Material Handling Costs in Electrical Construction and How to Lower Them

One major study on material handling in electrical contracting came up with a shocking statistic: Around 40 percent of the work electricians do in the construction industry is consumed by material handling. Not cable pulls, installing conduit, or wiring light fixtures: simply moving materials around the work site.

Even highly trained, highly paid union contractors end up spending nearly half their day simply moving materials to where they need them. The cost in terms of time, resources, and profits may be much higher than you assume.

So what can electrical contractors do to bring down these costs? Here are a few tips:

  • Provide material handling equipment that’s built specifically for electrical materials. The major stumbling block to efficient material handling in the electrical industry is using the wrong tool for the job. You can’t pile cords of conduit onto a standard cart and expect to get it to the installation site quickly.
    Many electrical components are awkward or uniquely shaped. The same material handling solution won’t work for cable, conduit, and light fixtures alike. Save time and reduce workplace injuries by transporting cable on payout-ready Parallel Reel Payout Wagons; achieve the same benefits for up to 48 light fixtures with Light Fixture Carts; and move bulk loads of conduit with a Conduit Carrier Cart, or, for jobs in tight spaces and narrow aisles, a Tilting Elevator Conduit Cart.
  • Work with a vendor that can provide onsite warehousing and other value-added services. The more material management tasks you can outsource, the more time your trained electricians can spend getting the job done. Some distributors offer on-site warehousing as a service. Ask your supplier what they can do to help in terms of procurement and material management.
  • Develop a sophisticated material purchasing process. Material handling for electricians is the art of getting what workers need where they need it, when they need it. That starts with the purchasing department.

    Plan jobs as strictly as possible, and maintain constant lines of communication between purchasers and the frontline workers. That can help ensure that electricians will never have to spend an idle moment waiting for a shipment of materials to arrive.

  • Invest in material tracking systems. Traditional methods of tracking materials, on- or off-site, can lead to lost shipments and work delays. Computerized tracking systems reduce these risks. Barcode or install RFID chips on material loads to track them within a centralized system, ensuring that the installation team always knows where components are located for quick retrieval.

Imagine boosting efficiency by dozens of percentage points. By improving material handling practices, every electrical contractor can complete faster installations, offer more competitive pricing, and ultimately get more work.

The return on investment is clear. Appropriate material handling equipment is vital to the success of any sizable construction electrician firm.


Nimmo, Philip and Heather Moore. “Real Ways to Reduce Material Handling Costs.ECMWeb. Informa USA, Inc., 1 Jun. 2008. Web. 15 Aug. 2019.

Perdomo, Jose. “Material Management Challenges.ECMag. Electrical Contractor Magazine, Oct. 2002. Web. 15 Aug. 2019.