The best builders are the best schedulers

When we started BuildIT, we knew that companies with strong underlying systems were successful (think: franchise companies). We saw the opportunity to provide systems for small to mid-sized contractors and specialty trades to help them get control of their job tracking, scheduling and general organization. We heard loud and clear that scheduling was a nightmare... and the company that could provide solutions for better scheduling would find no shortage of customers.

It stands to reason that if your jobsites are a mess, if your scheduling tools are outdated (or non-existent), and if you end up with piles of waste materials at the end of the job (which completed days if not weeks after your projected completion date), then you're hemorrhaging profit. While you may not be this extreme, you wouldn't be reading this if there wasn't some opportunity for you to make gains in your scheduling and bottom line dollars.

Which brings us to our title... the best builders are the best schedulers.

Go to any jobsite that is well run, talk to any builder that is swimming in profits... and you'll find a "lean" builder, one who has mastered the art of scheduling, collaborating with trades, and "conducting the orchestra" of different moving parts on jobsites. They have systems in place, processes and procedures, and well trained staff who have bought into the vision of the company. They manage change, not react to it. They predict crises/weather events/holidays and seasonal realities... and have built in cushions for such disruptions. Successful builders have trades that WANT to work with them, because it is a privilege to work on their jobsites. The have tight schedules with dates that the trades can rely on... and they equip their trades, staff and clients with the right information well in advance so specifications can be nailed down, documentation is clear and accessible, and products with longer lead times are on order and arrive at just the right time.

Much has been written about the return on investment with scheduling systems like BuildIT. And there are great resources online to help you accelerate your scheduling success as we start a new year. One such resource that I've referenced before is True North Development, whose president Scott Sedam is a prolific writer and industry expert. We highly recommend his "Gospel of Schedule" article, in which he outlines his "25 Essential Scheduling Practices for Home Builders" (and while addressed specifically to home builders, other construction professionals will find some takeaways here). Below is a summary to whet your appetite for the full article (and seminars that he conducts):

  1. Simplify (the product, process, paperwork, etc.)
  2. Pre-construction checklist is a must.
  3. Schedule customer input pre-build and during.
  4. Get buy in from trades and suppliers up front in the importance of scheduling of their work and deliveries.
  5. Establish clear scopes of work, expectations on what 100% complete looks like.
  6. Develop a realistic schedule with input from trades and suppliers.
  7. Create a predicable schedule, whereby specific tasks start on specific days.
  8. Find trades that can adapt crew sizes to meet scheduled durations.
  9. Establish a system for weather events and other contingencies.
  10. Value engineer your plans to help eliminate waste at the end.
  11. Choose manufactured components to reduce production time.
  12. Keep your plans list current; omit plans that seldom get chosen.
  13. Limit options to those most customers will pay for.
  14. Provide unit pricing and upgrades up front.
  15. Provide firm cut-off dates, hold staff, trades and clients to those.
  16. Space out/phase your starts to help with trade conflicts.
  17. Provide superintendents with everything they need to build... at the start.
  18. Establish quality control guidelines, deliveries, daily logs.
  19. Keep building site clean with site plan/placement for deliveries of building materials.
  20. Superintendents to be in each unit daily.
  21. Endeavor to shoot for shorter cycle times ("turns").
  22. Broom sweep each unit at end of day.
  23. Have a schedule (like BuildIT displaying ALL JOBS) that shows where ALL units are at in production.
  24. Pay on time all work that is 100% complete according to the schedule.
  25. Pay for the best crews/suppliers.


I'm sure some of our BuildIT veterans out there could add to this list. Feel free to send BuildIT your success stories on how you used BuildIT to reduce cycle times, increase profit, or secure a new client.

The best builders are the best schedulers... and in our humble opinion... the best schedulers that we know use BuildIT !!

To your scheduling success,

 Scott Hutchinson
 scott@builditsystems.com
 1 866 585 5050 ext 1

Cloudy... with a good chance of success

There was a time when the cloud was that white or grey thing that got between you and the sun.

Still is, but "The Cloud" represents something much cooler, hipster.  Cloud Logo

You're "in the cloud", "using the cloud", accessing your data "from the cloud" whether you know it or not. While the "cloud" may be the current buzz word, it's really just a metaphor for something that has been around for some time now... the Internet! 

With the cloud comes "cloud computing", the basic idea is there are a bunch of computers (or "remote servers") around the planet that are all networked together. Your data is stored remotely on these remote servers (not your own hard drive), and you access your data via application software (cloud software, or web based software) from your Internet connected device.

There are huge benefits to cloud computing. Your computer just becomes a disposable device. If it blows up, you spill coffee on it, or it walks out the door that you forgot to lock, well, just get on another computer with Internet access, and you're back in business. Plus, the servers that run web based software are built and managed WAY better than anything you're likely to buy from Office Max... so if you have high speed Internet access and are using a reputable web based software company, you'll enjoy really fast page serving times.

One of our competitors uses the phrase "Build in the Cloud"... which strikes me a bit funny. Construction professionals build "on the ground", and use physical objects like tools and 2x4's to accomplish their goals. Software is just another tool to help get the job done.

In the past, software would be sold in a box, and you would purchase it (one time) and install it on your computer (some of you are too young to know what a floppy drive is!)  More recently you would download software and install it on your computer, saving you the box and the thick paper manual that few people ever read.

Since the mid 90's, web based software, "SAAS" (Software as a Service), or as it's called now... "Cloud based software"... it's really just software that runs off our server, not your computer. You never really purchase/own cloud based software... you "rent" it, or subscribe - and it is kept current by the developers. We own the software, you own your data, and have a licence to use our software to access/create/manage your data. When you do online banking, you are connecting through the cloud. Same goes for adding an appointment to your Google calendar. Or logging into BuildIT.

Fortunately, you don't have to fully understand what is happening under the hood, leave that for the geeks and computer nerds. We can just get in the car, and drive. We can leverage companies that do the heavy lifting, making sure software is updated, bugs are fixed, and the latest, fastest software is available each and every time we log on.

As I write this, Sony Pictures computer system has just been hacked, and personal emails and data are flying about the Internet, creating an international crisis and a lot of embarassment for a lot of executives and Hollywood elites. Which brings up an important consideration - TRUST. You are banking on the fact that the software system you subscribe to, and the Company behind it, are reputable, and will be around for a while. You are also assuming that the company has taken great measures to ensure the protection of your data.

BuildIT - 13 years of service to our customers. Not one byte of data lost. A super strong firewall that fends off any attack by unscrupulous hackers. When it comes to cloud based software from BuildIT, you're in good hands.

Forecast - cloudy, with a good chance of success!

 Scott Hutchinson
 scott@builditsystems.com
 1 866 585 5050 ext 1

New kid on the block... takes the $ and runs

In the market for construction software?

Good chance if you're reading this you are, and you're waiting for the pitch. Not now. This is more of a "buyer beware" article.

And the story goes like this...

We get lots of folks coming to BuildIT. We are easily found, have been for over a decade. If you are looking for construction scheduling software, you will find BuildIT. As did "Joe" (yup, name changed out of respect for privacy). Joe had been using Super Software (not their real name, but it would suit them just fine) for the past year. Spent around a grand. And it didn't perform. Nor did their team perform when Joe kept calling and asking for bugs to be fixed.

Joe put me on to Super Software - I had never heard of these guys. Sotware companies like this have come and gone over the years, it's hard to keep track of the ones that fail. But the more I delved into Super Software's website, the more I thought I should sound the alarm... and do my part to get the word out for folks like you doing their research.

We've been around since 2000, so we (as my kids would call me) are OLD. It took us about 2 years just to get a product on the market. And that product was "cloud based" from day 1... before the word "cloud" was hip.

Super Software was "founded" just a few years ago. That means that they started the company... then started to build something. And what I love about America and the Internet, is anybody can start something, then make outrageous claims about "being the best" or "being the first"... and nobody can stop you. Anybody can throw a website up, add stock photos, which you'll find everywhere online (yes, those photos of smiling girls with headsets on, and men in dress shirts wearing hardhats do NOT work for Super Software, and the smiling couple looking over a set of plans are NOT their customers).

Fortunately if you dig around, you can find a few red lights that should send you running in the opposite direction. Here are a few I found, and you'll find them on other sites as well:

1. When someone says they are the "first cloud construction platform" and they've only been in existence this decade, then they are about a decade late to the party. Like BuildIT, there are many cloud construction platforms on the market today. Your job is to find the best fit for your company while avoiding becoming a "beta tester" for software that still is in its infancy and will need a few years to either grow up, or crash and burn (and take your data with it !).

2. When a software company claims to be the "best", "best of breed", "perfect tool", or "voted #1 software on the planet" - quite frankly, they're not, and never will be. And you can prove it by test driving their software "without obligation" (that means, don't pay a dime) until you are either ready to risk being one of their beta testers, or concede that going with the tried and tested guys will be a better bet for your business.

3. When a software company has links on their website that are broken, blank pages, pages with "coming soon", server application errors, stock photography, no fixed company address, and a Twitter account that is just a shameless self promotion of their software system, those should send you packing right away.

4. If you are reading text on their website, and after a few minutes, you feel like you're reading the same thing over and over again... like this: "our cloud based construction management software is the greatest construction management software for construction managers that want to manage their construction projects with construction management software that works", and you see buzz words scattered all over their site... well, they are more interested in getting Google's attention than yours.

The unfortunate thing is, they got Joe's money and they will get Tom, Dick and Harry's at some point.

Hang on to your wallet, and make sure you compare and contrast options. Get referrals. Get an understanding of who is behind the company. And make sure they have your back and are there to help you succeed with their system. Don't pay for what you'll never use - determine what you need to grow your business/solve your problem... and go after it with surgical precision.

Now for the pitch. Call me - I'm one of the owners, and one of the veterans in the construction software space. Let's see what we can do to help you out.

 Scott Hutchinson
 scott@builditsystems.com
 1 866 585 5050 ext 1