Software technology has progressed since then, making it much easier to anticipate workloads, resource and labor availability problems and resulting delays. In addition, the technology now can incorporate “real-time” schedules for builders, suppliers and trade contractors, and many of the new products work wonders with vendor communication. To make this truly work, however, your scheduling should also address how your project affects your customer and vice versa.
As I’ve stressed throughout the tech talk series, you need to perfect your systems and processes (or at least figure them out on paper) before you can make the best use of the technology available. And when you do, factor in the impact on your customer.
Here are some tips to improve your job scheduling efficiency and get cycle time under control:
- Standardize your schedule. The length may vary, but the sequence of critical construction events should not. Write down the sequence (as well as the order of tasks associated with each event) and stick to it on every job. This step is absolutely essential for automating the scheduling process and integrating it with your company’s other functions and processes and the customer.
- Communicate schedule variances to affected parties such as suppliers, trade contractors, inspectors and the customer, if necessary. An automated scheduling system can link the schedule with a database of trade contractors and suppliers contracted to work on the job and recalculate dates so you can reconfirm who will do what and when. Keep in mind that the accuracy of such a system depends on keeping the data up to date.
- Give it time. Standardizing your schedule often represents a very important cultural change for your company. Daily scheduling accountability does not happen overnight. Explain the scheduling process to your field and office employees as well your trade contractors and suppliers. If you automate your scheduling system, make sure everyone who works with it receives training on how to use the software and how it integrates with other functions in your company. Give everyone time to get used to the new system.
- Don’t just focus on sticks and bricks. Traditional schedules tend to focus on critical construction steps. If you track and improve your “permitting and pre-start” phase, chances are excellent you can recover days of cycle time here as well as during the active construction cycle.
Scheduling on the Job Site
You can use technology on the job site to make it easier to set up jobs and track them. The first scheduling applications for handheld devices worked with Windows CETM and were cumbersome to upload. We have Palm, Inc. to thank for easing that process by making it “generic.” This has allowed several software developers to write scheduling applications that are familiar to “mainstream” users, including construction managers.
Earlier Articles in This Series
- To read, “Know Your Technology Needs Before You Invest,” Part 1 of this series, published April 14, click here.
- To read, “Strategic Planning Software Can Help Focus Your Business Model,” Part 2 of this series, published April 21, click here.
- To read, “Does Your Planning Software Match Your Project's Sophistication?” Part 3 of this series, published May 5, click here.
- To read, “Don't Put the CAD Before Your Product,” Part 4 of this series, published May 26, click here.
- To read, “Manage Prospects and Buyers More Efficiently With Technology,” Part 5 of this series, published June 9, click here.
- To read, "Automate Your Selection and Change Order Processes,” Part 6 of this series, published on June 23, click here.
Next: Managing purchase orders and payment approval
Note: Various software products are mentioned throughout the tech talk series. The intent is not to recommend these products as being right for you, but to identify some fairly well-known players and to note a few new ones. My apologies to vendors who are not mentioned — the omission was not intentional.
Bill Allen is president of W.A. Allen Consulting and a member of NAHB’s Business Management & Information Technology Committee. His company, headquartered in Redmond, WA, provides information technology consulting services and process management assistance to the home building industry. Allen can be reached at 425-885-4489 or via e-mail. Or visit the W.A. Allen Consulting Web site.
Want more information about using technology in your business?
NAHB’s Business Management Department offers a variety of online resources to help you run your business better and more profitably. Click Business Management Tools for articles about human resources, financial management, sales, production, technology, customer service and other business-related topics. In addition, visit the NAHB Software Users Network Discussion Forum (SUN) to ask technology consultants and other builders what they think of various software packages and applications.
BuilderBooks.com also offers a variety of publications about computer technology. To view or purchase these publications online, click here.
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NAHB’s Business of Building e/Source is your monthly electronic guide to the hot issues and emerging trends in home building business management. You’ll find practical advice, tricks of the trade and sound business guidance — all delivered monthly, straight to your desktop, in a quick and easy-to-read format. Business of Building e/Source is available free to NAHB members and their employees. To subscribe, click here on the members only side of www.nahb.org.
University of Housing Offers Courses on Customer Service and Business Management
The NAHB University of Housing offers a course on business management designed to help builders improve their business and profitability. For a list of current offerings, click here.