By Mike Moorhouse, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Heico Construction Group
Staying abreast of the latest technology is one of our core values at Ceco and the Heico Construction Group. Our engineering-based companies inherently understand the importance of streamlining processes and working efficiently with laser-focused objectives. Adopting new technology is often how these critical goals are achieved. By no means do we have the perfect technology in place everywhere we should, but we’re constantly in search of new opportunities.
One of our most recent and significant achievements in new technology is a groundbreaking application for time tracking on the jobsite. Through a partnership with software provider mJobTime Solutions, we’ve implemented a mobile solution for field employees to clock in and out on iPads with scans of their fingerprints. Known as a mobile biometric time-tracking app, it’s the first of its kind in our industry and it’s getting some attention.
In August, Constructech magazine recognized our efforts with a 2018 Vision Gold Award. Constructech gives Vision Awards each year to construction companies that have demonstrated an innovative use of technology to solve a challenge or to transform the industry. We’re proud of this accomplishment, which was made possible through a tremendous team effort. As we began our journey to find a solution, we garnered input from a wide cross-section of our business. We talked to employees at all levels — field, administrative and management – and listened to their needs and concerns. Armed with this input, we set out to find a solution that matched our requirements but encountered multiple obstacles. No one product at the time existed in the hardware/software marketplace to meet all our needs. We needed a partner that shared our vision and could help us develop something new.
Journey to Innovation
Our journey to the time-tracking innovation began with the desire for a more efficient methodology to track field employees’ time. We had used an internally developed email/internet-based solution for more than 17 years that had become highly automated over time. However, the previous system still relied on advanced PC spreadsheets to capture and transmit work hours back to the payroll system for weekly processing. This internal solution required field supervisors to be tethered to a PC or laptop and didn’t provide insight into actual work hours until the following week.
By capturing real-time data, we also believed we could improve our system’s accuracy. Since field labor is Heico Construction Group’s largest expense, improving accuracy in time-tracking and payroll could reap significant financial benefits.
We knew we wanted to find a mobile solution that would perform the following 10 objectives:
- Provide a straightforward and simple means to clock-in/clock-out employees wherever needed on a project or site location.
- Provide a simple interface for the employee, crew leader, foreman, job superintendent or timekeeper to record hours on each task performed during the day.
- Track eligible per diem by employee.
- Provide access and insight with respect to manpower on a “clock-in” basis.
- Provide access and insight with respect to work hours daily.
- Provide daily/weekly approval of hours worked and per diem earned.
- Track billable equipment hours.
- Provide GPS “fencing” capability when needed.
- Provide the ability to create electronic daily job logs and store in a searchable database.
- The field mantra was consistent: The solution just needed to be both FAST and SIMPLE!
Many of our jobsites already were equipped with iPads, so we wanted an iOS-compatible solution. Fingerprint scans seemed a natural choice for offering a secure, simple and quick solution. But there wasn’t a scalable, iOS-compatible, biometric fingerprint-scanning software solution for time tracking.
Our research indicated that available technology required using fingerprint scanning devices connected to a laptop, tablet or stand-alone stationary clock. We needed a scalable and more robust mobile solution and decided to partner with mJobTime to create it.
After a few weeks of research and development, mJobTime came up with a simple, elegant solution: a lightweight, portable fingerprint-scanning accessory that plugs into iOS devices through the Apple lightning connector. The scanning devices can be used in the field initially to record and store a digitally created fingerprint scan for new employees, and then later, to scan employee fingerprints and verify them against the database of stored digital scans.
Rollout and Results
Proof of concept began at Ceco’s Tampa office in June of 2017. With the successful evaluation period complete, we began implementing the software at additional Ceco and other Heico Construction Group companies in 2018. We’ll have the mobile biometric time-keeping software operating in four of the six HCG companies by the end of 2018.
The software has provided an easy and straightforward way for our employees and field managers to enter, review, edit and approve records in the field, including labor time, equipment time, per diem and daily logs. It also enables management to monitor and manage job resources better. Employees and managers are no longer tethered to the jobsite trailer or office to perform daily work tasks. The mobile solution allows field management to perform their tasks much closer to the actual work activities and capture information and changes in tasks in real-time.
What’s more, the solution eliminates spreadsheets as the primary method of tracking field hours. Doing so significantly increases our employees’ productivity by reducing the amount of time spent preparing and reconciling payroll records originating from the field and ultimately residing in the ERP system. The software also provides management real-time access to field units of activity information versus waiting days and up to a week for insight into this information.
In addition, the new time-tracking application provides HCG with the assurance that employee time records accurately reflect the hours each employee works. Ensuring we pay employees for actual hours worked will result in significant savings. Our initial analysis indicates we’ll save .5 percent of payroll, which translates to a six-figure savings.
As with any groundbreaking feat, obstacles often lie beneath the surface. One lesson we’ve learned throughout our implementation process is that when making a major change, do not underestimate the effort to implement or the impact it will have on the organization. We’re breaking 17-year habits and changing the way our people operate at work. Simply put, that’s not a quick and easy task.
Our transition and implementation strategy is focused upon delivering a best-in-class solution to the field versus a misplaced focus on speed of implementation. As we work toward successful implementation of a solution with a great design that’s been thoroughly tested, we’re applying a truth we know from the buildings we construct: A solid foundation provides the strength to stand the test of time. By spending the upfront time to form a solid foundation, we’ll arrive at our goal. We’ll increase efficiency and accuracy while minimizing disruption, which benefits everyone on the project team.