4 Hidden Value Leaks in Your Heavy Civil Construction Business

The 237 section of the North American Industry Classification Code is perhaps the most demanding sector in construction. What disciplines are included here?

  • 237 Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction
  • 2371 Utility System Construction
  • 237110 Water and Sewer Line and Related Structures Construction
  • 23712 Oil and Gas Pipeline and Related Structures Construction
  • 23713 Power and Communication Line and Related Structures Construction
  • 2372 Land Subdivision
  • 2373 Highway, Street, and Bridge Construction
  • 2379 Other Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction

Heavy civil contractors face challenges other contractors don’t. Their work is often the precursor for other steps in construction, and initial site work often involves uncovering buried surprises, conditions that are unpredictable and hard on crews and equipment. There is just not much room for surprises and problems not caused by the work and the site itself.

Yet, business processes and software heavy civil contractors rely on throw up roadblocks and challenges, causing inefficiencies that can sap profitability.

1.  Equipment Moves

Moving equipment from a yard or marshalling area to a site, or from one site to another, presents its own challenges. But the processes contractors use to record the move and track equipment location are often suboptimal.

Modern construction operations software will often deploy a geofence on a construction site that automatically records the entry and exit of equipment from a job site. That is one way technology can reduce administrative overhead—as long as the master key of a piece of equipment is on, a move will automatically be captured.

But what about exceptions? What about equipment not equipped with telematics? Let’s say a superintendent is on a site and sees a piece of unconnected equipment that needs to be moved to the next site. Some construction software will require that move to be initiated from the back office, and without this formal step the move could be lost in the system, or schedulers need to find time-consuming workarounds to make it look like the move was requested and then completed. The most powerful construction operations software will create a way for that superintendent to record the move with a few clicks—software should enable rather than punish proactive work.

2. Crew Scheduling

Superintendents and crew supervisors are responsible for making sure the people required to do each job know where they are supposed to be each day and when to be there. That is hard enough, and often involves extensive phone and email time getting the word to each crew member. And then if messages are sent or voice mails left, that crew member may simply say they did not receive them.

Modern construction operations software automates this busy work away. A solution like IVO Systems’ ScheduleVO sends an automated text message to each crew member assigned to a project. When the crew member clicks a link in the message, it opens the application, with all the information that crew member needs for the next day—location, time, utility locations, even a list of other workers assigned to facilitate carpooling.

And once the link is clicked, the supervisor can see confirmation, proof positive the message was in fact received.

3. Finding Documents

One industry expert has calculated that a contractor with 50 field employees can easily spend 18,000 man hours per year looking for documents and information that should be close at hand—that amounts to about $810,000.

On a base level, just finding information on where each piece of equipment is located, what project it is assigned to and when it becomes available can be a chore. And then information on each piece of equipment—manuals, inspection forms, maintenance history, fuel specifications, serial number—good luck with that if you don’t have a well-designed construction operations application.

4. Equipment Maintenance

Of the many solutions on the market to track locations of equipment using GPS, not many also encompass maintenance operations. Yet this functionality is critical because without it, there is limited visibility into whether specific pieces of equipment or entire classes of equipment are truly available and ready to perform profitable work. That trencher with worn teeth may show up as available but will not truly be able to perform without proper maintenance.

Modern construction operations software should support equipment availability by not only displaying preventive maintenance activities on a calendar, mileage or hours-of-operation basis, but handling maintenance logistics tasks to ensure preventive maintenance is completed.

Inspections, too, should be encompassed in the system. Many contractors know they should be performing daily inspections, but a lot fewer can confidently say it is happening.

With the right construction operations software, contractors have been able to catch up completely on preventive maintenance and begin to work slightly ahead of the maintenance schedule—it is a lot more affordable to take care of a preventive maintenance task a month early when a technician is already on site than it is to let it slide too long and have a project delay and a special technician trip to the site or haulage of equipment to the shop.

How IVO Systems Stops Value Leaks

The most sophisticated construction software in the world will often not close value leaks like the four cited above.

Why? Because software that is not used consistently and broadly across an organization will not accomplish much.

To this end, IVO Systems was designed to be immediately intuitive to heavy and civil construction professionals, built around common analog processes that have been digitized as part of a powerful multitenant software-as-a-service (SaaS) application.

ScheduleVO, for instance, was inspired by the magnet boards schedulers have long used to manage equipment and crews. Another concept that helps IVOSystems drive significant process improvements is human factors engineering—part of the science of human-computer interaction that focuses on what we know about the people using the software. In an introduction to the science of human factors engineering, Christopher Wickens, John Lee, Yili Li and Linda Ng Boyle identified 13 central concepts:

1. Make displays legible (or audible).

2. Avoid absolute judgment limits for perceived values like color, size or loudness, as this creates ambiguity.

3. Top-down processing-users perceive information based on what is expected if it is contrary to the user's expectation, more physical evidence of that signal may needed.

4. Redundancy gain—if information is presented more than once in multiple ways, it is more likely to be understood correctly.

5. Similarity causes confusion: Use distinguishable elements.

6. Principle of pictorial realism--a display should look like the variable that it represents

7. Moving elements should move in a pattern and direction compatible with the user's mental model of how it actually moves in the system.

8. Minimizing information access cost or interaction cost. When the user's attention is diverted from one location to another to access necessary information, there is an associated cost in time or effort. A display design should minimize this cost by allowing frequently accessed sources to be located at the nearest possible position. However, adequate legibility should not be sacrificed to reduce this cost.

9. Proximity compatibility are important when two information sources are necessary for the completion of one task

10. Principle of multiple resources--visual and auditory information can be presented simultaneously to increase comprehension.

11. Replace memory with visual information.

12. Principle of predictive aiding so users can think less about what is coming next.

13. Principle of consistency—a design must accept that when users are familiar with different displays, the new software or interface should take this into account.

To find out how IVO Systems solves this and other problems, Request a Demo.