Data analytics is one of the areas high on the technology investment radar for project...
Today, time and quantity collection applications are light years ahead of earlier iterations in terms of functionality and are easily accessible via web, mobile phone or tablet allowing workers more time in the field, not the office. They can even work offline for job sites in remote locations.
Working with these types of advanced tools can also allow for real-time productivity tracking on today’s job sites. Why does that matter? Knowing where you really are in your operations at any time can give you great insight early on to help you make decisions that have the greatest impact.
Dominic Cozzetto, a product manager at InEight, has a great analogy about how far these tools have come. “New technology in capturing time and quantities in construction is equal to driving a horse-drawn buggy to jumping in a Tesla and cruising down the highway,” he explains.
“We’ve gone from paper-based time cards and claiming quantities on a printout of your budget to carrying around a mobile device that has claiming schemes for quantities and a ton of options on charging time,” he continues. “Still, the most underappreciated thing about all of it is that the front-line workers have adapted to it seamlessly. The foremen have been able to throw down the reigns and hit the auto-drive button because they’re seeing how much easier it makes the ‘paperwork’ side of their job.”
Where to begin with real-time productivity tracking
A few relatively simple steps can get the ball rolling, and thereby facilitate the expeditious collection of time and quantity data. As a first step, employee data is typically integrated into the system via an enterprise resource planning (ERP) or payroll system or entered manually. This data generally consists of employee numbers, names, classifications, wage rates etc. The same goes for construction equipment, excavators, loaders, dozers, pickup trucks, compressors etc, all of which can be integrated in a similar fashion.
This first step sets you up for success, especially when using an integrated tool that will drive one source of the truth for that data to the other areas where it can be used.
The details matter
There is virtually no limit to the level of detail that a contractor can incorporate into the process. Today’s tools make it possible to break cost codes down into discrete and specific work activities, thereby providing a means for allocating all types of time and cost. Breaking the project down into easily consumable pieces allows for a more accurate view of actual per cent complete. In addition, charging time against a specific code allows contractors to more accurately estimate earned hours and dollars.
Cost codes should have enough detail to adequately address all of a site’s job functions. The greater the detail, the greater their usefulness. For example, rather than creating broad cost codes for form work reinforcing steel and concrete, a contractor can arrange them into different foundation types, areas, applications or other functions. Showing completion by foundation can easily be audited and validated by a quick walk around the site. This will also allow for greater accuracy when estimating and creating a great basis for past costs to use in future estimates.
The right tools for the job
For the most part, these applications have some common components: a control function for budgeting, forecasting, change orders, etc.; a plan function for establishing the schedule of work; a progress function for performing the daily planning, charging time, entering quantities, approving and sending to payroll.
Users can easily regulate access to the application by establishing separate accounts for a host of participants, including owners, subcontractors, engineers. In the process, they can regulate whether participants have ‘view-only’ or ‘edit’ privileges, keeping the quality of the data secure and consistent.
The key to picking the right tool is making sure it will enhance your current processes and even offer opportunities to improve them.
In these days of challenging productivity rates across many market sectors, the ability to produce real-time productivity estimates has immeasurable value. Used in tandem with existing platforms, today’s tools enable a contractor to calculate productivity on the spot and, subsequently, make real-time productivity tracking adjustments that keep the project on course.
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