How to streamline inefficient crew & equipment planning with technology

Job whiteboards, paper calendars and Excel spreadsheets are inefficient ways of managing crew/equipment scheduling. Commonly used in the workplace, specifically in construction, whiteboards and calendars help to outline jobs, the necessary resources and the personnel who will work on them.

Technology is slowly being implemented in the construction industry. However, according to McKinzey Global Institute, the construction industry is still one of the least digitized industries and is not utilizing technology’s potential for planning and operations. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a solution for optimizing productivity. Utilizing things like an electronic dashboard that displays all the information needed to get the job planned, the crew dispatched and the equipment scheduled, can lead to highly efficient and cost-effective results.

Confusion Leads to Chaos

Managing scheduling via job whiteboards with swim lanes and magnets, paper calendars with sticky notes and Excel spreadsheets is cumbersome, and, at the end of the day, they’re just inefficient. Not to mention the significant, obvious limitations to these tools, such as:

  • No reporting—Without a centralized database, it is difficult to see beyond the whiteboard into metrics, such as crew and equipment utilization by region or by jobs. This limits a company’s ability to maximize resources and plan for the future.
  • Limited access to data—As companies grow beyond just one office or even a few offices, the limited scalability of these types of scheduling tools handicaps a company’s growth. If only one location has access to scheduling data, processes become even more laborious and time-consuming.
  • Single point of failure—As with any paper-based or whiteboard-based process, not having a digital backup can be disastrous. For example, a schedule outline completed by hand on a job whiteboard can easily be erased through someone accidentally brushing up against the board. All that hard work is now lost, and the ramifications of a prematurely erased whiteboard can be devastating.
  • Manual process—When scheduling is strictly done manually, it can often lead to the duplicate scheduling of resources, scheduling resources without the requisite certifications and/or skills, or the scheduling of unavailable resources.

Inconsistent planning, reporting and communication is confusing, not only for personnel; it can make your business look disorganized and careless to customers, causing them to lose trust in your abilities and potentially leading to losing their business. All these limitations affect the efficiency and ability of a company, making it difficult to utilize their time, crew and resources in the best way.

New Ways of Accomplishing Old Tasks

The limitations above are no doubt headaches that most managers don’t want to deal with, but there are solutions to help alleviate some of these pains. By implementing technology like an electronic dashboard for project management, your team will have more time to focus on servicing customers in the best way possible. The benefits of using an electronic method of scheduling and dispatch optimize the communication and account management through multiple features not available if you’re doing it by hand. Some of those benefits include:

  • Tracking qualifications—Keep track of employees’ qualifications to know who meets the particular job requirements while scheduling a job. A personnel record can have multiple certifications, training records and qualifications associated with it. It can also include effective dates and projected expiration dates. Expired qualifications can be highlighted so that a compliance manager can take the appropriate action to get personnel retrained or recertified. The ability to filter by certification or other specifications for easy scheduling is also a bonus of using these types of electronic dashboards.
  • Avoiding duplicate scheduling—Real-time visibility into what crew members and equipment are already scheduled for other jobs helps to avoid possible overlaps. Duplicate scheduling wastes time and resources while simultaneously looking bad in front of the customer. Avoiding this confusion puts money back into your pocket and optimizes the schedules of all personnel.
  • Customizable views—Platforms that include dynamic drag-and-drop functionality allows users the chance to create a personalized view for each kind of project management preference. This helps personnel see what they need to see and in a way that is easy for them to understand and visualize.
  • Personnel notifications—According to a study by Asurion, Americans check their phones every 12 minutes. In a time where information at your fingertips is a necessity, the ability to have automatic email and text message notifications to be sent directly to an employee, or even the entire crew, letting them know when and where they are needed is one of the most welcomed benefits of a digital scheduling system. When employees are instantly notified on their phone with the information related to where the job is and when they need to arrive, it eliminates the decades-old excuse that they didn’t know where to be or when to be there.
  • Engage more deeply with customers—In the service industry, convenience and speed are kings. From when a job order is placed, through completion of service, every step of the process must be efficient and effective. The first step in this process is the scheduling and dispatching of resources. It is important to have the right resources assigned to the right jobs in an efficient manner to provide customers with the best possible service.

Eliminating the job whiteboard (and any other antiquated means of scheduling) and moving to an automated system is sure to alleviate chaos and drive the highest level of customer satisfaction. Based on a study done by Harris Polls, an average of 55% of work time is spent on administrative tasks and other interruptions.

Utilizing an electronic dashboard, especially in the construction industry, allows you to cut down on the confusion and inconsistencies that come with tedious manual processes and shift the focus more to customer needs. Tracking qualifications of personnel, and having access to schedules, customizable views and notifications all lead to more efficient and effective use of time and resources.