Sr. Construction Manager Saves Firm Thousands with Raken
Barbara Tavares, a Senior Construction Manager with RHSI Engineering and Project Management in San Antonio, TX had a lot on her plate. A large contract providing inspection services for about 50 of San Antonio's streets, hundreds of photos to manage, and a small staff.
A contract of that scope, with so many different players and moving pieces, had the potential to be a logistical nightmare for any Project Management firm, and particularly for a small business. But, Tavares not only found a way to get it done, she also found a way to save time and money while doing it.
Lots of Little Problems
Tavares was given a task that would make any construction manager nervous. First, RHSI is a multi-faceted Veteran Owned Small Business that provides program management, construction management, inspection, and estimating services to federal, municipal and private clients. Second, RHSI was chosen to support the City of San Antonio on city-wide capital improvement programs focused on the maintenance of San Antonio’s streets and sidewalks. Third, they are a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business and were just given a large contract to serve as the owner’s representative providing inspection services on about 50 of San Antonio's streets slated for asphalt repairs. Her team was responsible for making sure each project was coordinated, completed quickly and within specifications, and paid out based on quantities-in-place by several different general contractors using pre-negotiated unit prices.
Tavares’s challenge wasn’t to manage one enormous project. Instead, she was faced with managing lots of small projects, each with their own potential pitfalls. “In a capital improvement program with hundreds of streets slated for repairs, we were contracted to provide inspection services for about 50 of them across the City," Tavares says, "these individual asphalt renovation projects that involved repairing potholes and sealing streets to prevent further degradation are typically under $100K each. But there were a ton of them that added up to a multi-million dollar program."
"Our inspectors have to go out to the sites and confirm compliance with the design specifications”, says Tavares, noting that, “the designer had provided an estimate of what the repairs would cost and my job was to have inspectors go out there, take measurements of the repair areas and document the work in place. After that, the contractor got paid for that work based on our reporting using pre-negotiated unit prices”.
Besides quantifying the work-in-place, inspectors were also tasked with taking “Before”, “After” and progress photos on each for the City’s records. Already, the work was going to be piling up with the sheer number of sites that RHSI's inspectors were going to be visiting. On top of that, the inspectors had to come in to the office at the end of every day and manually transfer, rename, and organize every photo they had taken on site that day.
The time-consuming clerical work notwithstanding, Tavares and her team quickly ran into another problem: San Antonio streets all kind of look the same, so it was easy to get which pictures went with which site mixed up. "Our inspectors were going to be looking at the same thing on several streets," Tavares notes, "and because we're going to be inspecting 50 of them, my inspector might go to 2 or 3 in a single day. I was wondering 'How do we help them keep track of what the've done? How do we keep track track of all these before, after and progress photos when all these streets look the same?"
That's when Tavares realized there had to be a better tool out there.
The first person to use Raken was Wayne, in his late 60s. He was a little nervous to use an app and an iPad. But he quickly got the hang of it, and he loves it. Now, with some of our new inspectors, it takes them 5 whole minutes to get it.
— Barbara Tavares, Sr. Construction Manager
Managing Multiple Projects with Construction Field Management Technology
But Tavares didn't just buy the first pretty app that came along and hoped for the best. Her years of experience in the industry gave her a specific list of features that she knew the software needed to have in order to get the job done right. "I was searching for how to manage multiple projects," Tavares says, "so i needed a daily that was easily reproduced, that my inspector could do in the field, and was easy enough to allow him to go to 3 different projects and do 3 different reports on the same day without taking all his time. It also needed to be stored because at the end of the month we use the backup to show the City what the contractors had done and approve pay applications."
Raken seemed like it had every feature on her list: the ability to handle multiple projects, fast workflow, easy photo management, and a professional daily report that could be easily accessed for the City to see what was being done. It seemed like a match made in heaven, but there were still some reservations. The biggest of which was simply this: will my inspectors in the field actually want to use it?
"The first person to use it was Wayne, in his late 60s," Tavares relates, "He was a little nervous to use an app and an iPad. But he quickly got the hang of it, and he loves it. Now, with some of our new inspectors, it takes them 5 whole minutes to get it."
Tavares knew that if her guys in the field didn't want to use it then she would be better off buying the app and throwing it away immediately for all the good it was going to do anyone. But, because she knew what her inspectors would like and would actually use, she's saving everyone massive headaches and hours of time. "I used to email back and forth with the contractors, or we would even have a physical spreadsheet, both the contractor and the inspector would sign it, we would scan and sign it, and then that would be our backup," Tavares says, speaking of her old system, "Now I don't have to go and chase anybody at the end of the month because we take care of everything in the field on our Raken daily reports." By implementing construction management technology Tavares is now able to save the contractors, inspectors, and herself stress and confusion. But, the best part is that it takes the inspectors 5 whole minutes to learn how to do it.
We are saving time and money at the end of the day with Raken. It saves the inspectors 1-2 hours a day. They don't have to come back to the office, download the pictures, rename them, and put them in the right file and that saves us about $150 a day. This also gives them more time on actual income producing activities.
— Barbara Tavares, Sr. Construction Manager
We could stop the story there and it would have a happy ending: a senior project manager sees a problem with how her inspectors are reporting from the field, chooses a software to fix the problem, and saves everyone time. While that is certainly a happy ending, it wasn't enough for Tavares. She dug a little deeper and found out just how significant a decision she had made.
We are saving time and money at the end of the day with Raken," Tavares says, and then explains where she sees the improvements. "It saves the inspector 1-2 hours a day. They don't have to come back to the office, download the pictures, rename them, and put them in the right file and that saves us about $150 a day. This also gives them more time on actual income producing activities."
That $150 a day translates to roughly $750 a week, and that means $3,000 per month. Tavares identified the opportunity cost associated with outdated field reporting technology, and how purchasing technology to streamline those workflows saves time and money in the long run. It's forward-thinking in the best possible way.
Freeing Up Time
But that's not the only benefit that she's responsible for, both in terms of resources she's saved RHSI and in the satisfaction of her team. "Wayne is going home earlier. When the contractor is done at 5:00 PM, Wayne's done at 5:00 PM. We have to do our dailies every day, so he used to have to go home and work at it in the evenings." She continues "if he was just scribbling the report on a piece of paper he might have to come in on a rain day and transfer it. So now if there's a rain day he can use that time training or visiting other potential clients. We're a small firm, we don't have the manpower to chase little things. Raken has freed up his time for more professional development. We just hired two new guys, and Raken has given Wayne more opportunities to pass on his knowledge to them and actually be their manager. You see, daily report writing is not an income-generating activity, and Raken frees up his time to do more of those."
Tavares realized that saving her inspectors time by making their daily report and photo management easier wasn't just about getting the reports to the owners on time. It was about streamlining the part of the job that no one likes doing: filling out the reports. With less time spent transferring photos and notes, Wayne has become a better manager and a more valuable asset to the team, spending more of his time in income-generating activities, and who knows how much revenue RHSI has saved or generated as a result of a more efficient process.
Now we could really stop the story and guarantee our happy ending, but we'd be omitting the best part. "Fast forward to now and in 2019 the City’s maintenance program includes about 250 streets, and my firm was chosen to lead the inspection efforts and track costs," Tavares says, explaining, "I'm the depository for all the data. So, I organized a Lunch & Learn at my office, showed 2 other inspection firms how we are saving time and money using Raken (while I fed them) and now they have also elected to use Raken too. The City was getting 3 different dailies from 3 different companies, so I'm streamlining it." If Tavares was saving her firm $150 a day, imagine the money she's saving all those other firms and the City of San Antonio itself.
We couldn't be more proud to be a part of the amazing work that Barbara Tavares is doing with RHSI, and we can't wait to see what she'll do in the future.