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Industry Insight Tips & Advice

Pros and Cons of Working From Home

 

As pandemic restrictions are tightened again, and some areas go back into lockdown, workers are again being asked to work from home when possible. While construction companies are used to working from many sites, the office staff is generally located in a central office. Changing venues for office workers has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the benefits and challenges for construction company employers of having workers work from home.

Benefits to employers

1. Higher productivity

When working from home, employees are often more productive than they are at the office. There are fewer distractions from coworkers stopping by to chat or ask questions. It’s easier to shut out time-suckers like email notifications and unnecessary meetings. A FlexJobs 2020 survey found that workers who thought they were more productive at home, were. Respondents cited fewer interruptions and quiet working environments as part of the reason for their increased productivity.

2. Recruit from a larger pool of candidates

When location isn’t a factor when hiring, companies can expand the pool of possible candidates for open positions. This can lead to hiring more highly skilled workers for key roles. When companies hire the best of the best, their products and services improve in quality.

3. Reduce turnover

The flexibility inherent in a remote job allows workers to stay with them longer. For example, if an employee needs to relocate because of a spouse’s job change, instead of quitting they can easily continue working for the same company from another location. Companies can keep key talent when there are fewer constraints on where they perform the work.

4. Reduce overhead costs

For some companies, overhead costs like office rent and supplies can be significantly reduced or even eliminated by employing a remote workforce. With fewer overhead expenses, profits increase.

Employees also save money. Since they don’t have to commute anymore, they save on gas, car repairs, parking, and lunches. This savings translates into more of their hard-earned money staying in their pockets.

5. Fewer sick days

Spending less time around other people, coworkers, and the public, results in less sick time. Workers reduce their chances of catching viruses, colds, and the flu. With less downtime, workers are more productive and are able to get more accomplished over the long haul.

Challenges to employers

1. Collaboration and communication

As contractors know, when teams are spread out over long distances, it can be difficult to maintain communication and collaborate with team members. Impromptu meetings and discussions are more difficult to have when workers aren’t in the same physical location.

Luckily there are several tech applications that can assist teams in maintaining their connections. From online messaging apps, like Slack, to videoconferencing programs, like Zoom, it’s easier than ever for teams to keep in touch when working remotely.

When it comes to accessing collective data, online SaaS programs allow everyone to get the data they need from any device with an internet connection. This ensures that everyone has the info they need when they need it. Using SaaS software also allows office teams to stay productive from wherever they’re working, as well as ensuring everyone is working off the same real-time data.

2. Distractions

While there may be fewer distractions at home than in the office, they are still a struggle to deal with. Children, pets, and household chores can quickly steal employees’ concentration. Workers must do their best to set boundaries and structure their work environment and schedule to reduce distractions as much as possible.

3. Technology struggles

Technology can be difficult to deal with, whether it’s at home or in the office. Programs crash, computers die, and internet connections are lost. While these problems can’t all be eliminated, there are some things that can be done to help prevent them.

  • Ensure that employees have the latest in hardware and software installed on their work-provided devices.
  • Develop a schedule for regularly replacing hardware every 2 to 3 years.
  • Employ IT workers or hire a company to provide remote service to all employees.

4. Time Management

Without the structure of the office environment to keep them on task, some workers may struggle with managing their schedules when working from home. They may lose track of their work time and blur the lines between home and work life. This can lead to added stress and burnout.

Allow workers to set their own schedules when possible, so they can effectively manage their work and home life. Encourage them to stick to their schedule as much as possible, with only occasional changes under special circumstances.

5. Dress code

When working from home it can be tempting to dress more casually than when working in the office. While an occasional day spent working in your pajamas is acceptable, workers need to be dressed properly the majority of the time. Clothing can be both professional and comfortable, keeping workers in the correct mindset when they’re on the job.

As construction workers and companies continue to navigate the ever-changing pandemic restrictions, it’s best to remain flexible, as this helps reduce stress. Teams can function successfully when working remotely with the help of technology and a little patience.

 

Check out Premier Construction Software to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals.  Our construction management and accounting software provide teams with the tools they need to take advantage of these technologies. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.

We’re more than just construction financial software. We’re built to help your business.

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.

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Tips & Advice Trends & Technology

Inefficiency Costs in Construction

It doesn’t matter which industry you work in, inefficiency is a profit killer. Doing things twice, taking too long to accomplish a goal, or paying too much to get something done are all sure ways to beat up a company’s wallet. For that reason, most companies aim to streamline their processes and improve efficiency. Unfortunately, that’s a tall order for the inefficiency costs in construction. 

What causes inefficiencies in construction?

Inefficiencies typically start with a lack of information, but they can take many forms. The following are some of the largest contributors to inefficiency costs in construction.

Poor Planning

There are many moving parts on a construction project: project owners, general contractors, subs, suppliers, designers, engineers, inspectors, financing lenders, and more. Getting all of those parties to play nicely and on time with each other is truly an art, especially when it comes to scheduling. 

One scheduling snafu can cause massive issues, especially if it involves a materials delivery or a specialty sub that can’t make it back to the site in the near future.

Poor Communication

One of the most significant issues causing inefficiencies in construction is poor communication. Job site confusion, questions about certain aspects of the project, unclear scopes of work, and even changes in designs aren’t always handled quickly and efficiently. Instead, questions compile and delays build, costing the contractor, subs, and project owners precious time and money.

Let’s look at a likely situation: A specified type of flooring isn’t available, and the flooring sub needs to know what to do. Instead of taking the efficient route and sending an RFI to the designer, he tells the GC he needs an answer before ordering. The GC is juggling 15 things at one time and gets distracted by something on the job. He never delivers the message. 

By the time the subcontractor needs to be on-site and laying floors, he’s already behind schedule because he was waiting on an answer and couldn’t order the floor. 

Lack of Skilled Labor and Training 

The construction industry’s need for skilled labor is well documented, but understanding how much this lack costs the industry isn’t so cut and dry. Without a crew of men and women that a company can rely on, projects take longer than necessary. Also, these crews’ inexperience means they might not recognize when they’re working inefficiently.

A lack of training can contribute to the issue. Whether it’s a new system or technique, or even just basic safety, not training staff in how to do a particular aspect of the job will cost a business. In the best case, they learn by trial and error. In the worst cases, injuries can occur. In either case, things are running inefficiently.

And, consider the amount of time and resources it takes to recruit the folks to help run the business as smoothly as possible. What could the company do with those resources, otherwise?

Aversion to Technology

One aspect that separates the construction industry from just about every other business is its unwillingness to adopt new technology. While most industries have moved toward automation and streamlined processes thanks to the latest technology, construction holds fast to its old ways. 

Take drawing management, for example. If a company is still using paper plans, they need to be sure they’re using the latest, most updated set of drawings. Someone needs to print the plans and get them to the job site, costing money in supplies (paper and ink) as well as travel time and vehicle cost (gas, wear and tear).

Instead, a drawing management system allows GCs and project managers to check for the latest plans via a mobile device from the job site. And, anyone else who needs to see those plans will also have instant access, allowing them to make decisions or change course whenever necessary. 

What Inefficiencies Can Cost a Construction Company

When you consider the wide range of inefficiencies that exist and what can cause them, it doesn’t take much to imagine they make a huge impact on the bottom line. 

While some situations are unavoidable, issues caused by poor communication are estimated to cost construction workers almost two full days of work each week. Multiply those two hours by everyone on the project, and it becomes painfully obvious that time is money. 

And, if you consider how much time call-backs cost, as well as time spent on fixing avoidable errors caused by miscommunication, the numbers get worse. It’s estimated that all of these inefficiencies are costing the construction industry around $177 billion each year. 

There is a Solution

Most of the issues that cause inefficiencies are the result of poor communication or missing information. The good news is there is a simple way to improve communication and collect data in one spot—utilizing and ERP-based construction management software.

Automation

ERP software can streamline a business’s day-to-day tasks. By automating some of the more mundane and error-prone manual tasks, the team can focus their attention on creative solutions to unique problems. Whether it be tracking revisions, ensuring everyone’s compliances are up to date or giving everyone on the job an easier way to pay or get paid, automation can be the answer.

Better Decisions

It’s tough to make a good decision without all the information available, and construction management software can help. By centralizing all the data collection with an ERP, decision-makers will have the latest data and information available. This allows them to make smarter, more informed decisions to limit inefficiencies and keep the company and project on track. 

Drawing Management

Drawing management is also critical to ensure everyone is literally on the same page. Revisions and changes are instantly available to everyone on the job. If there are any questions or an RFI is necessary, creating and managing those documents using the ERP software is easy. Automated workflows ensure everyone who needs to receive these documents does, improving communication.

Cloud-based Access

Finally, construction management software can ensure that all of the important data, reports, drawings, invoices, and other documents are available at the users’ fingertips. Cloud-based software allows access from anywhere and on any device with access to the internet. Coupled with real-time updates, cloud storage ensures everyone is working with the same data at all times. 

Better Reporting

Last but not least, ERP-based construction management software helps businesses look at their past practices and forecast their futures. With automatically updated reports like job costing and budgets, and key performance indicators, the company will have an easier time hunting down inefficiencies and improving its practices.

Check out Premier Construction Software to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals.  Our construction management and accounting software provide teams with the tools they need to take advantage of these technologies. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.

We’re more than just construction financial software. We’re built to help your business. 

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101

 

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Features Industry Insight Tips & Advice

Construction Forecasting: Developing and Maintaining a Project Budget

In 2015, KPMG reported that 31% of construction projects come within 10% of the budget. And it seems the bigger the project, the worse the financial uncertainty. In 2016, McKinsey reported that 80% of large projects go over budget. The research shows that contractors and owners are struggling to maintain their budgets throughout their projects. Forecasting costs has only become even more difficult in the last couple of years, due to the global pandemic and supply chain issues. 

Knowing how to build a project budget and manage it over the life of a project is a skill that can be learned.

Here are some tips we have gathered to help.  

Developing a project budget 

Developing a project budget begins with a clear and complete scope of work. You must have a clear picture of what needs to be done and when it needs to be done before you can price the work. Talk to the owner about their project and get as many details as possible about the work and their schedule. 

Using the description gathered from the project owner, develop a breakdown of the work that needs to be completed, also called a work breakdown structure or WBS. A WBS breaks the work down into small, manageable, quantifiable scopes of work. For example, installing drywall. A WBS helps in both budgeting and scheduling work because each task and can be quantified for cost and time. 

Based on your conversations with the project owner, you should be able to establish milestones in the schedule that have to be met. These may include equipment delivery dates or occupancy. Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) that let you know if you are meeting both the owner’s and your own milestones. For example, you may have profit goals or productivity targets that you must meet for the project to be successful. Defining these ahead of time will help you assess the project’s success as it progresses, not just at the end. 

When developing the project schedule and budget, provide an optimistic view, a pessimistic view, and a most likely scenario. Leave some room for changes and added work. By analyzing these three schedules and budgets, you can assess the probability that you will meet your goals ahead of time and start to plan for potential issues before they come up. 

Maintaining the project budget 

A project budget should be a living document that changes as the project progresses. Added work, scope changes, and schedule delays often affect the schedule as a project moves on. Project managers can use several methods to forecast costs to complete the work. They include using a work breakdown structure, using Excel formats, third-party templates, and construction software. 

Some contractors use the list or work breakdown structure method to estimate their projects and forecast future costs. This technique involves listing all the work that needs to be performed and breaking it down into manageable tasks, like WBS. Then each of these tasks is budgeted, scheduled, and tracked throughout the project. While this technique may work for smaller simpler projects, it can easily get unmanageable on larger construction projects. 

The next step up from a written list is using Excel templates to manage costs, schedules, and other information. Excel spreadsheets have been used to track costs, schedules, daily reports, budgets, and much more. If you have not developed your own forms, many are available on the internet. The problem with excel spreadsheets is that they are not connected, and not tailored to construction. 

Some companies rely on templates and use them to track all correspondence and data for their projects. These templates are created by third-party companies and not customized for a specific project or scope. Again, they are not connected, and the data is not centrally located. 

The most modern way to track and maintain a project budget is using construction software. Today’s software is available in ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and all-in-one solutions that combine project management, actual costs, commitments, unanticipated costs, budgets, and communication together, where everything is in one place. They tie together estimating, job costing, timekeeping, communication, and financials. Using this information, project managers can more effectively forecast productivity and costs, providing a more accurate picture of where they will finish on the job and ensuring they are not caught with any surprises. They can review historical information and easily dive into the month-to-month variances to better understand the current budget and estimate at completion. 

Keys to better forecasting

  1. Get real-time data

When project managers try to forecast monthly, they often make mistakes if the accounting and job costing is not integrated into one software solution. Working with multiple software applications makes it difficult to compile the data taking several days or even weeks, leaving the Project Manager no choice but to base their forecasts on lagging information. Worst of all, they cannot trust the data to make accurate and informed decisions.  

Today’s financial construction software offers real-time data that automatically calculates the estimate at completion. This way you can easily compare your original estimate, current estimate, and estimate at completion. Software solutions offer great lock features allowing you to freeze the original estimate and forecasting period, forcing your team to properly enter any change orders in the correct period to record any movement on the job. This way, each month you can easily review the variances and see why the budget has moved.  

  1. Communicate

There is no substitute for continuous communication between contractors, owners, and design team members. When everyone is on the same page there are fewer hidden costs. Software solutions offer simple, integrated ways for team members to communicate in real-time about issues, change orders, and any concerns. With software introducing new and faster ways to approve and electronically sign off on commitments, ap invoices, and change orders, it ensures the estimate at completion is up to date and accurate. Members can easily approve, mark-up, decline, or reject key documents instantly. The ability to see what is outstanding and ensure you have your internal processes optimized to provide open, instant feedback, makes forecasting much simpler and more accurate. 

  1. Integrate systems

It’s time to say goodbye to disconnected excel spreadsheets. With real-time data, it makes it easy for a project manager to easily adjust the EAC using anticipated costs and make more informed decisions as to where the budget will end up. 

When systems are separated from each other due to the lack of software integration, time can be lost spent pulling information from multiple sources and compiling it into comprehensive reports. Teams need integrated data at their fingertips so they can act proactively view actual costs, commitments, change orders, pending items, etc. Using an ERP or all-in-one software financial construction solution provides project managers a macro and micro-overview of the budget as they can easily drill down into all the details waiting for other departments to provide information or for spreadsheets to be updated. 

  1. Automate

Saving time saves money. The more teams can automate daily data-entry tasks, the more time they can spend actively managing the work and proactively reviewing the high-risk itemsSo much time is being wasted on chasing down subcontractors, manually approving AP invoices, trying to collect signatures, and rekeying data from emails. An inefficient system makes it difficult for PMs to find the time to properly forecast. With proper construction financial software, the most time-consuming and complex tasks can be automated to save you valuable time and ensure you can scale the business without having to add more overhead. Best of all, you can start trusting your data and gain better financial control of your jobs and business.  

If you are ready to step up your forecasting game, look no further than Premier Construction Software. We have an easy-to-use financial construction software solution that will help manage your project from beginning to completion.  Get in touch with our team to schedule a demo today!Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.

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Uncategorized

How Construction Is Moving Toward an Automated World

Experts have long criticized the construction industry’s unwillingness to get with the times. As one of the oldest industries in the world, it would rather stick to the status quo than try new things. That is until recently when some of the largest construction companies in the world started to recognize the benefits that technology and automation have to offer. And the reason for this change makes a lot of sense.

Construction has some of the tightest profit margins of any industry. Not only that, inefficiencies and errors shrink those margins even more. Automation aims to fix that by taking mundane, error-prone tasks and utilizing a system to handle them. The result is more efficient processes and fewer mistakes. Let’s take a look at a few ways construction is moving toward this automated world.

Automation in Construction

Construction automation conjures thoughts of robots and machines erecting buildings. While there are some machines that can lay bricks or pour concrete, construction automation is more about the processes behind the scenes, as a contract, documents, and invoice management. These processes take up a lot of time inputting data, double-checking documents, checking for compliance, and finding (and fixing) errors.

Smart Contracts

Many construction companies are moving toward smart contracts to help streamline and automate certain processes. These contracts work by utilizing “if/then” scenarios, recognizing that once one action takes place, another action needs to occur. 

For instance, some smart contracts will recognize that once a certain stage of a project is complete (say, the contractor gets paid) that more materials will be necessary. The program can then trigger an order to a supplier, making sure there is enough material to continue the job.

This type of automation keeps the construction vehicle rolling, minimizing downtime and maximizing efficiency.

Compliance Automation

Manual compliance management and tracking take a lot of time. Someone needs to check to ensure that each contractor is meeting the requirements set forth but the contract. This could be keeping licenses on file, meeting bond requirements, updating insurance information, sending lien waivers, or many other scenarios. And, should some of those compliances expire, someone needs to know—this sounds like a job for automation.

Automated compliance tracking and management is a significant help to construction companies. Not only will the system track and log compliances as they come in, but it will also notify the project management team if any are missing. They can also prevent expired compliances from going unnoticed by automatically sending a warning to the team.

Document Management

As much as the industry relies on raw materials to build structures, it also relies on documents (and lots of them) to keep the job on track. Between drawings, contracts, compliances, change orders, RFIs, and other construction documents, physically sorting and storing them all is mundane and time-consuming. Manual entry might reduce storage, but it’s also time heavy and prone to mistakes. Automated document management has the answer.

Some document management programs allow a user to upload a document into the system. The system then automatically reviews the document, pulls the important data, and stores it in such a way that’s easy to find and accessible for the whole team.

Automated Payments

Payment problems are always an issue in the construction industry, but automation can help. By giving subcontractors and suppliers an automated system to upload invoices and compliances, you reduce the time it takes for them to get paid. You also limit your risk of multiple payments or paying more than the budget allows.

Invoice Management

Beyond automated payment management, automated invoice management simplifies the entire process. Automated invoice systems will scan an invoice, pull the important data, cross-reference it with other documents, and assess the validity of the invoice. It will also recognize who sent the invoice, which job it’s attached to, and which contract it falls under. 

Automated invoice management can go quite a bit further, as well. The more invoices these systems see, the more proficient they become at recognizing job numbers, vendor codes, cost types, and more, pulling these values and ID numbers straight from the page. 

Possibly most important of all, automated invoice management systems reduce errors and oversights. The system will automatically check to ensure the amount is correct, as well as check that the document in question isn’t a duplicate or fraudulent invoice. This reduces lost money due to errors and mistakes, allowing automated invoice management to pay for itself.

Premier partnered with Smart Ui to offer services just like these. This system offers automated invoice management that only gets smarter the more you use it, helping you improve your company’s efficiency and accounts payable and receivable processes.

Automation Is the Future

Clearly, automation will play a big role in the construction industry’s future. From bots and machines to the way the industry handles data entry tasks, automating tasks allows for growth, increased profits, and better project management.

Check out Premier Construction Software’s automated systems to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.

Author Biography:

Tom Scalisi has over 15 years of experience working in the trades. Since moving to full-time freelance writing, he has developed a passion for helping construction companies grow. He enjoys teaching contractors how technology can streamline their businesses and educating them about their rights during payment disputes. 

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Tips & Advice

Is Manual Data Entry Costing Your Business? Why Automation is the Solution

If you think that investing in software to automate your systems will cost you more money than doing everything manually, you’re not alone. Many businesses operate under the assumption that paying for automation is more expensive than paying people to do things. The truth is there are hidden costs to doing things by hand, and those costs can significantly affect your bottom line.

We’re going to look at the hidden costs you may not realize you’re incurring by doing your data entry manually. The magnitude of some may surprise you.

1. Increased error rate

Workers entering data manually, without verification, can have an error rate as high as 4%. That means for every 50 entries, two are wrong. In an experiment in 2009, it was shown that data entry workers made up to 10.23 errors when entering data from thirty spreadsheets. This is the nature of human data entry.

When errors involve money, the stakes are high. These errors could lead to over-and underpayments, over-and undercharging customers, disruptions to the accounting and auditing processes, and may lead to financial trouble. Data entry errors have cost companies millions of dollars.

2. It takes time

Manual data entry takes time. The average typist can perform 10,000 to 15,000 keystrokes per hour. Depending on the amount of data and its form, it can take even the fastest typist hours to perform data entry. If the data requires comprehension or analysis before entry, this slows down the process even more.

It could take a competent operator between 8 and 10 minutes to enter 400 units of data. This may not seem like much, but if the volume of data is high, it can cost your company valuable time that could be spent on other workflows, like analyzing the data.

3. Can’t focus on important business tasks

With so much time spent ensuring that the data entered is correct and finding and fixing errors, there is no time left to work on the business. Managers spend their time ensuring that the data they’re reporting is accurate and less time actually analyzing that data. A survey found that 37% of manufacturing professionals don’t trust the reliability of manually entered data when making strategic decisions. If you can’t trust the data you’re getting from your team, how can you grow your business or take on additional work?

4. Inhibits business growth

When management receives data, it often makes decisions based on that information, whether it’s correct or not. These decisions may inhibit the growth of the business. For example, a costly mistake can lead managers to believe a project is over budget when it’s not. They then make moves to cut company spending to protect the company, when instead, they should be investing in future growth.

5. Hidden costs

Most companies think automation costs more than entering data by hand. The truth is there are hidden costs to entering data manually. There’s the obvious labor to enter the data, then more labor to check for mistakes, and more labor to fix the mistakes. At each level, it becomes more expensive and time-consuming to detect and correct mistakes.

It has been shown that incorrect data can cost companies up to 30% or more of their revenue. In particular, a 2018 Goldman Sachs report stated that the direct and indirect costs of manual paper invoice processing are $2.7 trillion for businesses around the world. The hidden costs of manual data entry can be enough to make or break your business.

6. It’s boring

Continually spending days or hours doing mindless data entry can lead to employee dissatisfaction and turnover. When workers spend hours keying in the same information, they are bound to lose focus, which increases errors and leads to frustration. Data entry work is repetitive and tedious. 55% of employees in a survey cited the collection, uploading, and synching of data as the least productive part of manual data entry. When employees don’t feel productive, their morale lowers and they are then more prone to make mistakes.

Automation is the solution

How can companies save themselves the time and money that is lost through manual data entry processes? Automating as much as possible is one way to recoup these costs. By using machine learning and automation, the software can automate much of the data entry process, leading to fewer mistakes and speeding up the process.

Premier Software uses AI, machine learning, and automation to speed up invoice entry and other repetitive tasks, so you can spend time working on your business and less time entering data. For a demo of how our automation works to save you time and money, schedule one today.Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.