A Modern Software Platform at RJV Construction
NOTE: This is the third in a three-part series on software technology at RJV Construction Corp. The article in the July issue of Construction Outlook covered estimating and field tracking, and the article in August covered fleet maintenance and management.
Matt DeLuca, project manager at RJV Construction
Data is more critical than ever to successful, competitive heavy construction operations, according to Matt DeLuca, project manager at RJV Construction. To get more of it, get it faster and convert it easily to reports that managers can act on, his company turned to an electronic cloud-based solution to replace paper forms.
RJV now uses e-forms and reporting across a wide range of use cases, from vehicle inspections and safety to human resources. “The big advantages are getting data in real time and generating powerful reports and alerts with ease,” says DeLuca. “You can do almost anything you want to, in terms of reporting, and you can view the data in every way imaginable.”
Daily vehicle inspections are vital to the safety and preventive maintenance programs at RJV, and this is one of the first applications where e-forms delivered dramatic improvements. DeLuca says it was not uncommon for it to take up to two weeks for paper inspection forms to find their way back to the office or the maintenance manager.
“Now, with the iPad, operators do them quickly, hit submit, and we see it instantly,” he explains. The maintenance team responds faster and more efficiently, preventing small problems from becoming big ones and limiting downtime.
The deluge of phone calls and e-mails that used to greet equipment manager Dave Pacella most mornings has also been limited. “Now, inspections along with repair requests from the field are all in the system and easy to review and organize,” explains Pacella. “We set inspection forms up so, if there is a service request needed or if a truck needs repair, I get an alert through e-mail or a text message,” he adds. “I can check what’s wrong, transfer it to a work request and get that vehicle checked out as quickly as possible.”
Safety is another area where the switch to e-forms and reporting is paying dividends at RJV. “We use it for toolbox talks and all our safety inspections,” says DeLuca. “Foremen love it, and it’s definitely better than a binder full of paper. The paper forms used to get lost. They’d be covered with dirt or oil, and sometimes it would be a week or two before we would see them in the office.”
“It’s been a great tool for improving the overall safety of RJV, because we see reporting coming in real time, as things happen in the field,” concurs Querino Pacella, vice president and estimator.
RJV has also applied the e-forms and reporting tool to track training and certifications more effectively and proactively. The company is starting to convert its human resources forms as well. “I think we’re just breaching the surface of what we can do with it, and we’re looking forward to applying it in more areas across the company,” says DeLuca.
Almost every electronic form at RJV requires an e-signature and includes a GPS location and time stamp confirming where and when it was signed. Those features provide efficiency, data integrity and validation advantages over paper forms. Photos, videos and other attachments are frequently included with the e-forms.
Each form feeds a weekly or monthly report that assists managers at RJV in analyzing operations and making data-driven decisions. Many are also set up like the equipment inspection forms to trigger an immediate alert delivered by e-mail or text to selected recipients when a field is filled out in a certain way.
“Any incident that occurs, like a vehicle accident or an injury, for example, triggers an instant alert to our management team and our safety director,” according to DeLuca. “There is no delay and no data lost in translation.”
Building electronic form templates and publishing and managing the forms has been a lot easier than DeLuca and his colleagues anticipated. “It’s basically drag and drop,” he explains. “Once you know a few basic principles, you can very easily create any type of form you want.”
Implementation and buy-in from employees in the field was also smoother than expected. Employees are equipped with iPads and iPhones. Even the ones that weren’t the biggest fans of those devices have embraced the electronic process, because they see the clear benefits, according to DeLuca.
“We have some seasoned people that have worked for 20 or 30 years in the industry, and they were actually some of the easier ones who picked up utilizing the software quickly,” adds Querino Pacella.
Choosing an e-forms and reporting solution that is unified within a software platform being used for estimating, resource scheduling, field tracking and equipment maintenance was also beneficial at RJV.
Operational data such as employee, equipment and job lists is maintained in one central database that can be accessed as well as updated by each of the software elements in real time. This structure allows “data binding” on electronic forms. Drop-down menus can be created easily for form fields requiring the names of employees, equipment or jobs, for example. This speeds up the process of filling out forms and it guarantees accuracy and consistency. When the central database is updated, so are the options on any linked forms.
“Having that one centralized database, where all of the software elements can communicate with each other, has been key to the success of our company,” concludes Querino Pacella. “It has streamlined so many different aspects of how we operate.”