Workforce Management Case Study

Mobile Tracking Helps Specialty Contractor Contain Labor Costs (Cont'd)

About Durante Construction, Inc.

Durante Construction, Inc. Facts

Business Needs

More accurate tracking of employee work hours at remote job sites

Networking Solution

Xora GPS TimeTrack from AT&T allows employees to ‘clock’ their hours via smartphone

Business Value

Improved productivity on the job site, reduced overall payroll

Industry Focus

Specialty construction

Size

17 employees

As a specialty contractor, Durante Construction works almost exclusively for hospitals and healthcare facilities in and around Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, handling new construction as well as renovations. The firm is experienced with the unique demands of working in a fully operating hospital environment, as well as the specialized building codes and requirements involved. Founded in 2001 by owner Jesse Durante, the company has 17 full-time employees.

Situation

Since labor costs are such a major factor in profit and loss on each construction job, Durante Construction needs to assure that its crews remain productive, and that payrolls accurately reflect the actual time worked. It is also critical to adhere to the agreed-upon schedule for each project; inefficiencies or lost work hours on the job can result in delays that can impair hospital operations. The company had originally relied on conventional, hand-written time sheets for payroll and job tracking, but suspected the process was not as accurate as it could be. Trials with other solutions proved less than satisfactory.

Solution

To solve the accuracy issue, Durante Construction allows crew managers to clock work times directly onto their smartphones using Xora GPS TimeTrack™ from AT&T, running on the AT&T mobile broadband network. This solution not only makes it easier for crew managers to record information, but allows for the information to flow directly into a centralized portal that Durante can review online, in near-real time. What’s more, the system includes GPS validation of the employee’s location, adding an extra measure of precision to the work time data. Durante has found the system invaluable in detecting and preventing the time leaks that can hurt the profitability of a job and cause needless delays in production.

Handling the Challenges of a Hospital Environment

Since implementing Xora GPS TimeTrack from AT&T we are no longer losing the time and money we had been losing for many years. This is a net win for us many times over.”

– Jesse Durante, Owner, Durante Construction, Inc.

Performing construction in a busy hospital is no simple proposition. The work is almost always noisy, dusty, and disruptive – in an atmosphere that needs be clean, quiet, and healing.

As owner and founder of Durante Construction, Jesse Durante points out that being able to get things done with all the constraints dictated by the hospital environment is a key reason for the firm’s success. “I started out ten years ago with just myself and a helper, learning the unique requirements of medical facility construction. Today, we have a staff of 17, with four to five projects active at any particular time around Oklahoma City.”

Durante Construction handles everything from dry wall installation to floors, ceilings, cabinet installations and painting as well as specialized areas such as firestop construction. “Hospital building codes are substantially different from more general facilities such as hotels and office buildings,” said Durante. “Firestops are required to contain and isolate fires far longer, allowing more time to bring bedridden patients to safety. This is a specialized environment.”

Durante has been so good at its craft that it was recently named as one of the top 50 companies in the Oklahoma City area. The annual Metro 50 award is given by the Chamber of Commerce and is based on growth, employees and earnings.

Striving for Efficiency

For Durante’s business, it is critical to assure that work is done on schedule, as planned. Durante notes that hospital clients always want to minimize interruption and inconvenience – it becomes a major annoyance when a two-week project somehow becomes a four-week project. “They expect you to get things done when you say you will,” said Durante. “On time counts for a lot in this particular field.”

It is also critical to assure that work is performed to strict quality standards. “We need to be done on time, but it must also be done right,” said Durante. “We are only paid to do things once. Rework and fixing mistakes cost us dearly.”

This need for efficiency and control of labor costs led Durante to look into better ways of tracking the performance of his work crews. Originally he had been relying on conventional, paper-based timesheets, but suspected that the process allowed too much room for inaccuracy and normal human error.

“In the hospital environment, it can take five minutes just to get an elevator downstairs, and another five minutes to get back to the job site. A fifteen-minute break can easily become a 20- or 30-minute break. A 60-minute lunch can turn into a 75-minute lunch, just due to the nature of the environment. Not catastrophic, of course, but when multiplied three times a day by a dozen or more workers it can add up. “The company loses money, we slip in the schedule and the client is unhappy.”

Moving to Mobility

Initially, Durante investigated other time monitoring systems, such as one that involved giving each employee a key that they would insert into a timing device on the job site. Another was a GPS-based system for keeping track of vehicles. “Neither of those solutions made sense for us,” said Durante.

Based on what he had heard about tracking work time on smart phones, Durante also experimented with a mobile application with his previous wireless carrier. “We saw that the application could potentially save us money, and give us a way to validate our usual paper-based timesheet process,” said Durante. “The only trouble was the carrier’s wireless coverage proved to be erratic and spotty. Our crew leaders ended up without a signal in many cases, and entries often got held up or lost in the process.”

That’s when Durante’s AT&T team stepped in with a solution for putting the Xora GPS TimeTrack application onto smartphones operating on the AT&T mobile broadband network. The coverage issues disappeared, and Durante began to see the benefits of the system immediately.

Precise Validation of On-site Work

With the Xora GPS TimeTrack application from AT&T, crew leaders follow a very simple, but highly accurate process for tracking worker activity at each job site. They call up the application on their smartphones powered by AT&T, log in a job number, and then enter starts and stops directly into the device in real time. The actual time is clocked automatically by the application, removing a source of error.

The application also tracks the actual location of each entry by GPS, assuring that the crew leader is in fact on the job site. “It’s not been a problem for us,” says Durante, “but our employees know that the system can tell where they are when they clock in and out. That automatically tends to make our crews more diligent and disciplined.

“On the whole, the precision of the Xora application showed us that our crews were working pretty much as expected. As a small company, we know our employees well. We did see improvements around the margins, relatively small inefficiencies and inaccuracies that we could never have seen with only our timesheet processes.”

“If four workers each somehow ‘lose’ just 15 minutes a day due to inaccurate breaks and lunch hours, it amounts to hundred of dollars a week of lost production, about $15,000 per year to the company,” said Durante.

“If you bid a job with the idea that it will take five crew days to complete, but it ends up taking six due to inefficiencies, it makes a huge difference in the bottom line. It’s the little slices of lost time that add up to quite a lot. With this application we can detect such issues long before they become a costly problem. We have virtually real-time information at our fingertips.”

Employee Reaction

Durante noted that his crew leaders were a bit skeptical at first, wondering if the company was launching this because of some distrust. They soon realized it was actually a positive measure, making it easy for good crews to document their good practices.

The learning curve was short to get comfortable with the interface and the application. After two or three weeks, said Durante, both the crew leaders and the office staff, who view the data via the online portal, were fully on board and using it confidently.

Paying for itself

As Durante noted, the cost-effectiveness of the system is relatively easy to gauge. “As we see it, the cost of the application and the AT&T mobile broadband service more than pays for itself in terms of detecting lost time and validating our employee timesheets. Since implementing Xora GPS TimeTrack from AT&T we are no longer losing the time and money we had been losing for many years. This is a net win for us many times over.”

For Durante, Xora GPS TimeTrack from AT&T is a key part of the business practices that he hopes will lead to landing bigger jobs, against the larger contractors in the area. “All based on our ability to get our work done on time, on budget and profitably.”

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