Right tools for the job: Asset or Liability?
Construction industry faces considerable financial pressures, and it’s a fine balance for businesses to reduce costs and increase efficiency at the same time. For procurement teams, buying lower priced tools is an easy way to reduce direct costs, but the impact this may have on productivity can make these types of savings a false economy in the long-term. Here is how.
While this approach minimises the initial cash outlay, purchasing cheaper alternatives can lead to various indirect costs through additional maintenance and repairs. 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.
“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. Ongoing uncertainty surrounding Covid is adding the pressure to reduce costs to sustain margins”
– says Matthew Gaffikin, Service Manager, Hilti New Zealand
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.
Investing in quality tools can not only help a business improve productivity, but also reduce overall costs. Key factors to consider when making a case for more advanced tools:
Reliability is a significant factor in terms of both productivity and cost. Higher quality tools break down less and help ensure that downtime is kept to a minimum.
Reliability, however, is not just about product quality - but providing workers with the right tools they need for the job.
Workers often have to make do with tools that just aren't appropriate for the application. Not only does this make the task more difficult, but also adds extra strain to equipment that is not specifically designed for that job. This may require increased maintenance costs, which could be avoided by having a higher quality tool park.
As well as costing money through repairs, maintenance also causes increased downtime and reduced jobsite productivity, which is often not accounted for in project timelines. This can create overall delays in project delivery, which can then lead to financial losses, including fines.
According to the Health and Safety at Work Act (2015), businesses have a duty of care to provide a safe working environment for their employees, with tools being a significant part of this in the construction industry.
Optimised tools operate to the highest safety standards and feature a variety of features to help protect workers. More sophisticated tools are able to catch excess dust, reduce vibration, protect from electric shocks and help prevent workers from tripping over cords. This can provide a variety of benefits - particularly when working overhead - including helping workers to limit their Hand Arm Vibration exposure.
The UK HSE’s Investigating accidents and incidents HSG245 indicates that a number of health and safety incidents occur due to poor handling of tools, or items of equipment being used for tasks other than those they were specifically intended for. By using tools that are not suitable for the job, the safety features of a tool become less effective, increasing the risk of injury.
Efficiency is a significant factor that is not reflected in the upfront cost of a tool. As noted above, tools that are designed for a particular task have added safety features to enable prolonged safe use.
This means that an optimised tool can be used for longer periods than a cheaper alternative. By ensuring workers are equipped with the appropriate tools for the job, they are able to be more productive, resulting in less downtime and fewer delays.
It also increases efficiency within your toolpark, as you are unlikely to require as many duplicate items to cover tools that are out of action due to repairs - meaning you need less storage space and maintenance provisions.
A more efficient toolpark reduces overall costs, with significant savings made on maintenance, administration, hiring replacement tools and productivity losses (from tools that quickly lose efficiency or are outpaced by modern technology).
It pays back to have higher quality tools in your toolpark, with optimised equipment increasing reliability, safety and efficiency - while also reducing the overall costs for your business.
Learn more how you can design a tool park that is customised for your business and increase productivity on your jobsites.
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