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Section 1 Introduction

Section 2 Planning

Section 3 Programming

Section 4 Purchasing

Section 5 Payments


Description: The purpose of this unit is to enable you to analyse the work of the main contractor in respect of supply chain management, determining methods of planning, programming, purchasing, progressing and payments.

Author:  Gates MacBain Associates

Section 1  Introduction

In order to deliver a completed project on time and on budget the main contractor needs to ensure that he has an efficient organisation which is able to provide the work force with the appropriate materials and resources at the right place at the right time. 

In order to do this the system must be established with regard to:
  • Planning
  • Purchasing
  • Programming
  • Progressing
  • Payments
 In this unit we will look at these and the factors which will ensure they contribute positively to the success of the project. 

Section 2  Planning

Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to:
  • Discuss the requirements for planning as it relates to the supply chain.

The purpose of planning is to ensure that the project is produced on time and within the cost constraints and at the quality required. It determines what needs to be done, when, how, by whom and what resources are needed.  It then goes on to determine how these resources are brought together. 

The main contractor will be responsible for this in order to assess the requirements for the project then to ensure that they are obtained according to when they are required.  This will involve ensuring that all previous work is carried out in the correct sequence to ensure that the materials or components arrive on site when they are needed and that all previous work has been carried out.  This is particularly important in the event of the “just in time” manufacturing/delivery process where a minimum of goods are kept in stock. Items are planned to arrive precisely at the time they are required for use. 

Planning must incorporate the requirements in relation to the materials and components and the supply chain management. This will ensure that the materials are provided where and when required. 

You should ensure that you understand the process of planning which is covered in the constructionsite unit Planning & Control  linked to below.  It is also covered by Chapter 8 in the Cooke and Williams book. 


  • Cooke, B & Williams, P (2009) Construction Planning, Programming & Control; Blackwell Publishing: Oxford (Chapter 8)

Constructionsite Units

Self-Assessment Task

  • Explain the need for planning in a construction project and the importance in relation to the supply chain.

Section 3  Programming

Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to:

  • Explain the techniques available for the planning of a project.

The Planning of the programme involves not only the work that is to be carried out but also the resources which are needed to enable the work to be carried out. 

It stands to reason, therefore, that if an event is programmed to take place at a certain time then all the resources that are needed must be available at the correct location according to the programme. It is the programme that specifies what is required. It then falls to others to extract the requirements from the programme and place orders. 

Programming uses a number of techniques which you should be familiar with including: 
  • Bar Charts
  • Network Analysis
  • Precedence Diagrams
  • Line of Balance
Details on these and how programming is carried out can be found by visiting the constructionsite unit Planning and Control by clicking on the link below and from Chapter 9 & 10 of the Cooke & Williams book shown under Publications.


  • Cooke, B & Williams, P (2009) Construction Planning, Programming & Control; Blackwell Publishing: Oxford (Chapter 9 & 10)

Constructionsite Units

Self-Assessment Task

  • List the main options which can be used for the planning of a construction project stating the situation where each could be used.

Section 4  Purchasing

Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to:
  • Discuss the procedures which can be used to ensure the cost effective purchasing and recording involved with the purchasing function.

One of the ways that can contribute to the profitability of a contract is the prudent purchasing of goods and materials.  

This will involve the correct specification and ensuring that the best price is obtained from the supplier, which should include any discounts which can be obtained.  Certainly, it is easier to negotiate a better price for goods if a large number of items are required or the prospect of regular orders exists for the supplier; though it is essential that the importance of reliability is stressed.  Such a relationship is likely to lead to an ongoing relationship which is good for both parties and promotes a close working relationship. 

The selection of a provider will consider:
  • Quality
  • Standards
  • Reliability
Purchasing process will include:
  • Selection
  • Ordering Process or system
  • Confirmation of completion of order
Progressing Once materials are ordered it is important that they are progressed to ensure that the supplier is able to deliver them to you when they are required.   

This includes two processes:
  • Tracking of the work against programme
  • Confirm with the supplier that delivery is as the schedule required  

If this is not done you could have people standing round on site waiting for a delivery which the supplier has forgotten about or is delayed in delivering, or if the programme is delayed you have materials arriving at site before they are required.  By progressing you are periodically checking on the progress of the order to ensure that this does not happen.  It also enables you to advance, delay or amend the programme if the unexpected happens with the minimum of disruption.  The way that an order is progressed can be as simple as a phone call to the supplier. 

Constructionsite Units

Self-Assessment Task

  • Briefly outline the purchasing function as it will affect a contractor.

Section 5  Payments

Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to:
  • Discuss the factor relating to the payment for materials or work done.

A company will have a system which ensures that all items purchased were in fact ordered and delivered.  Consequently records will be kept of the orders placed. Some firms insist that this is done with an official order against which an order number is placed. This then is matched once the order has been fulfilled by the delivery note.  The supplier will then send an invoice which will be cross checked against the order and delivery note before payment is authorised.  

A system will also be in place to track all payments against particular contracts in order to assess the profit made on each contract. 

A system will also be in place to ensure that any work carried out will be paid for. Details relating to this can be found in the constructionsite unit Valuation & Payment Procedures which is linked to below.


  • Ashworth, A (2006) Contractual Procedures in the Construction Industry; Pearson: Harlow (Chapter 23, 25 & 31)

Self-Assessment Task

  • Explain the system used to ensure that only materials received or work completed is paid for.

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