Using a shared source for daily progress updates, job notes and other feedback can save big bucks.  From daily service call histories to small change orders, using a shared feedback system can put thousands of dollars back in your company’s pocket. 

The ability to post and share information in real-time keeps work moving without interruption, eliminates errors and oversights and keeps the office connected to the field without costly delays in communication. We saw this technology as a priority early on when we were first developing the 360e.  Here are are some real life examples below of scenarios that we experienced and how they would play out with and without the ability to post and share daily job comments.

Scenario 1 – Jobsite Locked
4 electricians (at a billing rate of $100/hr each)  headed to a jobsite to install temporary power after a fire.  When they arrived, the find the access area to the jobsite was fenced off and secured with a padlock. 

The combination to the padlock had actually been called in that morning by the city to the front desk who had written it down on the paper work order back in the office. However, nobody was able to find the piece of paper.  Calls were made to the city and a search was conducted back at the office. 1 1/2 hours later the paper was found in the tool shed, called out to the field and the workers were able to gain access to the building.  Unfortunately, the casualty (4 workers @ $100/hr x 1.5 hours) was $600 worth of labor.

When the city called with the lock combination, the office administrator could have entered a comment to the job with a notification.  The foreman (or any of the other workers) would have received the notification on his/her phone or tablet, logged into the job, seen the comment and the team would have had access to the jobsite upon arrival.

Scenario 2 – Previous Work History Comments
An electrician was sent to a previous jobsite on a warranty call to investigate a broken water heater that had been installed 4 months ago.  Upon arrival, the worker was directed to the broken water heater by the property manager.

The electrician arrived at the jobsite, The property manager led him to the broken water heater. The electrician fixed the water heater, called the office to tell them he was done and went on to his next service call.  Unfortunately, he performed a free service call on someone else’s product, total loss, $200, the amount his company would otherwise charge for the service call.

Logging into the job on his iPad, the worker saw the previous job history notes and upon investigation saw that the serial number for the broken heater was different than the one that his company installed.  He eventually found the heater that matched his notes and it was working perfectly.  The electrician presented his findings to the property manager who apologized for the oversight and asked the electrician if he could fix the heater since he was already there. The electrician scheduled the service call at the standard $200 flat fee. The customer approved the charge.   The electrician tracked his notes in the job comments and the customer was charged $200.

Scenario 3 – Previous Work History Comments
An emergency job came up that required the company’s best 3-man work team. All three of them had been working together on a three-week new construction job at another location.  Pulling them away meant bringing in a new team to pick up where they left off without losing momentum. 

The new team arrived at the location without any information.  Most of the morning was wasted on phone calls to the office and to the previous foreman who was now busy at the other jobsite.  From the 24 hours tracked that day (3 workers x 8 hours), only 15 were actually productive.

Fortunately, the new team could log in and read three weeks of daily job notes from the previous team, access material lists, jobsite photos and site drawings.  After a quick production meeting, they were off and running.

Scenario 4 – The Old Basement Outlet
An electrician was on a job doing a kitchen renovation, a fixed bid job.  While there, the homeowner asked.  “While you are here, could you take a look at this outlet in our basement?  It hasn’t worked for the last 6 months.” 

The electrician tells the customer it will cost extra and the customer agrees.  The electrician replaces the outlet.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t log the event anywhere. When he turns in his time sheet three days later he has forgotten about the additional work item and nothing is mentioned to the billing administrator. The cost revenues equal $75.

The electrician tells the customer he will need to charge extra for the time.  The customer agrees.  The electrician goes downstairs, spends 50 minutes troubleshooting and replacing the outlet.  Not sure whether this requires a formal work order or not he completes the work and then enters in his daily job notes, “Fixed basement outlet at customers request. It took 50 minutes.”  Back at the office, the billing administrator sees the workers comment in the invoicing panel and bills the customer $75 for the additional work done.

All of the scenarios above are things that happen on a daily basis to contractors everywhere. As you can see, none of these items by themselves are catastrophic to the business.  However, when they stack up together they can take a big bite out of your revenues, the first of which come out of your profits.  Let’s say that you have 10 employees and your average billing rate is $75/hr.  Now let’s say that you lose just one hour a week on each employee to un-billed work, lost momentum and job interruptions.  10 hours x $75/hr = $750/wk = $39,000/yr.

From our own experience, these numbers were considerably higher.  With our first customer, (a company with 15 field employees and 6 office employees), we assessed almost $120,000/yr in losses coming from daily scenarios exactly like the ones you are reading about above. 80% of this lost revenue re-appeared within six months after they started posting and tracking daily work comments.

Now, some of these items above also call for other support features (formal change orders, better warranty tracking, etc.) but in real-life, where things are constantly moving and changing, the simple ability to capture and post things from the field when they happen can be an immediate and powerful remedy for leaking profits.

Finally, while the use of technology is a given here, it is only half of the equation.  Training your team to post notes  and comments on a daily basis is the most critical part of the equation. Modern technologies make it easier than ever to capture the information but any system you use is only as good as what you put into it. Creating new work habits takes time and effort. However, if you start with a few of your key team members and set goals, you can count on seeing the results in your profit margin.