Construction Time Management via BlackBerry Smartphones

By  Jeff Goldman — May 12, 2010

North Carolina-based Buckner Steel Erection, with over 30 superintendents overseeing more than 400 employees, offers steel erection services, rigging and crane rental, helping to build everything from hotels to arenas to hotels.

Buckner uses approximately 145 BlackBerry Curves with AboutTime Technologies' mobile time management application to handle all time tracking in the field, replacing a solution that was based entirely on paper timesheets -- managers and superintendents now use the BlackBerry smartphones to punch workers in and out at job sites.

Company logistics manager Mark Mehaffy says the cost of the deployment, at about $10,000 a month, is well worth it in terms of the payroll savings. "You pay a guy for exactly what he's worth," he says. "Before, on paper, if [you say] you've worked 12 hours, you may have worked 12 hours or you may have worked 11 hours and 15 minutes, but we'd pay you for 12. Now he physically has to come before his supervisor and punch out."

Buckner's original plan, Mehaffy says, had been to deploy a barcode-based solution for timekeeping. "The initial thought was that everyone would have a barcode sticker on their hard hat, and we'd just take a picture of it and that's how you'd clock in... but that technology did not pan out," he says. "But it doesn't matter -- the way we do it now, just by keying in the BlackBerrys, is more than sufficient."

The solution as currently deployed, Mehaffy says, simply assigns a PIN number to each worker. "They just pull up a clock-in screen, and you punch in your PIN number and it asks you for your cost code... so you just signify what you're doing that day, and you go to work," he says.

The data is then synced wirelessly back to the company's servers. "AboutTime's reporting system is pretty slick," Mehaffy says. "We can put in a budget before we start the job, and we can look at the budgets daily and see how we are -- the accrued hours versus the budgeted hours. We can look at overtime on a given day, or as we accumulate for a given week on a job we can see Thursday morning where we are versus 40 hours."

The company's managers, Mehaffy says, also use the BlackBerry smartphones to take photos onsite on a regular basis. "If you've got a truckload of joists or something that come in that are damaged, you can take a picture of it right then before you unload it," he says. "That's not to say that you wouldn't have a camera on the job site, but it's fair to say that every job site didn't have a camera -- and you certainly couldn't just take a picture of it and turn around and email it to your boss within 30 seconds like you can now."

The BlackBerry devices also help managers check the weather in real time. "We have cranes with 300 foot of boom on them, so you have to constantly be aware of wind speeds and approaching weather... You don't want to plan to make a heavy lift at five o'clock in the afternoon if you're looking at the radar and you see thunderstorms coming in -- and you couldn't do that before," he says.

Mehaffy says the BlackBerrys have also vastly improved communication within the company. "We communicate seven days a week now," he says. "Where [people] used to turn off their phone Friday afternoon at five o'clock when they quit... they tend to have their phone with them all the time now -- they're communicating with other people -- and so it's in turn easier for us to get a hold of them should a problem arise."
 
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Construction Time Management via BlackBerry Smartphones

By  Jeff Goldman — May 12, 2010

North Carolina-based Buckner Steel Erection, with over 30 superintendents overseeing more than 400 employees, offers steel erection services, rigging and crane rental, helping to build everything from hotels to arenas to hotels.

Buckner uses approximately 145 BlackBerry Curves with AboutTime Technologies' mobile time management application to handle all time tracking in the field, replacing a solution that was based entirely on paper timesheets -- managers and superintendents now use the BlackBerry smartphones to punch workers in and out at job sites.

Company logistics manager Mark Mehaffy says the cost of the deployment, at about $10,000 a month, is well worth it in terms of the payroll savings. "You pay a guy for exactly what he's worth," he says. "Before, on paper, if [you say] you've worked 12 hours, you may have worked 12 hours or you may have worked 11 hours and 15 minutes, but we'd pay you for 12. Now he physically has to come before his supervisor and punch out."

Buckner's original plan, Mehaffy says, had been to deploy a barcode-based solution for timekeeping. "The initial thought was that everyone would have a barcode sticker on their hard hat, and we'd just take a picture of it and that's how you'd clock in... but that technology did not pan out," he says. "But it doesn't matter -- the way we do it now, just by keying in the BlackBerrys, is more than sufficient."

The solution as currently deployed, Mehaffy says, simply assigns a PIN number to each worker. "They just pull up a clock-in screen, and you punch in your PIN number and it asks you for your cost code... so you just signify what you're doing that day, and you go to work," he says.

The data is then synced wirelessly back to the company's servers. "AboutTime's reporting system is pretty slick," Mehaffy says. "We can put in a budget before we start the job, and we can look at the budgets daily and see how we are -- the accrued hours versus the budgeted hours. We can look at overtime on a given day, or as we accumulate for a given week on a job we can see Thursday morning where we are versus 40 hours."

The company's managers, Mehaffy says, also use the BlackBerry smartphones to take photos onsite on a regular basis. "If you've got a truckload of joists or something that come in that are damaged, you can take a picture of it right then before you unload it," he says. "That's not to say that you wouldn't have a camera on the job site, but it's fair to say that every job site didn't have a camera -- and you certainly couldn't just take a picture of it and turn around and email it to your boss within 30 seconds like you can now."

The BlackBerry devices also help managers check the weather in real time. "We have cranes with 300 foot of boom on them, so you have to constantly be aware of wind speeds and approaching weather... You don't want to plan to make a heavy lift at five o'clock in the afternoon if you're looking at the radar and you see thunderstorms coming in -- and you couldn't do that before," he says.

Mehaffy says the BlackBerrys have also vastly improved communication within the company. "We communicate seven days a week now," he says. "Where [people] used to turn off their phone Friday afternoon at five o'clock when they quit... they tend to have their phone with them all the time now -- they're communicating with other people -- and so it's in turn easier for us to get a hold of them should a problem arise."
 
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