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In the commercial plumbing sector, project managers know that the job needs to get done on time, regardless of what it takes. For the plumbers that choose to work under that pressure, tight deadlines often mean long days in harsh temperatures, working around other trades and multiple crews on the jobsite. Despite their best efforts, delays still happen, and they can be inconvenient, costly and frustrating.
Project managers need access to real-time data and information about their jobsite to diagnose delays and keep the project on schedule. Techies have responded with a number of cloud-integrated software products that facilitate project management for commercial plumbing projects. These applications enhance the visibility of jobsite activities, streamlining basic processes like bookkeeping and expense tracking, and keeping project managers well-informed of work progress.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the features, and benefits, of building a strong connection between the jobsite and the back office of your commercial plumbing operation. Real-time data sharing can be used to reduce material and labor costs, minimize delays and boost annual earnings.
Electronic time-tracking is a function that’s included in most construction management software (bit.ly/2hHxend). Employees are given mobile phones where they access the software and “clock in.” A GPS marker can even be placed at the jobsite, such that employees can only clock in when they are physically present.
Traditional paper punch cards are still common in most firms, but switching to electronic allows a remote project manager to monitor human resources in real time. That means that when you’re short on labor, your back-office manager is immediately aware of the situation and can work toward a solution. When meeting a project deadline counts on production from every crew, the ability to immediately address staff shortages can save the day.
Employees that fill out their own time cards often over-estimate by 15 minutes here and there — it’s just human nature. Firms in the construction industry have already saved hundreds of hours of labor per year by adopting electronic time card systems that promote transparency and enhance the visibility of job site activities.
Nothing is likely to cause a big project delay more than a lack of communication between project managers in your back office and workers on the jobsite, especially when it comes to making timely decisions. If other stakeholders need to be informed or involved, it’s even more critical to maintain communication between the back office and the field.
When a plumber on a jobsite runs out of required materials, a shipment is delayed, or a problem is uncovered that requires an approved change order, how quickly can the problem be rectified? How long does it take to get the required information in front of all concerned parties and reach an actionable consensus? Effective project management software is accessible by back office staff, front-line workers, customers, and other stakeholders, meaning that communications from the job site or project manager are immediately visible to all parties.
Real-time collaboration between field managers and the back office is the first step to ensuring that any problems that arise can be rectified in a timely fashion, avoiding project delays and helping you hit deadlines and secure profits.
Document and image sharing is one of the best ways to take advantage of a well-connected jobsite and back office. While it's standard to maintain phone and textual communications between workers and the back office, the efficacy of this system tends to break down when workers in the field need access to visual information like project drawings. This leads to expensive and wasteful trips between the job site and management office just to review or discuss documents that could have been shared electronically.
Cloud-based project management software allows plumbing contractors to remotely access project data, schematics, product, and materials specifications, and scheduling information at the press of a button. If plumbers in the field are unsure of how to address a new problem, they can snap pictures and upload them to the firm's cloud-based project management application for review by management staff; leading to faster decision making without shuttling to and from the jobsite.
Communication isn't just words and text — it's the ability to convey complex information between the jobsite and the back office, and use it promptly to make a decision that saves time and money by avoiding delays. Nothing enhances visibility of jobsite activities like the ability to transmit pictures, videos, and audio files in real-time that reflect current issues on the jobsite and lead to faster solutions.
Discrepancies between required and available materials are common on jobsites with poor communications between the field and back office. Plumbers in the commercial and residential building sectors can be immensely productive, installing 5 to 6 bathtubs per day, roughing out a newly built home, installing 10 or more fixtures, or installing water services at 20 or more locations.
What’s required to keep your field workers productive is a steady stream of materials that match project requirements and arrive on time. Smart managers understand that a productive worker is enabled by the presence of tools, equipment and materials that get the job done. Effective construction management software allows project managers to accurately source materials from suppliers or company warehouses, and have them delivered on time, every time.
Additionally, when workers in the field realize that material availability does not match their capacity for work, they can immediately communicate with the back office and request a delivery that will enable more productivity for the day, instead of waiting until supplies run out.
What could be around the corner for communication in plumbing project management? It's possible that connected devices will play a bigger role as companies create and adopt technologies that use the Internet of Things (IoT) to track devices. Construction materials can be fitted with RFID chips that monitor their location in real-time and transmit the data to a project manager's desktop computer.
The future could see project managers visualizing the movement of vehicles, equipment, materials, and other job assets in real time — how would that be for "instant data?" Connected devices will be integrated with project management platforms to revolutionize connectivity in the plumbing industry. Project managers will be able to track company assets in real-time, ensuring that the appropriate pieces are in place for the job and responding immediately and even preemptively to potential causes of delays.
Enhancing jobsite visibility takes on several different dimensions with plumbing project management software like eSUB. Project managers have better access to updates and real-time data from the jobsite. They can track worker attendance, job progress, the movement of materials and equipment, and review or approve change orders that come in from the field.
Customers and other stakeholders can peruse project updates, review project documentation and participate in real-time decision making and problem-solving, resulting in increased transparency about job progress and milestones. They can also approve change orders with virtual signatures, eliminating the requirement for face-to-face meetings that can take days to organize.
Plumbers on the jobsite have better insight into job-related documents, including remote access to project documentation, drawings, schematics, and schedules. They also have the ability to communicate their questions and concerns to key decision makers with a cloud-based system that supports image, video and audio file transmission.
The most successful plumbing contractors in the future will be the ones that incorporate transparency and communication throughout their businesses to save time and money while reducing project delays.
For more information visit www.esub.com.
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