Specialized Construction Scheduling Software Delivers
Visibility, Communication and Collaboration Advantages
by: Greg Norris - B2W Software
When it comes to sticking to deadlines and budgets, one of the most critical processes for a utility construction project – or any heavy civil construction project – is the scheduling of resources.
At any given point, contractors must manage a long and overlapping list of tasks requiring careful coordination of people, equipment and materials. Unplanned factors ranging from weather and equipment breakdowns to late deliveries and change orders keep the situation fluid and add complexity.
Unfortunately, many companies continue to rely on paper forms, whiteboards and phone calls to keep all of these moving pieces moving cohesively and efficiently. These outdated, “status quo” systems are a liability when it comes to optimizing resources. They also put contractors at a disadvantage against competitors that are utilizing specialized software for scheduling and dispatching.
The Problems with Paper-Based and Traditional Processes
The heavy construction sector has relied on paper, along with whiteboards and phone calls, for decades, but systems based on these tools are no longer the most efficient solution for scheduling and dispatching. The main problem is that they are analog, asynchronous and disconnected. Those are big words that essentially mean that they can’t be kept up to date and viewed across the enterprise in real time.
A paper equipment inspection form identifying a broken-down machine in the field, for example, must be delivered to the shop or the office before a scheduler or dispatcher knows the status of the machine or its availability. Similarly, the reassignment of a crew or a piece of equipment on a whiteboard then requires separate steps to actually notify the people that are impacted. That opens the door for delays, errors or misinterpretations.
Offline paper or analog processes also force employees to spend unnecessary time and effort managing and communicating about scheduling and dispatching issues. That unnecessary manual effort and redundancy take them away from core tasks.
Going forward, in a fast-paced and margin-pressured environment defined by increasingly large and complex projects, these are barriers to productivity and profitability that any contractor will find difficult to overcome.
The Benefits of Specialized Software for Scheduling and Dispatching
A centralized, online software solution is increasingly essential for companies striving for more coordinated analysis, planning, scheduling and dispatching of resources across job locations and over time.
The right application gives employees with varying roles and responsibilities across the organization the ability to communicate and collaborate in real time, rather than trying to make sense of a disconnected jumble of whiteboards, spreadsheets and messages. Digitizing the scheduling process makes it easier and faster to make and fulfill requests and to identify and resolve conflicts and it can introduce important new features and functionality ranging from GPS-driven map views to powerful reporting and dashboards.
Modern software applications for scheduling and dispatching are also easy and intuitive to use, making it relatively easy to win over even construction veterans with a die-hard commitment to offline processes.
The vital advantages of a strong software solution include:
- Real-time Visibility
Users across the enterprise can see the status of resources in real time, making it easier to analyze, coordinate and optimize all of the moving pieces critical to the success of a project.
- Resource Optimization
Based on specific roles and responsibilities, employees can utilize the software to make and fulfill requests. Assigning resources is as simple as dragging and dropping to put employees, equipment and materials in the right place at the right time to maximize efficiency and reduce downtime.
- Conflict Resolution
Software can recognize instantly and automatically when resource conflicts arise. Users can view an organized list and access all the information and alternative options they need on the spot to make the best decision as to how to resolve them. They can even rely on the software to make recommendations about resolutions.
- Customizable Views
Users toggle to view and manage scheduling information for a day, multiple days, a week or two weeks. They can also apply filters for a user-defined perspective – such as one that emphasizes crews, equipment, job sites, time periods or a combination of variables.
- Unified Workflows
Scheduling software can be unified with equipment maintenance software, giving schedulers and dispatchers the vital, up-to-date information they need on equipment status. A connection with the field tracking software can take scheduling information directly to the field log, give managers in the field real-time status of resources and streamline the process for requesting resources.
- High-value Reporting
Built-in reporting, dashboard and data export capabilities allow contractors to drill down into their data. They can analyze moves, view crew availability, track targets and gain the insights they need to boost productivity.
- Mobile Capabilities
Tablet as well as desktop functionality is essential for scheduling and dispatching. From resolving conflicts and creating needs to filling assignments and generating moves, mobile connectivity keeps everyone in touch and up to date, no matter where they are.
Complacency and inertia are profit killers in an industry like heavy civil construction that still lags when it comes to digitization. Stepping up to the right online application to manage resource scheduling and dispatching, however, can keep a contractor ahead of the technology curve and the competition.
“How do we do more, faster and for less?” is the essential question contractors are asking as they reconcile changing project demands, changing expectations and emerging mobile technology options available to help them manage field operations more effectively. In heavy civil sectors, the answers – and the technology choices – are impacted by the unique variables that distinguish horizontal infrastructure construction from vertical projects.