Before he began using BuilderHelper.com, a Web-based construction management tool, Cory Hogan admits that his company's scheduling process was “a mess.”
“We were using a whiteboard with grids and calendars, and we were making an awful lot of phone calls [to trade contractors],” says Hogan, of Upscale Downstairs in Draper, Utah. But since he started using the program , “we're averaging two weeks ahead of schedule,” he says. “Before, we had a lot of trouble getting jobs in on time.”
In addition to the scheduling module, BuilderHelper provides a systematized bidding tool and a customer-service module. The bidding tool allows trade contractors' bids to be collected online in a uniform but flexible format. And because trades can use BuilderHelper to scale and measure digital plans, they can determine square footages and volumetric take-offs ensuring consistent and accurate bids.
If a bid is accepted, its contents are automatically included in the master project schedule, and the trade contractor is alerted via e-mail and text message.
The customer-service module lets clients view updated project information (contractors can define how much the client sees) and make product selections online. Warranty requests are also easy to manage because the software automatically alerts trades when a warranty item is pending.
STRONG SUIT Even with all the other tools BuilderHelper offers, it's the scheduling program that Hogan finds essential. “That's the part that got me hooked,” he says.
As soon as a project's schedule is entered into the system, all trades are notified via text message and e-mail. If the schedule gets bumped by a day or two, or if Hogan leaves trades a message on the BuilderHelper project message board, the program lets them know about that as well. “It's a good way of [notifying] subs and my guys in the field because they're not in front of a computer all day,” Hogan says. “Since [the program] does that, we don't have to make all those phone calls anymore.”
Another handy feature allows trades to view all of their current and upcoming job schedules at once, helping to avoid job conflicts.
GETTING TRADES ONBOARD Hogan's biggest concern in implementing the software was getting trades — some of whom didn't even have e-mail addresses — onboard. “We decided to make [adhering to the system] mandatory,” Hogan says. “We said, ‘If you want to work with us, this is how we're going to do things.'”
To aid in the transition, BuilderHelper sent a representative to train Hogan's employees and subs on the system and set up e-mail accounts for trades who didn't have them. And when a new trade works with Upscale Downstairs for the first time, “it's a 10- or 15-minute phone call with a BuilderHelper rep [to learn] the basics of the system,” Hogan says.
This ease of transition was important to Hogan in selecting project management software. “If my trades don't buy in to this, it's wasted money for me,” he says. Thanks to the time the software has shaved off his jobs, Hogan says, the investment has already paid for itself.