Once left in a labor lurch, homebuilders are leveraging advanced construction management and scheduling tech not only to carry on, but to carry their businesses to new heights.
By Travis Davidson
With the homebuilding industry requiring major manpower, labor shortages have pulled the proverbial plug on production and efficiency. Sixteen different construction trades still face serious deficits in skilled workers, according to a Summer 2019 report from the National Association of Home Builders. Fortunately, technology advances in the form of streamlined software solutions can counter those workforce woes with increased effectiveness and efficiency that helps save building companies both time and money.
Builders often have misperceptions of software platforms: that they are static solutions that can’t adapt to special business requirements or preferences, and that scheduling functions need to fit into the larger accounting system, not the other way around. Companies have enough demands on their business; in this tech world, they should insist that construction management and scheduling software fits their approach and needs. For example, Homes by Taber utilizes a web-based software tool that handles scheduling, vendor and buyer portals, punch item management and safety assessments while offering a full reporting package.
Software platforms won’t do the framing, rough carpentry, or masonry for a homebuilder, but they will make a company more organized and efficient, allowing them to do more with less and put personnel in the best position for success.
A tool such as FieldCollaborate reduces confusion with advanced metrics and reporting that allow a builder to drill down in detail by dates for a particular vendor, home, subdivision, etc. The checklists can eliminate a lot of phone calls and texts, with the extra time allowing a builder to continue to move houses. The software also maximizes collaboration. In fact, the platform currently handles more than 450 Homes by Taber projects and is accommodating 85 employees, 135 vendors logging in four to five times a day, and 73 additional people who work with vendors. The “self-service,” easy-access portal makes vendors and contractors part of the team, which reduces follow-up.
A construction management and scheduling system must be effective, but it also must fit the approach and setup of the builder, each one having a different mix of products and platforms to integrate. Finding a system that is customizable was a huge priority for Homes by Taber, which is able to adapt the tool to what it needs through code modifications and changes with very quick turnaround. And for the most efficient data and workflow, it is absolutely essential that any builder software product provide the ability to exchange information with applications provided by other software vendors. An open, well-documented API makes it easy and inexpensive to quickly develop integrated data-sharing solutions, often in less than a week’s time.
The priority is the business’s process and objectives, and builders need to be able to continue working in the way that makes sense for them. Homes by Taber’s software provider, CPS, Inc., helped integrate its purchase order system, a BuilderMT-based program, so that all purchase orders were live in FieldCollaborate. Now trades can not only see the project schedule but also how much they’ll get paid for a job.
Being able to plan out jobs far in advance allows builders and vendors to forecast material needs and allocate labor to various jobs in a more efficient way. For example, a door manufacturer can look in FieldCollaborate to see how many doors are needed over the next three to five months. The purchasing team can then use that knowledge to negotiate bulk pricing with vendors because they are aware of the quantities needed.
Responsiveness goes beyond the flexibility of the homebuilding software architecture. Customers should be able to get technical issues resolved quickly and effectively. After all, when homebuilding pros have to attend to a glitch or malfunction, it means they’re not focused on Job No. 1. With FieldCollaborate, a dedicated and dependable support rep is just a phone call away. For Homes by Taber, having that quality, one-on-one service and support has been key.
Before advances in construction management and scheduling, a personnel pinch would most certainly lead to project delays, cost overruns and the inability to expand one’s business pipeline. Homes by Taber was mired in a disorganized system that even had personnel butting heads. By choosing an efficient, productive and collaborative software system, Homes by Taber was able to save time and money by maximizing data and streamlining its process. The results after three years of implementation are nothing short of impressive: Homes by Taber reduced cycle time by 28%, or approximately 45 days, which ultimately has a direct reflection to the bottom line.
Travis Davidson is Chief Operating Officer at Homes by Taber in the Oklahoma City metro. The Oklahoma native has worked in just about every aspect of homebuilding, including sales, estimating, construction and purchasing.