Material selection and purchasing – five ways in which digitalisation makes a difference

Digitalisation has transformed the construction industry in various different ways, and one of the areas in which there have been significant changes is material selection and purchasing. For many professionals involved with construction, such as architects, project managers, purchasers and property managers, this gives rise to new opportunities to optimise processes, reduce costs and improve the sustainability of construction and property management projects.

  • Digital catalogues and databases

Previously, material selection was often a time-consuming process involving hours of browsing through physical catalogues and making phone calls to suppliers. There are now digital databases and catalogues that make it possible to quickly search for and compare different materials and products. 

Purchasers and developers can use these tools to find the most cost-effective options, while architects and environmental engineers can ensure that the selected materials not only fulfil all the technical and aesthetic requirements, but are also environmentally friendly and sustainable. Suppliers can use digital catalogues to promote their products to a wider audience and provide updated information about new products or changes in the product range.

  • Sustainability assessments

Sustainability is an increasingly important issue in the construction industry, and digital tools have a key role to play in promoting greener building practices. Architects and project managers can use software and databases to assess the environmental impact of different materials and products, thus facilitating the making of sustainable choices. Companies can use sustainability assessments to achieve various environmental and sustainability certification, which can provide a competitive advantage and strengthen their brand. 

Sustainability data can, of course, also be used to create reports for stakeholders, including investors, customers and authorities. On the supplier side, the ability to assess the environmental impact of different materials can encourage companies to develop more sustainable products and solutions.

  • Integrated purchasing systems

Integrated purchasing systems allow companies to automate many of the tasks that previously required manual input. This includes creating purchase orders, tracking deliveries and managing invoices. 

For project managers and property managers, this results in much smoother processes, with less time spent on paperwork and administration. Finance departments can use integrated systems to simplify invoicing and payment processes, which results in faster payment times and better cash flow. Warehouse staff can use such systems to keep track of inventories and automatically order materials when stocks reach a certain level. Integrated systems can also be used to track and document quality checks of materials, so that only materials that meet specific quality requirements are used.

  • Supplier assessment and management

Digital tools make it easier to assess and manage suppliers. Companies can use software to collect and analyse data about the performance of suppliers, including delivery times, product quality and price levels. This makes it easier for purchasers and property managers to make informed decisions and establish strong relationships with the best suppliers. 

Companies can use this supplier assessment to identify and manage supply chain risks, such as over-reliance on a single supplier or potential supply chain disruptions. Having such an overview and analysis also gives construction companies a stronger position in negotiations about prices and delivery conditions.

  • Traceability and transparency

Digitalisation also enables greater traceability and transparency in the supply chain. By using RFID chips, optical scanning and other tracking technologies, companies can follow the path of materials from manufacturer to construction site. This reduces the risk of delays and errors, and ensures that the right materials are delivered at the right time. Increased traceability and transparency give clients and end users confidence that the projects and properties in which they have invested are of high quality and produced in an ethical and sustainable way. 

In some cases, traceability may be required by authorities, especially in the case of materials that may have an environmental impact or be subject to trade restrictions. Last, but not least, being able to demonstrate a transparent and ethical supply chain enables construction companies to strengthen their brand and build trust among investors and other stakeholders.

The digitalisation of material selection and purchasing in the construction industry offers significant benefits, such as cost savings and efficiency gains, as well as improved sustainability and transparency. By embracing these digital tools and platforms, many participants in the construction sector can save time and improve the quality of their work. In conclusion, digitalisation in the construction industry not only helps stakeholders improve their efficiency and profitability, but also contributes to a more sustainable and responsible industry.

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