Steve Smith is the vice president of strategic industries at ClickSoftware. Visit clicksoftware.com.
In a world where time is money, the success of every project is dependent upon detailed construction project management (CPM)—planning, coordination and tight control over the life of a project. But despite our best efforts, the fact remains that plans and schedules don’t build things; people do.
As construction business owners, many of you are well-versed in the challenges associated with managing remote workforces who spend the majority of their time on jobsites or in transit between them, including: tracking payroll effectively, time spent on specific jobs, managing fuel and mileage expenses and capturing proof for services provided.
However, by deploying a mobile workforce management solution, complete with unchallenged mobile apps, companies can not only effectively increase their field productivity and improve visibility into activities associated with each job, but reduce costs as well. Outlined below are five practical ways construction companies can better manage a mobile workforce by deploying a mobile app.
1. Detailed cost tracking & management
The majority of construction projects are bid and won based on specific scope, budget and schedule estimates. To accurately develop these projections, including the labor costs associated with each job, companies need clear insight into how long workers spend on each associated task. Implementing a mobile app allows construction managers to precisely capture time spent on specific jobs, as well as better analyze job activities. Real-time alerts can also be sent to managers to keep them informed of key events occurring in the field, such as the exact time and details associated with the start and completion a job, to help find new ways to cut costs and increase productivity. This is critical for improving budgeting accuracy and helping to ensure future projects are increasingly profitable.
2. Confirmation of service
Confirmation and indisputable proof of service are key in supporting and expediting prompt payment. Storing all the information electronically grants construction companies the ability to easily produce records needed to eliminate discrepancies. For example, providing the ability to seamlessly produce documentation of when a worker arrived at a location minimizes possible mistakes. The use of mobile apps through GPS-location timestamps accurately document service appointments and customer signatures for billing and reimbursement purposes.
3. Automation of payroll through mobile timesheets
When workers have the ability to record daily hours on their mobile devices, companies can accurately capture GPS location-stamped employee timesheets, saving time and reducing the costs associated with manual data entry and processing. For example, R&J Construction, a full-service custom residential and commercial building company, sought to get a better handle on the activities and locations of its workers in the field. R&J realized that if a worker making $50 an hour recorded a high number of stops one week on his paper timesheet, it had no way of knowing if all the stops were actually for billable activities. The company implemented a mobile enterprise software solution, which consisted of a mobile application that can be downloaded on workers’ mobile devices, and a web-based, management console for managers, with the goal of getting more accurate data from their electronic timecards.
With the mobile app downloaded to their phones, workers were able to easily track their time, giving R&J better insight into billable versus non-billable time. Every week, R&J managers viewed historical GPS data from the reporting app and compared the data against the electronic timecards to check for discrepancies. This information allowed the company to perform payroll and bill clients more accurately. It furthermore turned gathering critical data for time and billing into a “paperless” process, not just reducing errors, but also saving time. This also allowed R&J to uncover other trends that were costing the company money. For example, if a technician completed the day’s work at a jobsite, he/she might linger with nothing to do or engage in nonbillable work. Additionally, the app captures mileage reimbursement information automatically from workers’ phones, ensuring accuracy and reducing errors associated with paper-based and manual reporting. This aspect alone helped save the company up to $10,000 per month. Adding up these paperless time reporting savings, jobs trends analysis and automatic mileage reporting, the solution helps R&J save around $200,000 per year.
4. Mobile forms allow for documentation of employee safety
By capturing employee issues electronically, businesses can ensure the effective management of workers’ compensation claims and expenses. By replacing the traditional pen and paper with mobile forms easily accessed through applications on smartphones and tablets, workers are able to easily document job incidents and/or accidents as they happen. For example, with easily managed forms, workers have the ability to record daily incident reports in real time by answering simple questions, such as, “Were you injured at your jobsite today?”
5. Efficiency through mobile assignments
By using mobile assignments, there is a reduction in manual work orders and the need for paper printing and handing out physical daily assignment sheets. By giving workers access to their daily assignments through apps on their mobile devices, they can be alerted to assignments in real-time, and accurately document the day’s activity plan, complete with job details, addresses and client information. The time saved by companies eliminates the need for back and forth phone calls to coordinate these important details. Workers also gain the ability to update an assignment status and document new jobs without having to directly contact the office, improving the efficiency of their day-to-day operations.
Leading construction companies are increasingly deploying cloud-hosted, mobile applications because they can be rapidly deployed, without requiring significant upfront time or costly apparatus investments. By streamlining all of the tedious details that go into a successful project, construction companies can focus on their business and customers—designing and executing the projects at hand—not on all the laborious details.