Building supervisors find a web presence

A Perth builder has taken building homes to the computer age, dumping industry paperwork to coordinate suppliers through a Web portal.

Site supervisors at Scott Park Homes, a residential construction company, are currently trialling Web-based software which automatically schedules building tasks and automates supplier communication.

The typical site supervisor in the industry spends the majority of the week on-site at the many projects that must be managed.

A common companion is a thick folder of call-up sheets detailing each supplier that must be contacted, notice time required, etc.

"These guys are on the road a lot," said Scott Park Homes general manager Joe Marchese, who has overseen the trial.

"Then one day a week, they would come into the office and do all their paper work."

These days were spent organising schedules and calling suppliers to plan deliveries.

The company is just a few weeks into its trial of the industry-specific clickHome software by Perth consultants Imagemation, as well as the builder's greater plan to computerise home building, said Marchese.

Hosted inhouse on Windows Server 2003, the SQL server-based application replicates the column-based call-up sheet which lists tasks and their suppliers, as well as delivery and completion dates, etc.

Business correspondence, plans and specifications are uploaded to the system and can be seen by selecting a task, which has reduced the paper trail.

After a supervisor enters estimated task times, the system generates a predictive schedule of task order and completion dates.

"[Being computerised] it means we can keep track of the progress and status of trades done. So depending on whether it's cement or brick or door frames, the system flags the next step in the process," said Marchese.

"We also found through the predictive scheduling we can forecast shortages in available trades, which limits unnecessary delays.

"Our two supervisors that are trialling the system at the moment are coming into the office two other times per week to do their supervising."

The automated system generates an e-mail or fax once the user marks a prior task as complete, saving the time and effort of supervisors who no longer need to contact suppliers.

"We wanted to streamline the productivity of our supervisors, and it standardises the way we communicate with our suppliers," said Marchese.

"So suppliers will get a fax or e-mail a couple of times per day, regularly."

However the changes to the way supervisors work will not be limited to software.

"We're in the process of setting up a VPN using ADSL technology so our supervisors can manage their projects from home," said Marchese.

Once setup, the supervisors will still spend time on the road, but will manage projects more easily.

"I don't know of any other systems like this being used in the industry," said Marchese.

While Marchese said he imagined billing systems could be used for related purposes elsewhere, Scott Park Homes' system differs by being supervisor-driven.

"Ours is not directly linked to our payment systems," he said.

The system is not limited to supervisors either. Senior management can also login to monitor progress on building jobs and supplies.

Management will use the application's Crystal Reports for Visual Studio.Net function for job status reporting.

"We can see the time taken to do jobs, and we can generate an aggregrate view of all the jobs in the system and resource requirements," said Marchese.

The company plans to extend the system to client liaison officers, too. This will allow the officer to keep abreast of building developments and provide the client with updates.

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Steven Deare

Computerworld
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