4 tips to help enforce project controls before the plan falls apart

Picture this scenario: You look ahead at a planned project, consider the customer and think, “OK, we’re going to get delayed here. We’ll need to manage expectations and overtime throughout the effort.”

Sounds too familiar, doesn’t it?

In actuality, the lack of concrete data about those concerns means that you’re just on the lookout for problems, and not controlling the project with precision or establishing stronger schedule and budget forecasts.

With construction companies now having access to groundbreaking tools to help gather and analyze data, you can get the information you need to pinpoint potential project problems and enact controls proactively. Here are four tips to help you do so effectively:

1. Don’t just collect data. Build it into operations.
Establishing a construction plan and working to execute it has long been extremely challenging for the simple reason that organizations have lacked tools to get managers relevant information in a timely fashion. Now, users have mobile devices and apps that let them collect and create information with ease, but businesses lack the backend systems needed to organize that data and deliver it to proper stakeholders.

If a site manager is dealing with a staff shortage that is causing a delay, it isn’t enough to simply log that delay in an isolated system. Instead, you want your project manager to be automatically notified about the delay so as to adjust schedules, orders and other timelines right away, and get ahead of any future problems. This is only possible when data is naturally organized within workflows, so users not only can track information, but also use it in organic ways.

2. Take advantage of modern reporting
Creating a formal report on operational performance used to be a nightmare in construction—and it still is for many builders. You need to gather invoices, paper-based files, digital spreadsheets and similar sources of data, and compile them into cohesive reports with visualizations that make data more actionable.

The process was so clunky that you could really only do it for major reports at predetermined intervals. If a project manager was discussing a construction plan and thought, “You know what, this customer is asking us to go through a lot of approvals before building. How long will that hold back our project?” You couldn’t really do much to answer that beyond provide guesstimates.

Modern enterprise resource planning systems, however, can let you create a custom report with specific, user-defined parameters that help you identify delays based on various data types. In this instance, you could search the system for historical data on project delays caused by waiting on client approvals and compile a report that averages out the duration of the delay based on waiting times.

With that information, you not only gain a clearer estimate of what to expect, but identify specific projects where delays were especially notable and delve into your records to identify the root causes of those problems.

Having identified the specific issues that cause project delays during approval cycles, you can then create workflows and reminders in the ERP platform that will notify users to send extra emails to clients or vendors, create an extra internal approval for plans or adjust supply chain procedures to accelerate operations once approval is given.

Digital technologies make custom reporting easier than ever, and you shouldn’t neglect the options at your disposal for planning.

3. Establish automated alerts
Improving collaboration during projects is a starting point, but day-to-day control can still be difficult as details slip through the cracks. This is where automated alerts and notifications become invaluable. With an ERP system that has embedded project controls, you can set parameters for acceptable operational conditions and automatically notify personnel if they are breached. Similarly, you can create custom workflows that alert users when a task requires their attention.

For example, you’ve planned a project and you know it would not be fiscally viable if you exceed the materials budget by 5 percent. You want your site managers to be able to order what they need quickly to keep everything on schedule, so you eliminate approvals for each purchase order. However, you can set alerts to notify you when cost benchmarks have been reached so you can intervene and control spending. In the same way, you can use alerts and digital checklists to monitor regulatory and internal policy compliance.

4. Make controllable projects the norm
Challenges in project planning, monitoring and control are all widely accepted in the construction industry. But it’s time for that to change. Building Design and Construction reported that digital transformation is opening the door for stronger processes and data management in the sector. Similarly, a Dodge Data & Analytics study found that mobile capabilities are having a dramatic impact on data penetration in construction settings.

Technology is changing how you can plan and control projects. Contact CMiC to learn more about how and discover what we can do to help.

5 Signs Your ERP System Doesn’t Have What You Need, Part 5: Change Management Problems Abound

When you work in construction, you face problems that businesses in many sectors don’t have to deal with, particularly in change management. Change orders arise so often that you’re left always playing catch up, which only leads to more project changes and hoops to jump through. A standard enterprise resource planning solution isn’t going to naturally align to your needs. We’ve been exploring the signs that it may be time to make a move to a new ERP, and now we’re back with the final part of our series. The last major signal that your ERP can’t keep up with the demands of your business is that it lacks the workflows needed to respond to change orders effectively.

Construction Change Management: Beyond the Disruption

Experiencing change is normal. Projects can get out of line for numerous reasons, many of which are beyond your control. What’s more, a Construction Week report explained that large-scale projects are becoming more common than ever in the industry. Firms must grapple with environmental and labor regulations, fiscal uncertainty created by shifting material costs and ever-changing timings that can be influenced by anything from customer preference to site-specific problems that delay work.

You can’t entirely prevent change from disrupting your operations, but you can work to minimize adverse impacts. According to Construction Week, many organizations engage in basic training and change management procedures to establish a work environment in which employees understand what they need to do. However, organizations often end up lacking the data they need to make effective decisions. Because of this, builders often fall into common misconceptions that limit their ability to keep up with change. In essence, many companies still make their decisions based on gut feelings.

The reason for this problem is simple: Most builders are relying on a combination of spreadsheets and ‘siloed’ information to keep up with project changes. What’s more, the report said many manual processes combine with poor data sharing to lead to inaccuracies and failed projects. The limited ability to collect data and collaborate is undermining businesses as they work to adapt to project changes as they arise.

It isn’t enough to hire and train good workers. You need to give those employees the right tools to get the job done. If your ERP can’t support the kind of data collaboration needed to keep pace with change, your projects will be set up to fail at the outset.

The Implications of Poor Change Management

Consider a commercial building project for a multi-use facility. Any alteration in the project could have an impact on a variety of stakeholders. For example, if one future tenant realizes it will need a higher-capacity hot-water heater after construction has begun, you’re left to scramble. To handle this small change order, you must:

  • Get word to architects and designers to identify options for adjusting the plans.
  • Identify the financial implications of proposed changes by analyzing labor expenses, supplies and material costs.
  • Communicate potential changes to site managers and any impacted customers for approval.
  • Ensure work and purchase orders are updated relative to the changes.

One change order can create cascading disruption. Responding efficiently demands the ability to connect with a variety of both internal and external stakeholders.

If you are using spreadsheets, paper documents and similar tools to get the job done, you won’t be able to keep everybody informed easily. Designers will need somebody to deliver details on the new water heater. In addition, they’ll need to make updates in their CAD systems and email those plans to stakeholders hoping the message doesn’t slip through the cracks. If you’re using a general ERP software system, you won’t have access to the specific workflows you need.

These types of issues don’t just come up when project specifications shift. Instead, change is the norm. You probably don’t need the Harvard Business Review to tell you that, but the academic source confirmed that just about any business strategy will eventually lead to change. Any management activity involves dealing with changes, and companies must enact systems to maintain consistency and keep costs under control as they contend with the need for frequent adjustments.

A construction ERP system can go a long way in resolving issues. An ERP platform isn’t a cure-all, but it can serve as the infrastructure that lets you make the cultural and procedural updates needed to inform all stakeholders of change orders and enact the follow-up workflows necessary in the most efficient way possible. Change is constant in construction, but transforming operations around modern digital technologies through a strategic ERP software investment can provide the basis for operational advances as builders work to deal with constantly shifting project requirements.

 

Low Productivity is Prevalent in the Global Construction Industry – But It Doesn’t Have to Be in Your Business

If you’ve been in construction for a while, you know that, as an industry, we have a productivity problem. We often deal with rework because poor design or a lack of visibility requires the inefficient repetition of tasks. We face environmental conditions and supply chain problems that slow us down when we least expect it. We even have safety, training and other staffing challenges to contend with. In construction, being productive isn’t ever simple… but—like many players in the industry—are you stuck with a yawning productivity gap?

The short answer: No. Many firms are running into completely avoidable problems because they have neglected to update their information systems to solve the visibility and communications shortcomings that undermine productivity at every turn. You can step up and solve your organization’s efficiency problems. The first thing to do is take them seriously.

Construction Productivity May Be Worse Than You Think
You’re probably aware of how quickly projects get stuck due to budget, supply and/or staffing issues, but have you thought about how these problems become additive and escalate? According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the construction industry leaves a whopping $1.6 trillion of potential revenue on the table as a direct result of low productivity.

According to the research firm, the global construction sector represents almost $10 trillion in annual spend. Think about that. Collectively, construction firms are foregoing 16 cents of revenue for every dollar spent due to sub-optimal productivity. And although it’s an industry-wide problem, you can’t afford to sit back and conclude that there’s nothing you can do about it.

The simple reality is that other industries that have faced similar productivity challenges have pushed through and found success. Take manufacturing. Lean operations, connected devices, big data, automation and just-in-time supply chain management have all become prevalent in global manufacturing operations. In construction, many organizations are still relying almost exclusively on paper-and-pen recordkeeping, spreadsheets and basic accounting software to manage projects.

McKinsey explained that the construction industry has fallen behind when it comes to deploying and using digital technologies. In terms of digital maturity, the construction sector is 2nd-worst among U.S. industries and dead last in Europe.

However, it isn’t too late to begin closing the gap. Launch—or accelerate—your digital journey… it’s the only way to make meaningful productivity improvements a reality. Here’s how:

Put In Place a Tailored ERP System
Most enterprise resource planning (ERP) software can be delivered through the cloud, delivering price and deployment flexibility that smaller organizations can afford. You can’t coordinate operations to boost productivity when your workers are dependent on spreadsheets and paper records to get the job done. But you can when employees are all working from a central, mobile-enabled ERP that is purpose-built for construction-industry workflows.

Start By Solving Specific Problems, and Work Your Way Out
Deploying a complete ERP system can transform your business, but it may be a lot to chew in one bite. By honing in on a single, critical issue, you can focus your productivity efforts and measure your gains. For example, a Quality.org report explained that embracing digital technologies helps firms eliminate rework. The improved communication and collaboration ends up paying for the investment by ensuring that tasks are completed correctly the first time, preventing duplicative efforts, compressing timeframes and reducing risks.

Unify the Office and the Field
Driving solid productivity gains in construction is often a matter of effective synchronization between the office and the field:

  • Accounting needs invoices in a timely matter to collect bills in time to order products for future projects on schedule.
  • Project managers need real-time inventory updates so they can tweak work orders relative to changes in supply availability.
  • Engineers depend on quick notifications of design problems that arise in the field to adjust plans before productivity slows.
  • Executives need complete data related to challenges when they arise so they can make well-informed decisions quickly and effectively.

You can’t meet all of these needs if your field staff and your office-based resources aren’t working from the same source of truth. A single ERP and field operations platform breaks down barriers between headquarters, field offices and job sites, eliminating the operational obstacles that impair your ability to secure, manage and deliver multiple projects profitably.

Embracing modern digital technologies can seem overwhelming for any construction firm. For the past 40 years, CMiC has made the digital journey predictable, transparent and cost effective for hundreds of construction and capital projects firms. Our ERP platform is architected specifically for these industries, minimizing the amount of customization, management and maintenance you’ll need to take on as you tackle your productivity challenges and realize your true potential.

 

5 Tips to Gain Visibility and Fix Projects Before They Fail

A few years ago, I found myself tasked with leading a complex project with a clear, 15-month plan of action. After only six months, the project was running behind schedule. The main reason: I didn’t have good visibility into how much work was being done outside of the formal meetings. The project ended up a success, but it took more than two years and a complete restructuring of the original processes.

Construction projects are often the same—you set a strong foundation for the effort, but communication gaps along the way cause delays and cost overruns. Poor visibility into operations is often a major culprit in why projects fail to meet budgets and timeframes. There are two bits of good news. First, technology that helps you manage projects better is more accessible—and affordable—than ever. Second, the entire construction industry is grappling with the same challenge.

The Construction Sector’s Great Project Management Dilemma
Any number of hiccups can derail a project: Customers can change their minds on the design, key contractors can get sick and push off work streams on the critical path, weather can slow early outdoor work. These headaches are normal; what makes a difference is a construction firm’s ability to learn about the changes, understand the full set of repercussions, and adapt their approach to maintain forward momentum.

KPMG International found that recent innovation in construction has been exciting, but has also fallen short of its potential. The industry has generally gotten better at operating more efficiently and improving risk management.

Even so, just 25 percent of people responding to the KPMG survey said they think the construction industry has reached acceptable standards for completing projects on time and on budget. Projects that fail to meet timeframe and cost expectations are still way too frequent.

KPMG’s advice boiled down to three ideas:

  1. Take a fresh look at how you govern projects and adjust to changes.
  2. Make time to develop a quality staff at all levels of the organization.
  3. Create a plan to use digital technologies to bring together operations.

This guidance puts the idea of visibility into perspective. Governance creates clear expectations. Well-trained workers are more likely to communicate effectively. Digital technologies make it easier to ensure that all stakeholders are on the same page—all the time. Making these adjustments in isolation isn’t enough, KPMG explained. All three are required to create a cohesive, high performance operation.

If you want better visibility into your projects, you need to re-think how you work. Here are five tips to help you do just that:

  1. Make Communication Easy
    Don’t force workers in the field to jump through hoops to update somebody in the office. Use a central ERP system as a dedicated hub so everybody can access key information in real time, simplifying construction management.
  2. Automate Tedious Work
    Sending out new vendor requests, confirming invoices or checking on shipping can all distract your leaders from more important project management tasks. Automating these processes through ERP-based updates and notifications saves time and cuts down on stress.
  3. Enforce Compliance Automatically
    Imagine you set a lumber budget for a building add-on, but prices change. Now you have multiple workers making phone calls to a bunch of stakeholders just to get approval for what amounts to a minor change. With an ERP system, you can set boundaries for spending that allow for a degree of variance, and when you do need to approve something manually, you get a notification and related information in one place.
  4. Create and Communicate Customer Expectations
    People change their minds. They take too long to make important decisions. This uncertainty is normal in construction, so plan for it. Set clear deadlines internally and with customers. Discuss the consequences of missing those deadlines realistically; don’t scare your customers, just make sure they know what a delay will mean. Then, ensure that all of your stakeholders understand the situation and any changes that arise.
  5. Leverage Digital Technologies
    Asking a vendor for a replacement component because a shipment arrives damaged can be a nightmare when you have to manually take a photo and upload it through multiple systems. If your worker can snap a picture with a smartphone, upload the image directly to your ERP software and send it to the vendor, it’s fast and simple. Let technology make your life easier.

Now you may be thinking, “Sure, this sounds great, but I don’t want to deal with a big ‘horizontal’ ERP solution.” That’s what we at CMiC think, too. We’re not alone. CIO magazine reported that mainstream ERP systems might not be a fit for many industries because most of those solutions fail to support specific use cases and process types. The CMiC platform—designed from the bottom up for construction firms—supports the unique workflows, assets and data that you deal with every day.

When I ran a two-year project, I learned that the greatest barrier was understanding what the team was doing at any given time. I wish I could have easily gotten updates and checked in with stakeholders on an ongoing basis. If you want the kind of visibility that can transform your ability to deliver projects profitably every time, contact CMiC today.

 

Waste & Inefficiency: Using Japanese Philosophy for Lean Construction

Over the past decade, the lean approach has taken the world by storm. From manufacturing to marketing, businesses have used lean principles to improve efficiency and increase profits. In construction, the lean approach has included strategies for streamlining workflows, decentralizing decision-making and paying greater attention to project-level processes instead of individual tasks.  

To better understand the lean movement and its potential for transforming the construction industry, it’s important to trace it back to its roots. The lean movement began with lean production, a revolutionary manufacturing process developed by Toyota. The goals of lean production are simple: minimize waste and maximize value. To figure out how to best to do this, Toyota used Japanese philosophy, which describes three different kinds of waste: muda, muri, and mura.

Defining and identifying waste may seem like a straightforward task, but waste is actually a nuanced concept. Breaking waste down into the three categories above allowed Toyota to distinguish between value-added and non-value added waste. For example, only the last turn of a screwdriver actually tightens the screw, but the previous turns were a necessary part of completing the overall task.

Muda

Muda refers to work that does not add value to a particular process it’s completely unnecessary. In construction, re-keying data is an example of non-value added work. Additional manual data entry typically happens when firms have multiple software systems that aren’t “talking” to one another. When employees must manually enter data across multiple applications, it wastes a lot of time as does correcting any data entry mistakes made in the process.

In contrast, unified ERP platforms have the data-transferring technology, which ensures that project data is accessible to all applications within the ERP system and documents are auto-populated with relevant, up-to-date project information. To reduce muda, construction software should:

  • Store all information in a single database
  • Automate processes
  • Self-check for errors

Muri

Muri refers to processes that are excessive or overburden the system. Usually, muri manifests in placing too much stress or demand on employees who become less efficient and accurate. In construction, a common cause of overburden is poor communication. When employees on the job site don’t have all the necessary information they need to complete tasks correctly, safely or on schedule; it creates mistakes, delays and injuries.

Lean construction relies on better communication which is key to ensuring that employees are well prepared to do their jobs. This is an area where technology excels. Construction software like CMiC Field allows workers to report issues from the field using their mobile devices. They can attach documents like photos to the RFI so that project leads can remedy the situation ASAP. Mobile construction software also allows for change orders to be communicated quickly, which avoids re-work.

Mura

Mura refers to uneven or irregular processes. Rather than progressing a regular pace, work is completed in bursts, with lots of downtown time in between periods of productivity. Mura can happen easily on the job site when equipment or materials aren’t available at the right times. The good news is that this can be easily solved through materials management software. CMiC, for example, has materials tracking software that allows project managers to automate purchase orders and anticipate delivery schedules assisting in lean construction.

These three types of waste helped Toyota identify parts of their assembly line that were holding up production. By approaching the construction lifecycle like an assembly line, lean construction can help firms to evaluate their workflows, identify non-value added waste and determine where they need to make changes.  

Construction Safety vs. Productivity: 4 Things You Need to Know

For quite a while now, the construction industry in North America has been facing a labour shortage. Tactics for overcoming the shortage have largely focused on recruitment: encouraging young people and workers from other industries to embrace construction. While recruitment is important, it’s equally as important to care for the safety and wellbeing of workers already in the industry. Not only does protecting workers’ safety help ensure a healthy and robust labour pool, but it’s also the moral and legal duty of the industry to protect its workers.  

Unfortunately, many construction firms haven’t been doing such a great job at ensuring job site safety. A recent survey by the National Safety Council found that 58% of Americans working in construction don’t feel that their employers value safety as much as they value productivity. It’s clear that the construction industry must do better, and the start of a new year is a great time to re-evaluate safety measures to make sure team members are safe, healthy and happy. Here are 4 things to keep in mind when reviewing your company’s safety performance:

1. Construction Companies are Legally Required to Provide a Safe Workplace

Construction companies are required by law to protect their team from workplace injuries, but many are falling short. In the NSC survey, 47% of construction workers surveyed said they were afraid to report violations, which means that there are likely many legal violations on job sites across the country. It’s only a matter of time before whistleblowers and regulators catch on to illegal job site protocol that’s jeopardizing worker safety. This is a compelling reason for construction firms to evaluate their compliance with laws and regulations.

2. Safety Legislation Changes Regularly

Perhaps one of the main reasons that construction companies violate safety laws is because making sense of legislation can be tricky. Laws stipulating proper safety protocols change frequently and keeping up with those changes is an important part of construction management. Here are some recent US safety changes that have already taken effect:

Fall Protection Systems  

Falls are the leading cause of death in the workplace and more than half of fall-related deaths occur in construction. This statistic is not surprising, considering that fall prevention rules are the most violated according to OSHA. In January 2017, OSHA released new rules around fall protection measures.

Stairways, Ladders & Guardrails

Falls from ladders account for 20% of all workplace injuries. To help reduce this number, OSHA released new rules stipulating that ladder safety systems are now mandatory. This rule goes into effect for new ladders in November 2018 and for all ladders in 2036.

Workplace Assessments

As of November 2017, OSHA stipulates that all employers must conduct regular assessments of equipment and that all assessments must be documented.

Employee Training

OSHA made employee training for those participating in high-hazard work mandatory in May 2017.

Silica Dust

Despite pushback, the new silica rules released in September 2017 remain in effect. On December 22nd, the US Court of Appeals denied the appeal made by industry groups and the new regulations will stand. The new rules set limits on the acceptable exposure to crystalline silica – a carcinogen according to many research institutions. Workers are generally exposed to silica dust when working with stone, sand and concrete, and breathing in silica dust can cause respiratory illness, lung cancer and kidney disease.

3. Technology Can Help Make Job Sites Safer

Many safety violations and workplace injuries are caused by high worker demand. Construction leaders push their teams to produce quickly and efficiently, and this pressure can lead to cutting corners when it comes to safety. This is a huge mistake, but fortunately, it’s avoidable. With construction technology evolving at a rapid pace, companies are now able to access software and hardware that can help increase productivity without putting workers’ lives or wellbeing at risk.

Robotics technology, for example, has come a long way and is making its way to construction sites. And cloud and software technology has advanced exponentially. Construction ERP software is an example of how computer technology allows construction teams to communicate more efficiently and ensure that efforts aren’t duplicated, resources are conserved and mistakes are kept to a minimum. When productivity is increased through streamlined operations and advanced technology, it removes the pressure pressed on individual workers and allows them to work smartly and safely.

4. Employee Wellbeing Also Affects Job Site Safety

Enhancing the overall wellbeing of team members is the most effective way of reducing injuries on the job site. When workers are well hydrated, eating a nutritious diet and getting enough sleep, they will be more alert and make safe decisions.

There are many ways that companies can improve the lives and wellbeing of their employees. Access to health benefits allows employees and their families to attend regular health check-ups and receive medical care when necessary. And extended benefit programs that allow team members to engage in fitness classes and activates are a great way to promote wellness.

Some workplaces have also found that educational programs are extremely effective at informing employees about nutritional concerns and encouraging healthy habits. Most importantly, companies must ensure that workers aren’t overworked and have time to recharge and connect with friends and family. Workplaces that invest in measures for promoting employee wellbeing see the returns in productivity, employee retention and quality of work.

Looking for more ways to improve construction safety? Check out 4 Ways Advanced ERP Reduces Risk on the Job Site.

Implementing New Technology on the Jobsite: Challenges & Opportunities

One of the hardest parts about upgrading technology within a construction firm is getting employees to use the new tools. This can be especially difficult on the job site. Because in-office employees are used to working with computers and software technology as their primary tools, the introduction of new technology should be less jarring. While tech upgrades in an office environment require employee training and workflow changes, it’s still easier than implementing software solutions into work environments where digital technology has been mostly absent.

Mobile technology has a lot to offer, and if workers can be convinced of its usefulness, construction firms can reap the rewards of a more connected, collaborative job site. But, construction companies embarking on digital transformation must be sure that the new products they purchase won’t go to waste. To create a BYOD job site where workers wholeheartedly embrace mobile construction apps, firms must overcome a few challenges.

Challenge #1: Dispelling Myths Around Older Employees & Technology

It’s a common misconception that older generations are not technologically savvy, but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Technology has been embraced across generations, regardless of age. According to the PEW Research Centre, 87% of adults aged 50-64 are online and 87% use social media. Even seniors have embraced the digital revolution, with 6 in 10 using the Internet regularly. As far as mobile technology goes, 74% of adults aged 50-64 and 42% of seniors own a smartphone. Millennials may be been raised with cell phones, computers and the Internet, but older generations are catching up quickly.

Successful implementation of new technology is about training. And regardless of age, construction firms must assess their employees’ skill levels and design a training strategy that will build technological competencies, reduce fear and build confidence.

Before designing a training program, it can be useful to assess where employees are on the spectrum of digital readiness. The following digital readiness categories have been adapted from the PEW Research Centre’s report on online learning:

  • The Unprepared: They lack confidence in their technological skills & need significant help when using new devices.
  • The Traditionalists: They use technology to some extent, but are attached to tools and tech that have worked in the past.
  • The Reluctant: They have more advanced digital skills that The Unprepared or The Traditionalists, but technology is not a big part of their lives.
  • Cautious Clickers: They have a lot of technology available to them and are comfortable with using it.
  • Digitally Ready: They are confident in their ability to use technology and have regular access to many different types of technology.

Determining the digital readiness of employees on the job site can help managers and executives design appropriate training programs that will ensure that every member of the team is taking full advantage of company technology.

Challenge #2: Finding Tech for the Office AND the Jobsite

When a construction firm embarks on a journey towards digital transformation, there are a number of people and needs to satisfy because many different employees across all departments will need to use this system every day.

Smart construction executives talk to their team and create a functionality wish list. Unfortunately, after meeting with their team, many execs become overwhelmed with the long list of requirements. Their project managers are looking for a platform that prioritizes collaboration, onsite workers are looking for expect mobile software to act as a digital multi-tool, accounting wants to streamline client invoicing, and IT wants to minimize the security threat profile.

Balancing this many needs and wants can certainly be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Software that’s been created specifically for the construction industry allows firms to find functionality that will meet the needs of all their team members. Another way to ensure that everyone will be satisfied with the new software is to choose an ERP platform that’s connected to a single database. ERP construction software has a suite of applications for departments across the organizations, but each application is connected to one another using a single database. ERP allows for data to flow freely from one department to another, creating greater connectivity and making collaboration a whole lot easier.

Challenge #3: Overcoming Internal Politics & Resistance to Change

Even with tech-savvy employees and a software system that everyone agrees on, there can still be internal issues within a construction company that make employees reluctant to embrace change. Teams may disagree about the right way to approach an issue, there may be negative chatter about the direction of the company or employees may have fears about the risks associated with change. Whatever the nature of the internal conflicts, it’s important to diagnose and solve them before they become an obstacle to digital transformation. Here are three ways to overcome political challenges and convince employees to embrace change:

1. Get Buy-In

Employees are more likely to feel positively towards tech changes if they’ve played a role in determining what the changes will be and how they will be implemented. Involving all team members in the decision-making process can boost morale and create a greater sense of ownership over the changes made. It can also be hugely beneficial for construction leaders to talk to employees at all levels about their challenges and concerns – they may discover inefficiencies in places they’d never think to look.

2. Show Don’t Tell

Instead of demanding that employees use new tools, show them why it’s in their best interest. As more and more software benefits become evident, employees will start to see that the payoff is worth the effort.  

3. Look for Change Evangelists

To help inspire your team and create a shared sense of purpose, look for the individuals in your organization that are eager to embrace new technology and can help convince others to do the same. Change evangelists often have incredible influence over their colleagues and can be an invaluable resource during times of transition.

For more advice on managing change, check out A Case for Change: Company Cultures & Digital Transformation.

ERP Solutions to Common Workflow Challenges: Change Orders

You may have methodically mapped out the supply chain, created a rock-solid estimate and developed the perfect schedule. Still, when you’re working in the construction industry, roadblocks always seem to surface.

That’s why leading construction professionals are dedicated to creating a strong change order management plan: to organize the chaos.   

To the untrained eye, change orders may not seem like a major issue. But to the seasoned construction professional, change orders are predictive of whether or not a project will succeed.  

Refining change order management is an important step for any construction company because change orders are a regular occurrence. A change order may be the result of employee mistakes, changes to the design or scope of the project, material availability and compliance issues — to name a few.

Whatever the reason, handling a change order effectively allows construction firms to:

  •    Keep projects on schedule and prevent delays
  •    Avoid costly rework caused by a communication breakdown
  •    Maintain a strong relationship with the client by maintaining transparency and clear communication

Unfortunately, ensuring that change orders are handled in an efficient way is easier said than done. Many companies are unaware of organizational bottlenecks and may not realize which parts of their change order workflow are problematic. To help you gain greater insight into the ways your change order procedures can be improved, check out these four common change order mistakes, and how construction software offers a fix.

1. Pricing a PCO (Potential Change Order)

Without an advanced ERP platform, entering the pricing for a PCO takes time and patience. Workers must manually transfer the pricing information from the PCO document to the accounting system. Here’s why manual entry is problematic:

  •    It often results in costly typos and inaccurate pricing information
  •    It requires duplicate entry across platforms, which wastes time and decreases productivity
  •    It slows down the flow of data between team members, resulting in project delays

With a construction ERP software system like CMiC’s, these change order pitfalls are avoided. Instead of manually copying over the numbers, employees can create CMiC change documents that are intelligently integrated with accounting software. This means that accurate costs are reflected across all applications within the organization and re-keying is avoided.

2. Creating an RFQ (Request for Quote)

When creating RFQs, firms must balance precision with speed. This means producing accurate documents within tight timeframes. Unfortunately, many firms haven’t mastered this process. For some, the RFQ process still involves re-keying information to and from scope documents and emails. Countless hours are wasted searching through email folders and copying over costs for a given change order.

The RFQ process can be easily streamlined with ERP software. CMiC’s platform stores scope data and changes so you can easily transfer information with the click of a button. You can automatically populate an email with relevant scope changes and a quote request – there’s no need to manually attach documents or print out the scope changes and hand deliver.

3. Waiting on Approvals

Waiting on the final approval for a change order can cause significant project delays. For many firms, their strategies for expediting the process involves employees requesting approvals from project management or financials in person. If approval is being held up by an external stakeholder, however, this strategy won’t work. Salaried and hourly workers will be left waiting around, wasting valuable time and money.  

CMiC has a unique solution to this problem: the workflow queue. The workflow queue immediately routes documents to relevant parties for approval and sends out recurring alerts to keep things moving. Decision makers view all pending COs in their workflow queue and can approve several changes at a single time. Once a CO is approved by all parties, the document will automatically change status to approved.

4. Document Sharing

In traditional change order management, there are three documents: a potential change order, an owner change order and a subcontract change order. Data is copied and pasted across all three documents and they’re shared separately.  

With the CMiC platform, these documents are consolidated into a single file that is sent through the approval pipeline, and the document is updated automatically at each step. CMiC also populates customized “cover pages” for owner and subcontractor change orders with relevant information. If the client denies approval on a change, your document will indicate exactly that.

This process allows for easy communication and collaboration, and introduced effective revision control protocols. Anyone receiving the document can be sure that the information contained in the report is accurate and up-to-date, and they’ll be able to see the status of the change order within the document. That means there’s no re-keying of information, and you can easily tell what’s going on with a given change order by its status. This process also provides a level of protection against client backlash: if they take issue with your work at any stage, this single document will have everything you need to prove your due diligence.

Summary of ERP Change Order Management

ERP software like CMiC software, increase efficiency by streamlining data sharing for the user. Here’s a quick breakdown of the specific advantages CMiC offers for change order management:

  • All changes and requests are performed within the system
  • CO documents include clear statuses such as pending, waiting for approval, etc.
  • There is no need to re-key or copy-paste information
  • Contractor quotes and other information are auto-populated across the system, reducing manual data entry
  • Emails are intelligently populated and are stored in the system for easy retrieval

Change order management is just one of the areas where construction firms can benefit from a single-database ERP system. Check out The ERP Approach to Construction Management to learn about the ways unified software supports construction project planning and execution.

4 Preventable Reasons Construction Projects Miss their Deadline

With the natural complexity of construction projects, it’s no wonder the construction industry is notorious for its costly delays. Unexpected events come in all shapes and sizes, from last-minute change orders and scheduling issues to weather delays. And when operations come to a grinding halt, there’s a good chance that cost overruns are just around the corner. 

Construction leaders understand common job site challenges all too well, but they may be surprised to learn how much power they have in preventing potential delays before they happen. Here are 4 easily avoidable mistakes that push projects past their deadlines.   

1. Poor Estimates

Cost estimators have a tough job: they manage multiple projects and work long hours to meet tight review deadlines. When trying to complete high-quality, accurate estimates under a time crunch, it’s easy to make mistakes or miss steps in the process. Unfortunately, overlooking crucial information can threaten the outcome of a project. And if the mistake isn’t recognized until halfway through the project, the project may be significantly delayed or abandoned altogether.  

To make matters worse, every construction project comes with its own set of unique variables. Cost factors for one project may not apply to another, no matter how similar the two projects are. This makes it difficult to base estimates solely on past projects or cost estimating guides. The best way to avoid unexpected costs that could throw off the estimate is to research the individual factors of a project and gather information from other team members. When estimating labour costs, for example, you can reduce the margin of error by having a quick meeting with a seasoned foreperson. They will be able to double-check the projections and help make adjustments where necessary.  

Creating an accurate and workable project estimate is the foundation of delivering a project on-time, so make sure that you end each project with a post-mortem to compare estimates and final costs. This will help your firm develop ways to improve the estimate process. 

 2. Scope Creep

A strong estimate sets out a clear vision for the project ahead, but any changes made during the life of the project can get messy quick. Scope creep can happen if stakeholders aren’t on the same page when it comes to project goals, clients change their minds about project details or new information arises that affects the project plan.  

Whatever the cause, scope creep can place construction managers in a tight situation. Initial budgets are strained and become more difficult to manage. Team members may be forced to conduct costly re-work, working overtime to make the necessary changes while keeping to the schedule. Even profit margins suffer, as leaders are forced to revisit estimates and make revisions that will keep their clients happy.  

While scope creep is a common phenomenon, it is by no means a foregone conclusion. To keep a close eye on budgets and project specifications, construction firms must involve stakeholders early in the planning process and keep them in the loop throughout the duration of the project. The best way to make sure everyone is on the same page is to invest in project management software that facilitates strong communications and collaboration.  

To drastically lower the impacts of scope changes, get stakeholders involved early and keep them in the loop. An ERP platform with a single database makes it easy for stakeholders to view relevant milestones and data with apps that present the information in intuitive analytics dashboards. In addition, firms can invest in mobile technology, which allows for on-site workers to upload data to the ERP system in real-time.  

With the lines of communication open and operations streamlined, it’s much easier for construction teams to create change management strategies that are sure to prevent scope creep.  

3. Stunted Decision Making

The last thing any project manager wants is to keep workers waiting around on the job site. But when approvals are needed before a team can move forward, delays in executive decision-making waste time and money. To make confident decisions in a timely manner, leaders need to be well informed and they must be able to contact stakeholders and suppliers at a moment’s notice. A shared construction software platform with a single database is the best solution for empowering decision making. With advanced ERP platforms, leaders can access real-time information, send stakeholder reports using standard templates and coordinate with other decision makers on a single platform.   

 4. Poor Visibility & Collaboration

Balancing the day-to-day job site management with big picture key performance indicators can be incredibly challenging for project managers and construction leaders. When the field and office are disconnected, project managers and executives can’t coordinate data.  

Without access to project-level and enterprise-level key performance indicators, project managers can’t make the adjustments necessary to ensure that a project remains profitable. Similarly, poor visibility into progress, efficiency and productivity on the worksite prevents executives from standardizing protocol or streamlining operations.  

Mobile apps that are part of a larger ERP system are the best way to connect the field and office. An advanced mobile app can allow workers in the field to fill out daily checklists or send pictures of equipment malfunctions and other material issues. Leaders can address job site problems and project managers can get a bird’s eye view of the project with analytics dashboards.  

A modern approach to construction has changed the way we view project delays. With a balanced combination of traditional expertise and advanced software, construction leaders are gaining control over challenges that were once simply taken for granted. 

Looking for more info? Find out how lean efficiency can transform your operation today.  

Extreme Weather & the Construction Industry

Several weeks ago, the United States was hit with a series of tropical storms that caused extreme destruction and mass evacuations. It’s estimated that together, Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma caused $290 billion in damages. Harvey accounts for the majority of this figure: the rebuild is expected to cost $190 billion, making Harvey one of the costliest weather disasters in U.S. history.   

In the wake of these disasters, a new reality has been made apparent: We’re entering an age of increased risk from extreme weather events. For an industry as susceptible to weather as construction, this is not good news. 

By its nature, construction is dependent on weather. Project planning and design are determined in large part by the landscape, geography and local weather. Building strategies and materials are tailored to suit a particular climate. And of course, construction teams work outside. In addition to the effects felt by citizens and residents, extreme weather events can derail projects, endanger workers and increase construction costs considerably.  

Because weather is becoming more extreme and less predictable, it’s important for construction firms to develop strategies of resilience. But first, we have to know what we’re up against. Here are 4 ways that climate change and extreme weather are impacting the construction industry.  

1. Labour Shortage

Even prior to Harvey and Irma, the construction industry was already experiencing a shortage of skilled labour. There are countless theories as to what has caused the labor shortage: early retirement, low wages and fewer young people interested in entering the field — to name a few. Whatever the reason, construction labour has been hard to come by. After Harvey, the shortage is likely to get worse, with approximately 91% of contractors worried about finding skilled workers. With more extreme weather comes more destruction to infrastructure, homes and commercial buildings. An increase in demand will provide an economic boost to the industry, but only if contractors and firms can find enough workers to fill vacant roles.  

2. Unusual Weather Conditions

Many construction firms have grown accustomed to the weather patterns and climate within the areas they do business. Through experience and data gathering, they’ve developed strategies for ensuring that inclement weather doesn’t threaten a project’s success. Unfortunately, climate change has caused weather to become much less predictable. Across the globe, regions are seeing unusual weather patterns that are atypical. In 2009, for example, London, England experienced the worst snowfall in almost 20 years. The city was ill-equipped to deal with the snow and it’s estimated that this disruption cost them billions in snow removal, lost revenues and emergency services. When construction firms become unable to predict weather patterns and develop emergency plans for weather variables, it puts their entire business at risk.  

3. Equipment Damage & Efficacy

Unusual weather conditions can also throw a wrench into a firm’s procedures for caring for equipment and preventing weather damage. Weather can affect the performance and wear and tear of construction equipment. Dry weather can increase the amount of dust on the job site, which can jam and clog machinery. Strong winds can strain equipment and cause breakage. And hot weather can reduce the efficacy of materials like sealants and mortar. Most firms have protocols in place for preventing weather damage, but those procedures are location and climate dependent. As weather patterns shift, firms may not be familiar with the procedures for caring for equipment in more extreme conditions.  

4. Materials Scarcity

Extreme weather makes construction materials harder to source and purchase. Drought, flooding and storms can cause scarcity, which may drive up cost or prevent materials from be obtained at all.  

For example, flooding in areas where natural resources are being extracted can cause a shortage in the raw ingredients used to make construction materials. In contrast, drought can prevent construction sites from getting enough water to complete vital tasks. A phenomenon like erosion can create shortages of materials like sand, which is used to make concrete and asphalt and is becoming hard to source 

The good news: material scarcity creates an opportunity for developing innovative ways to meet the materials needs of construction projects. Recycled materials and the circular economy are two ways of lowering the impact of construction material extraction on the planet and reducing industry dependence on depleted resources.  

Conclusion: Building Resilience 

These are just some of the ways that climate change can threaten the success and security of the construction industry, but there are more. In light of these threats, it’s important for firms to develop strategies for handling extreme weather.  

One of the best ways to build resilience is to improve the efficiency of your firm’s planning and communication procedures. That way, when extreme weather events arise, you’re organized enough to deal with the emergency effectively. This can be done by using construction software to run a tight ship – a ship that’s better able to weather storms both literal and figurative.  

Construction software will create company-wide transparency with regards to financials, scheduling and project planning, ensuring that everyone has the information they need to rearrange work, adjust budgets and ensure employee safety.  

 

To learn about all the ways that construction software reduces risk and safeguards firms’ futures, check out 5 Risk Factor Solves with Advanced ERP