In the battle to improve field profitability there is an important debate to have. Do you focus primarily on Productivity or Efficiency? Although both terms seem similar there is an important difference and one that will shape your overall business response, depending on which one you focus on.
Productivity is all about packing in the maximum output in a given time. It has a quantity focus. Efficiency focuses on looking at a fixed amount of work (in a project for example) and aiming to do it with less wasted time. It has a higher weighting on quality. The ultimate situation of course is to achieve BOTH increased productivity and increased efficiency, but it’s a fine balance to get right.
Most of my clients aren’t in the mass production market segment and so focusing on improving efficiency first makes more sense. There are many ways to improve efficiency but one strategy that is easier to implement now than it ever has been is through better use of technology. Construction however, has one of the lowest uptakes of technology of any industry. It is also a complex business to be in with thousands of components and multiple trades going into a typical build project, being subject to dynamic forces and usually bespoke in nature. If any production situation is crying out for efficiency gains through technology, construction should be at the front of the queue.
In the same way that nail guns have (almost) replaced the hammer, software and hardware tech solutions can make many other parts of the business more efficient. Job management software can streamline the communications process between the head contractor, the owner, the sub-contractors, the suppliers and the office. If I see problems and frustrations with the business owners I come in contact with, communication breakdowns are often at the root cause of the problem. Leveraging a technology platform to make communications easier, faster and more reliable will go a long way to minimise such frustrations.
“It’s too expensive”. This is a common response to the idea of new technology, but is a difficult argument to support. In these days of software-on-demand the cost of installing a powerful and proven system is cheap and more than compensated with the time saved. The days of bespoke software developments that costs tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars and take twice as long to install as promised are long gone. Sure, there are costs to train people to use it and maybe some new hardware will be required in the field, but that should not be a deal-breaker when the efficiency gains are weighed up. Cost concerns may stem from multiple false starts, hence the next objection.
“It’s too confusing to select the right one”. This objection I can relate to and understand. Trying to make the right choice by visiting multiple websites, downloading trials and trying to test against your situation, all the time running the business with your existing systems can be tiring and confusing. A better and more efficient way is to hire an independent construction software expert to do the selecting for you. They can better match your needs against a wide range of offerings out there. Once a decision is made they can also help with implementation and training as well, so you start receiving the benefits of the new system much quicker and with better reliability.
I am not that person to advise you specifically on what solution is best for you, but I know people who are. If you want to do a serious review of your job management systems and would like me to refer you to the right person, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will put you in touch.
A word of caution however. A software solution is usually NOT a silver bullet for frustrations in your business operations; it’s only a tool. Typically the software needs to be supported with changes to policies and procedures in your business in order to be truly effective. That’s where I can help – in the strategic overview to make sure the bigger pieces of the business puzzle are taken care of too and you get maximum pay-back on your investment.