Are your scaffolding jobs managed manually? Does paper control what you do and when you do it? We often find this is the case with scaffolding contractors but also know the benefits that bringing some automation into the process can produce. How far you go and what changes you make depends on how you manage your jobs at the moment, the type of jobs you undertake and the size of our team. Whatever the situation is, automation and mobile forms will produce real benefits for your business.
This article will explore which processes can be automated, what the benefits will be and give an idea on the return on investment you could expect.
How does it help?
Mobile automation applications for scaffolders bring two main benefits – reducing costs and improving efficiency. We will explore some of the commercial benefits in a later section, but there are plenty of other benefits to be gained from these solutions.
Firstly, an increase in accuracy across the whole process is to your advantage. This includes better job management, task dispatching and capturing information from sites. The solutions can also give you better visibility of the status of your jobs and any outstanding tasks or issues. They will reduce the amount of chasing needed for updates and greatly improve the communication flow from site to office to customer.
In addition, there are real cost savings to be made from automating the process. These vary greatly from business to business, but can include a reduction in printing cost for paper forms, wasted trips to collect/drop off certificates and forms, time to file and send forms plus any postage costs to and from site and clients.
What can they do?
Automating your job process covers many areas and the application you choose to use should be flexible enough to allow you to choose which elements you wish to implement. It should also allow you to change the data which is collected so you do not need to change your process to fit the application – the solution should be changeable to fit your operation.
These are some of the processes which other scaffolding contractors have automated:
- Data collection and report creation
- Handover certificate
- Off-hire report
- Variations management
- Time sheets
- End of hire photos
- Job management
- Status reports
- Stage payment management
- Gang allocation
- Job despatch
- Weekly system checks
- Working at heights procedures
Most modern applications have the ability to collect data in different ways. This presents an opportunity for scaffolding contractors to vastly improve the flow of information in the business. The application should be able to:
- Map your current paper processes
- Add a variety of information types
- Free text
- Drop down lists
- Send data from the field to the office, and vice versa
- Allow information to be entered when there is no mobile signal
- Allow changes to the data capture process to be made easily and cost effectively
How does this look for a typical scaffolding contractor?
Every contractor does things differently so there isn’t one solution that fits every situation. What does exist is a natural flow of information throughout the job which can be recorded and reported on. An automated solution could include some or all of these processes:
- New jobs are created and entered into the application (through a spreadsheet or desktop app)
- These jobs are allocated to your gangs based on their location and availability
- The job details are sent directly to the gang leader
- Includes location, customer, actions required etc.
- Driving directions can be provided if needed
- The team arrives on site and sign in
- Location and date/time are captured automatically
- They are invited to take some initial photographs as the ‘before’ images
- The team are reminded of any checklists or other forms which are required for the job
- These are completed as instructed and immediately sent back to the office
- The application keeps track of the status of the job and updates the job board
- The office team can see at a glance what is the current status of all jobs and what actions are outstanding
- Any number of processes can be created to use as automated workflows
- These help reduce the time to completion and improve accuracy rates
- Some examples of these workflows could be automatic invoice creation, timesheet management, client status reports, etc.
- At the end of the day the team take progress photos, sign off on the current state of the job and sign off for the day
- The team are reminded to complete the necessary end of job reports or certificates when appropriate
All this information is immediately available to authorised staff members, either through mobile devices or desktop PC’s. No more chasing around for updates or paperwork – it all available at any location, any time of the day.
Aren’t these solutions expensive?
The simple answer is that the solution you choose should not be expensive – but there are plenty which are! The savings made by implementing a mobile forms solution for you scaffolding processes come in two main categories – hard and soft savings. Hard savings are those which you can immediately remove from the process as you will no longer need to do them. For example, if you post pre-printed forms from your sites then you will no longer need to do this with a mobile forms solution and hence would save on both printing, envelope and postage costs.
Soft savings are those which are based more around time savings. It might be quicker for your teams to complete the forms but you can’t recognise these savings unless you can reduce your staff headcount as a result. This is rarely the case, but it might be that your overall efficiency is improved because the staff members involved in the process can now do something more useful instead. The savings made from the time they used to spend on manual tasks is valuable time but it cannot be counted when calculating the return on investment.
We have a return on investment calculator available which allows you to see where you might make cost savings – both hard and soft – by introducing a mobile forms automation application for your scaffolding process. You can take a look at this calculator by visiting this page – http://bit.ly/site_reporter_roi.
About Serene Technology and Site Reporter
This article is brought to you by Serene Technology Limited. They are authors of Site Reporter, an application designed to increase site efficiency and project profitability by improving the reporting of information from construction sites. It is a simple yet powerful and flexible application which meets the needs of even the most demanding project. You can find it more about Site Reporter by visiting here.