Cost allocation as a catalyst for efficiency – Tracking and optimising the utilisation of plant and labour
Construction projects deal with a lot of reporting, and yet the information available provides decision-makers with very little control and limited ability to intervene quickly. One of the main problems on medium and large projects is the lag between activities on-site and the time it takes to make reports available.
Project Controls and Operations teams have a pretty good understanding of what progress has been made on a monthly or quarterly basis and the associated cost, but weekly or daily statuses are largely unknown to management not on-site.
Furthermore, construction projects have no visibility on how much productive time personnel have spent on any given asset. The problem with this is the missed opportunity to make real-time decisions that allow project managers, Project Controls teams and Programme Directors to improve the project’s performance before problems start to impact the delivery.
For example, consider the reports for 2 projects for a month. Both have 10 workers completing 4 activities with a total planned cost of £50,000. On the surface, if both projects complete the activities on time and budget, they would be deemed equally productive and performing to plan. However, if construction teams had more detailed insight into the time spent to complete the activities during the month, they may think about this scenario differently.
Taking a closer look shows that Team A wasted 20% of the month by not utilising personnel assigned to the activities. This is a common problem that projects struggle to overcome. There could be many reasons for Team B to have 20% of unutilised time, however, construction management teams would never know because they don’t currently have insights into this level site performance.
Working with one of the largest construction clients in the UK
The lack of insight into the time and cost taken for activities is the problem we solved for a large government client in the UK. Scheduling, rostering, and cost allocation are highly manual processes that had far-reaching implications for the client. Projects had underutilised personnel or plant leading to wasted time and money, or planned activities that require more plant and workforce leading to delays and cost increases.
The rostering and cost allocation of people and assets across the client’s construction sites required accurate planning to ensure the correct skill sets and equipment were available to conduct daily activities and to ensure the true costs associated with tasks were allocated and billed appropriately.
While rostering and cost allocation may sound like a straightforward process, it remains a key challenge on medium and large construction projects across the industry.
ALLO is a step-change in performance management
To help our client solve its problem, we worked together to developed ALLO, a fully integrated rostering, scheduling and cost allocation platform that integrates with site, planning and back-office systems to track personnel utilisation and cost in real-time.
With ALLO, we integrated the clients work and cost breakdown structures with its Time & Attendance and planning systems.
- Accelerated cost reporting
- Enhanced accuracy and control
- Performance benchmarking
- Enhanced cost to quality insights to optimise site-performance
- Productivity insights
- Opportunity to analyse defective data in the context of productivity and cost
- Process optimisation opportunities
ALLO is available to site staff and Operations and Project Controls teams, displaying the latest feed of the work breakdown structure which contains the activities to be completed on a given site. Foremen, gang-leaders and other site management personnel assign activities to cost codes, personnel and plant. Once an activity is completed, management personnel simply confirm the completion and the data is logged automatically.
The tool automatically checks that personnel is not double booked and that only personnel registered on-site via the site access systems can receive time allocations. Similarly, plant is assigned a unique ID and can then be assigned hours, personnel and activities in the project plan.
The information captured is available in real-time given the client an accurate picture of resource utilisation and cost at any given point in time.
Example insights ALLO generates:
- Number of personnel and plant on-site
- Number of booked personnel and plant hours against activities
- Unutilised personnel and plant
- Real-time personnel and plant cost based the hours on-site
- Productive time cost by asset
- Non-productive time cost
As the project progresses, management personnel can subscribe to new assets in the project plan and create their teams around it. This also enables a forward plan of the expected cost and personnel committed. This helps senior leadership flag issues early and understand possible resource shortages or unplanned cost increases.
Using ALLO, the client is now able to make powerful real-time decisions based on real-time site performance. Moving from Excel or paper-based activity reports to ALLO has decreased the time to plan, record and report activities — freeing up an hour of management time per day. Management reporting that used to require the preparation and re-keying of information is now fully automated in dashboards.
Embracing the change
The construction industry is undergoing a period of drastic change in search of productivity and efficiency improvement opportunities. The ability to understand and monitor operations better is a great opportunity. Even with new technologies on the horizon, enabling personnel to work more effectively and maximising the utilisation of plant and equipment will bring immediate benefits to sites which help bolster margins and provide a competitive edge over incumbents.
If you would like to learn more about ALLO you can find more details here.
This post was initially published by us on Medium.