How to increase the efficiency of time and activity management of mobile workers
Time and activity management is a key process for any construction or infrastructure company with mobile workers. Without this, it will be very difficult to stay within budget, identify inefficiencies or meet a deadline. The traditional methods of using a pen and paper or a spreadsheet to record this information have many shortcomings, which is why the use of digital tools is becoming increasingly appealing. But not all digital tools are the same and the selection of the right one for the job is vital.
It’s a fundamental point of any viable business that, in order to make a profit, your expenditure needs to be less than your income. To be able to do this, you need to efficiently control your expenditure, while making sure that the end result, or product, is delivered on time and to specification. It all sounds so simple when put in these basic terms, but the reality of managing huge construction projects is very different.
The complexity of managing a work site can vary massively from one project to the next. For example, the development of a block of flats or an industrial estate will be significantly more complicated than that of one or two residential properties. There can be huge variations in the numbers of mobile workers and subcontractors on-site, the types of activities taking place, the plant and equipment being used, and the volumes of materials being used, to name just a few aspects.
But there can also be large differences in the complexity of apparently similar projects on a similar scale – for example, due to location-specific factors. Plus, keeping track of costs becomes even more difficult for a large company that is working on more than one project at the same time.
In the past, recording and managing all of the data that is required for effective cost control in these circumstances has not been an easy task. But the construction sector in particular is currently experiencing a major step change in how things are done.
Digital data tools
For many years and in many industrial sectors, data about workers’ hours and activities has been recorded and processed using pen and paper and spreadsheets. However, problems quickly arise with these time-consuming and error-prone collection methods, even on small projects, and this leads to inefficiencies and errors in the processing and analysis of the data. The consequences of this are wide and far reaching, including budget over-spends and unwelcome mistakes in wages.
But as advances in technology continue apace, so does the ability of digital tools to transform the management of workers’ time and activity. As a consequence, there are now some very simple and accessible ways available to improve the whole process by collecting data digitally on-site. Using these new tools has many advantages, including but not limited to:
- significantly reducing the administrative burden
- reducing/eliminating delays in collecting, processing and analysing the data
- reducing errors by incorporating automatic checks at the time of data input, resulting in greater data accuracy and therefore greater usefulness
- producing dynamic, live information, which will enable increased reactivity and better decision making.
The final point regarding live information and better decision making is key. Information – and therefore knowledge – has never been more important for a business to remain successful. After all, success cannot be guaranteed simply by standing still and it is very hard to improve something if it can’t be accurately measured. In general, the benefits of having easy access to high-quality, live data include:
- identification of inefficiencies, which can be tackled to increase productivity
- ensuring project spends are kept under control and within budget
- access to data is centralised, leading to improved intelligence across the wider business
- the ability to generate more precise – and therefore more competitive – bids for future work
- projects and the business as a whole are shown to be well managed and under control, which can be attractive to partners, subcontractors, shareholders, etc.
To improve their performance, more and more companies across the world are focusing on the digital time and activity monitoring of their mobile workers. This leads to the optimisation of task analysis and the optimisation of the resources committed to each activity. Although this sort of development has historically been widely seen in the manufacturing sector, it is now also being brought into many other sectors, such as construction and the service sector.
Choosing the right digital tool for the job
In construction, choosing the right tool for the job is a necessity and the same rule applies with new digital tools for managing the time and activity of workers. When selecting digital applications, it is important to focus on the following aspects:
- Integration with existing systems and having a strong software partner are key. Implementing a new digital tool will be cheaper and easier if it works neatly alongside existing systems – the alternative option of bringing in a whole new system is likely to be highly disruptive to business. Plus, ongoing support from your software partner will be invaluable for making the most of the tool, e.g. advice and guidance, resolving queries, implementing upgrades, etc.
- Designing the mobile application to ensure that it will be adopted and used by mobile workers in the long term. It is no use designing a system that is not very user-friendly, for example, meaning that workers do not buy in to it and subsequently they stop using it. To be a success, the system needs to have the support and commitment from all levels of the business.
This might sound like a tall order, but the good news is that tools already exist that meet these requirements.
Evolution, not revolution
While switching to digital tech from old-fashioned methods of managing time and activity data might, on the surface, seem like a major step change, it has been shown that it needn’t be too difficult. Here at Traxxeo, we have already helped many companies to successfully make the jump over to using digital tools and we look forward to helping many more in the future.
It is inevitable that digital tools are coming and will greatly improve the management of mobile workers’ time and activity – the only question is: Will you be part of it?
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