Tunnels and Tunneling - December - January 2020
How software can help track employee licenses, certifications and training
By Greg Norris, B2W Software
Every day on almost every heavy construction site, there are activities that must be completed by employees with specific training, certifications or licenses to ensure quality, safety and compliance. Managers and schedulers can sometimes plan in advance and assign appropriate personnel to operate a particular piece of equipment, handle hazardous materials, work in confined spaces or complete other specialized tasks. Other times, unforeseen requirements emerge, and it’s imperative to find out quickly who is qualified and available to do what.
Both scenarios illustrate that keeping track of and accessing information about credentials is a constant challenge. Paper processes compound the problem, but electronic forms and reporting are providing many contractors with a more effective solution that saves time, ensures accuracy and allows them to be proactive in keeping the credentials of their employees up to date.
RJV Construction is a family owned contractor that has been completing pipework and water and sewer projects in Massachusetts since the 1920s. The company now uses a cloud-based e-forms and reporting solution across a wide range of use cases, including management of employee training, certifications and licenses.
Project manager Matt DeLuca says the decision to replace paper forms was driven by the big-picture fact that data is more critical than ever to running a successful, competitive heavy construction operation. “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.”
Many contractors continue to document employee credentials in paper personnel files. Finding out if a specific employee is qualified, licensed or trained for a certain activity requires a manual search. That’s difficult enough, but construction managers frequently need a list of potential employees with the right credentials, so they can choose who to assign based on availability, logistics or other variables. With paper files, someone would have to sort through a batch of personnel files and build the list manually.
Spreadsheets are a little better. They provide filter and search capabilities, but maintaining them is still a time consuming, manual effort. The larger the workforce, the harder it is to keep them up to date and accurate.
Another challenge with paper and spreadsheets involves centralization. For some construction companies, for example, it may be common for the shop or maintenance department to have documentation about equipment licenses, while the safety manager maintains data related to safety and training certifications. The human resources department may maintain yet another file or database with employee information.
Moving to an e-forms and reporting solution puts data in one place that is accessible instantly to anyone in the company. A cloud-based solution like the one at RJV Construction even supports mobile access to the data anytime and anywhere.
Prior to adopting the e-forms and reporting solution, the safety manager at RJV Construction was responsible for tracking all certifications, licenses and training for employees using paper files.
“I would have to ask the safety director for a list of who was certified for asbestos, for example,” DeLuca explains. “He would then have to go through the paper files or Excel spreadsheets to get an answer.” This often required a trip back to the office where files were stored and manual sorting through those documents, steps that could lead to costly delays.
Today, employee credentials at RJV are maintained and stored electronically. Getting the data off of paper is the essential step that opens up opportunities for immediate reporting and alerts. The e-forms and reporting tool allows DeLuca and his team to query that data in a matter of seconds instead of hours. They can filter by a specific type of license or certification, by specific employees or groups of employees, by expiration dates or by other variables and run a report indicating exactly who is licensed for what activity.
Easy access to information allows companies like RJV to move from a reactive approach to managing credentials to a more effective, proactive approach. Instead of waiting until expiration dates arrive or pass, they can prepare in advance for renewal requirements.
“A powerful and flexible reporting engine allows us to generate the information we want,” DeLuca explains. “We have set the system up to query the data, generate reports and send those reports automatically by e-mail on a regular basis identifying the expiration dates for employee credentials.” The electronic data can even be configured to send alerts by e-mail or text message automatically to warn employees or managers that credentials are set to expire in a specified time such as 30 or 60 days in advance.
Another factor working in favor of RJV Construction is the fact that its e-forms and reporting solution is unified with the software platform used to manage estimating and operations. The key advantage is that the company maintains a single operational database with employee information. That database is accessed by and updated in real time by the separate specialized software elements used for field tracking, scheduling and equipment maintenance. When anything changes regarding the status of an employee, the company only makes that change in one place.
“Having that one centralized database where they all can communicate with each other has been key to the success of our company,” says RJV vice president and chief estimator Querino Pacella. “It has streamlined so many different aspects of how we operate.”
Tracking employee credentials is just one area where RJV has turned to the e-forms and reporting tool as a more effective alternative to paper and spreadsheets. The company switched to electronic forms for vehicle inspections, incident reporting, daily safety meetings and several human resources functions. In all cases, getting more accurate data in real-time and the ability to easily report on it are the key advantages.
“Basically, any form that we have, we run a weekly or a monthly report on the data,” DeLuca explains. “I think we’re just breaching the surface of what we can do with e-forms and reporting, and we’re looking forward to doing more things with it.”