Updated: Nov 23
Article by Shanta Sloan, Don Lee and Rosita Johnson
Your company is in charge of a project that requires engineering expertise and a supply of equipment and parts. Besides developing a realistic and a well-defined project plan, the following activities have to occur to ensure its successful delivery:
Develop a list of equipment, parts and supplies based on project requirements, and estimate needed quantities and required-by dates
Find sources of supply for the items, making sure that the selected vendors can comply with all of the required technical specifications and the delivery dates
Issue purchase orders and work with vendors to confirm that they received all of the ordering documents
Keep track of order status including timeliness of the shipments, item substitutions, and incorrect or damaged items
Ensure that all of the items are received and are ready to be transferred to project site in time for the start of work
Many companies choose to have the Engineering team to handle all of the above tasks and rely on administrative assistants for support as needed. Depending on the size of the project, the better option may be utilizing Material Coordinators (MCs) for the activities evolving around delivery of equipment, parts, and supplies in time for the project.
What exactly does an MC do in support of a project? Their work begins well before the project with collaboration with Engineering and Project Management teams to identify any long lead-time materials and get them ordered as quickly as possible. This may be weeks or months ahead of the project. Also, before the project, MC will collaborate with engineering to generate a material take off (MTO) plan based on the project technical requirements and drawings. MC will use MTO to obtain quotes from various suppliers, review quoted pricing and lead times and either work with the Procurement department to issue purchase orders or process orders on their own.
Once the orders are placed, MCs are responsible for the arrangement of transportation and delivery. The MC has to ensure all items are received on time with some required to be on site prior to the start of work and some used later in the project. It is the job of the MC to ensure that all shipments are on time and the items are delivered as expected – correct manufacturer and part number, compliant with technical specifications, and functional meaning it is not damaged or missing parts.
MC must also work with warehouse and yard storage staff to ensure materials are received and staged so that they can be used as needed for the project. This will result in outbound deliveries which will require coordination between the warehouse staff, the delivery service and the project foremen.
While the MC is handling ordering and tracking of the material, he or she will also prepare reports for the project managers, including status of all orders and the transportation efforts required to bring the materials to the site. These would contain items ordered, in transit and received, their location and any discrepancies that need to be addressed. This way all parties are aware of any issues that may impact project delivery dates. If an item is not going to make its scheduled delivery, management may have time to adjust their schedule or ask MC to look for alternate materials or sources. Engineering and project teams often make phone calls to the coordinator asking “where's my stuff.” These can be kept to a minimum with proper status reporting.
MC’s report will also include costs of materials for project forecasting purposes. The report could provide the on-going total cost of all materials for the project or could be broken down by material type or project milestone.
Another task that MCs often handle is collecting all vendor data and documentation for materials. This could be material test reports (MTRs), certifications or design drawings. The coordinator will work directly with vendors to make sure they supply all the required documentation. The MC then communicates with the warehouse staff to ensure that the documentation is attached to item’s packaging. Once the materials get to the job site, the foreman can take the documentation and add it to his job book. In some cases, engineers have to review documentation prior to project start and confirm that there are no discrepancies or missing information.
When the project has ended, MC is responsible for the disposition of any excess materials. This could involve returning items to the original vendor in exchange for a credit memo, a sale to the original or alternate a vendor at a discount, reallocating to another project or just scrapping the material. MC coordinates these activities with the warehouse team and provides status updates to the engineering and project teams.
Coordinating so many moving parts required for the successful completion of the project is an extremely important job. For large-scale projects, having MCs is the best way to ensure that qualified experts are handling supply chain tasks, which allows other teams to concentrate on their core activities.