing down processes. The main question you'll want to ask yourself is what exactly is causing the idling? It's essential first to find out why it's happening, and then it is easier to figure out ways to reduce it. While reducing idle time may not be as straightforward as we would like, knowing its effects on your bottom line makes it well worth pursuing. 

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