By: Greg Norris
Software applications for estimating and operations play a key role in helping D.A. Collins Kubricky Construction win heavy highway jobs and complete them at peak profitability.
How these applications from B2W Software communicate with each other and integrate with the New York heavy highway contractor’s accounting system in real time are keys to efficiency and collaboration across workflows.
D.A. Collins Construction Co., Inc and Kubricky Construction Corp are based in Wilton, New York, just north of Albany. Kubricky has been part of the D.A. Collins group since 1983. The company completes a wide range of civil, marine and industrial projects including bridge construction, pavement, site development, utility services, rehabilitation and landfill construction throughout the northeastern United States.
D.A. Collins Kubricky relies on specialized estimating software to turn out about 300 bids annually, with up to ten people typically working on them at any given time. Multiple estimators can work concurrently on various aspects of a single bid without losing track of versions or who has done what.
The software brings standardization to the estimating process, but it also allows a degree of flexibility to accommodate the style or preferred processes of individual estimators. Pre-populated cost items and templates within the estimating application speed up the bidding process. For public DOT projects, estimators can save a significant amount of time by downloading an EBS file, automatically building the initial bid from pre-populated databases containing the pay items for each state, and then fine tuning the final bid before uploading it electronically.
Reporting capabilities are an additional estimating software feature leveraged at D.A. Collins/Kubricky.
Estimators and executives routinely analyze win/loss rates, profitability and other metrics on historical bids. Reports can be filtered by work type, project owner or other variables. The data helps them refine upcoming bids to optimize margins and the chance of winning.
Once a bid is won, information moves electronically from the estimating software to both the Spectrum ERP and to the B2W operations applications used to manage field tracking, equipment maintenance and resource scheduling. A consistent system for assigning cost codes across all three systems ensures continuity. The electronic process eliminates the need to enter and re-enter the same data multiple times in multiple places, cutting down on labor as well as errors.
Similarly, labor hours at D.A. Collins/Kubricky transfers back to Spectrum for payroll processing without redundant data entry. Hours for field employees are recorded on B2W Track field logs, while mechanics enter their time with work orders in the B2W Maintain application used to manage equipment maintenance.
Moving bid data electronically from the estimating application to the field tracking application drives continuity between how jobs are envisioned by the estimators and how they are planned and carried out in the field. Conversely, actual production data from the field tracking software can be used to improve the accuracy of future bids.
Project managers at D.A. Collins/Kubricky say the ability to track daily where they stand with production, labor, materials and equipment utilization, relative to the plan and budget, is the most critical advantage of the field tracking and analysis software. The information, which is aggregated from data recorded on electronic daily field logs, guides them in adjusting operations quickly and effectively. The reporting also motivates crews that appreciate having clear production goals to aim for.
Field personnel also use the field tracking application to document and submit equipment repair requirements. Those repair requests are then visible in real-time in the application used to manage equipment maintenance. This allows mechanics to act on them faster and it lets field personnel know the status and that the request has not gone into a black hole.
The maintenance team at D.A. Collins/Kubricky is responsible for close to 700 pieces of equipment. Fifteen mechanics staff two shop locations. Six more are on the road. The move from paper and spreadsheets to specialized maintenance management software has streamlined processes for both groups of mechanics and helped the company improve its ability to complete preventive work on time. This has led to lower costs and an improvement in uptime rates, which now exceed 90 percent.
Field mechanics, now equipped with tablets, receive updates on assignments in real time. They can also get repair history data and support documentation at their fingertips instead of trying to retrieve that information from paper files in the shop.
Telematics data drives the preventive maintenance program, with information flowing directly from the equipment into the B2W Maintain application. For most assets, managers have set up the maintenance software to warn them 40 hours in advance of when services are due. Advance notice gives them a better chance to schedule the work at the most efficient and cost-effective times based on mechanic and production schedules.
B2W Maintain also allows the maintenance team to track key performance indicators (KPIs) with an eye on continuous process improvement. Equipment utilization, length of time to complete work orders, utilization rates, and regular versus overtime hours for mechanics are just a few of the KPIs measured.
Just as the maintenance team used paper and spreadsheets, schedulers and dispatchers at D.A. Collins Kubricky relied on a variety of offline tools prior to adopting the B2W software platform. The mix ranged from spreadsheets, whiteboards and Microsoft Outlook schedules, to sticky notes and knowledge held by individuals. Now, scheduling software provides a real-time, online view of where resources are and where they will be. Importantly, the information is visible to everyone, with proper credentials.
The software eliminates mistakes, assists in resolving conflicts and has helped the company utilize and move resources, especially equipment, more efficiently.
Field personnel can now communicate needs for equipment on a jobsite directly from the field tracking software to the scheduling and dispatching application, the same way they communicate repair requests to the maintenance application.
Real-time visibility across the scheduling and maintenance applications allows coordination between the two workflows. Maintenance managers arrange work to be done, when possible, around when assets are being used on a jobsite or moved. Likewise, schedulers and dispatchers can assign and move assets in the manner that accommodates maintenance needs most efficiently.
A unified software platform continues to deliver faster access to better information at D.A. Collins, both within and across workflows. At the same time, it has reduced much of the inefficiency, paperwork and redundant data entry traditionally associated with recording, reporting on and sharing that information in a construction environment. Now that the unified approach to software technology has been established, executives, managers, field personnel and the maintenance team report that they can’t imagine working any other way and have no intention of going back to previous methods.