The fundamentals of construction timesheets

At Envision, our clients are seeing significant dividends from digitising their construction timesheets. The more we talk with a range of project and business stakeholders across the construction industry, the more we’re seeing this as a huge area of improvement potential. Some of the people who influence decisions around technology adoption may not have frontline experience, so we’ve put together this summary of the fundamentals of construction timesheets to help build a baseline of understanding.

Fundamental one: time clocks and attendance records aren’t timesheets

Time clocks and attendance records perform functions like recording when specific people arrive at and leave a site. Depending on the process used, they might record who is on site at all times (ie entry/exit rather than solely clock on/off records). Start and end times generated also may not be the same as a person’s start and end time for payroll (eg you might arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled start from which you will be paid). Timesheets, in contrast, record the quantum of work performed against a specific job/costed activity. They are normally used to drive payroll, as well as job costing and performance reports. Both have distinct roles and, when they are both in use, cross-referencing them is a powerful way to identify errors such as missing timesheets and incorrectly recorded timesheets, and verify actions such as payroll and subcontract payments.

Fundamental two: contract types and delivery models influence need

The approach to capturing time from a contractor’s perspective depends on the contract type and delivery model. Timesheets are generally required for staff, direct workforces, labour hire, and hire plant and labour on day dockets. As an example, if a project’s delivery model is largely subcontract lump sum and schedule of rates, the need for timesheets will likely be basic. However, this may change if a project presents considerable risk exposure to the contractor or client if schedule completion milestones are missed, like on large oil and gas and mining projects where the cost of missed production is high. It’s critical to match timesheet processes, and the level of detail captured, to each project’s contract type and delivery model.

Fundamental three: many stakeholders use timesheet data

After a little digging, it’s amazing to see just how many stakeholders are involved in the timesheeting process and/or who typically uses timesheet data. Some of these include:

  • Individual workers – they need a record for payment and a fast, simple process.
  • Subcontractors – they need a record of their workers’ time to pay them and submit end-of-month progress claims, and need easy access and reliable records to ensure payment.
  • Supervisors – they need to check and approve hours worked, ensure costs are allocated to the right activities, get feedback on their team’s performance, maximise their field time to keep their project on track, ensure their people get paid and avoid IR issues…and the timesheet process needs to be fast and simple.
  • Engineers – they approve the allocation of costs to the right activities, monitor performance across their scope and forecast job costs based on past performance and forward projections.
  • Project managers – they monitor scope performance, ask questions on exceptions and guide corrective actions to keep their project on track.
  • Payroll – they track leave, and pay staff and workforce their entitlements and allowances.
  • Contracts administrators – they verify subcontractor progress claims, approve appropriate payments and determine accrued costs that haven’t yet hit the finance system.
  • CFO – they need accountability and certainty around who is getting paid what, and they need an appropriate audit trail to drive verification and responsibility.
  • HSE – they track safety exposure hours worked and safety performance statistics.
  • Commercial – they require quantified and verified records to substantiate claims for variations and extensions of time.
  • Project controls – they require quantified records for performance reporting.
  • Estimators – they require quantified records of time required to perform various activities for comparison against estimating norms to improve competitive estimating on future jobs.

With these fundamentals in mind, manual processes present major risks to projects and leak a significant amount of value (either lost time to perform value-adding tasks or avoidable costs etc). Here is the core difference between typical manual processes and digital processes.

A typical manual process

A typical digital process

In reality, while the digital process sounds simple, the devil is in the detail. Paper seems very forgiving, with minimal validation rules and a human to interpret records. It is also infinitely flexible as it can be routed through different hands to record and extract data. And it seems easy and fast in the first instance. Successful adoption of a digital process requires solid upfront thinking and a simple, intuitive solution that is fast for all stakeholders to use. Then it can remove the need for duplicate timesheet records held in disconnected systems by those diverse stakeholders. We’ll share more on considerations for selecting digital construction timesheet solutions soon.

If you’ve moved from manual, paper-based timesheets to digital ones, we’d love to hear about your experiences. If you’re intrigued, we suggest you map your own process as you might be surprised at the admin waste and data delay waste for all of those stakeholders involved. And please get in touch if you’d like to know more about our offer in digital construction timesheets.

Is the construction foreman’s paper diary dead?

Based on projects I’ve been involved with, I’d say the answer to whether the construction foreman’s paper diary is dead, is a resounding…no.

While we’re seeing a growing trend in the desire for electronic diaries and digital workflows, the default is still typically a paper-based system – unless a project’s leaders drive digital. Research conducted by McKinsey suggests the construction industry is second lowest only to agriculture and hunting when it comes to digital uptake.

What’s the purpose of the foreman’s diary?

In Australia alone, the value of avoidable waste from disputes in the construction industry tops $7 billion (see this CRCCI study). That’s an insane figure considering the massive push for efficiencies. One of the keys to avoiding disputes is early notification of issues that may lead to time and cost impacts (see this analysis).

Here enters the foreman’s diary. It’s a key source of what’s happening at the workface and a powerful communication tool for raising issues with project leaders via engineers and project managers who read these records daily.

The foreman’s diary is also a critical tool in the unfortunate circumstance a claim moves into a dispute. That’s because it’s a record of what has happened from the perspective of the client, contractor and subcontractor – recording key facts such as resources on site for the day, work performed, performance observations, key issues and delays, directions given, weather etc. These records support a court assessment regarding the amount that should be paid by one party to another for work delivered.

Why transition to digital?

1. Faster communication and easier search capability

Digital records are available and searchable as soon as they are created. Rather than wait to the end of a day, or the next shift, for a manual, paper report, everything from Events to photos to progress updates are available immediately. This improves communication between a team, enabling earlier identification of issues and faster mitigation…reducing time and cost impacts.

While digital records add immense value during the delivery of a project, if a dispute arises, they also support significant savings by avoiding the need for claims consultants to go through paper records and convert them to digital records. The records are captured as the work is done, meaning they are ready and available from the outset as an as-built record of the project.

2. Better recording consistency with earlier identification of missing records

With paper diaries, missing or poor quality records are not identified until they are actually required, which can be as late as a dispute situation. This is generally because those records are filed in a site office but not used by anyone downstream. This means they’re not that visible to a project team.

A digital foreman’s diary is easily built into the daily and weekly communication processes of a project and is highly visible to everyone, particularly project leaders. Just one benefit is that missing and poor quality record keeping are very quickly picked up.

3. Richer records

Paper diaries typically don’t include photos and GPS-tracked, time-stamped records. It’s true that a picture tells a thousand words. With today’s technology, including smart phones, there is no reason why diaries shouldn’t be supported by rich photos that are tagged to issues, Events, Activities, the work breakdown structure, team commentaries, GIS information and more.

Digital solutions

There are many digital solutions available in the market, from apps as simple as Evernote to specialised construction diary applications.

Naturally, I’m most familiar with Envision’s diary solution. We’ve developed and deployed this across major infrastructure and resources projects. Through this, I’ve seen the content of digital diaries being actively used during delivery – and by many more stakeholders than traditionally possible with paper diaries…in ways you would have never considered. Digital diaries are supporting the daily workflow of:

  • Project engineers
  • Superintendents
  • Construction managers
  • Project managers
  • Commercial managers
  • Contract administrators
  • Planners

To find out more about how Envision can help your site record keeping, check out this video:

2014 Lean Construction Conference

Ennova partnered with industry leading construction companies to present productivity findings from recent projects at the annual Lean Construction Conference. Ennova showcased results from the recent QCLNG project that demonstrated significant reductions in schedule (timescale) and cost, and an overall improvement of around 30% in labour productivity.

The results were discussed at two sessions:

1. Information Is Power – Eliminating Waste at the Work Facelci-2014-talk
  • Robert Turner – Group Manager, Controls and Planning, Leighton Contractors
  • Hugh Hofmeister – Head of Projects, Ennova

 

 

 

 

lci-2014-workshop2. Workshop: Serious Productivity Gains with Evidence-Based Results
  • Robert Turner – Group Manager, Controls and Planning, Leighton Contractors
  • Hugh Hofmeister – Head of Projects, Ennova;
  • Grant Puttergill – Project Controls Manager, QGC
  • Mark Leader – Project Cost Manager, QGC
  • Chris Barber – Project Services Manager, QGC
Note: The content for these sessions is available through the LCI Australia website or can be downloaded by clicking on the images shown here.

Envision at Tech23

Tech23 celebrates innovation through an exciting collision of great minds, great ideas, and great purpose. Tech23 is dedicated to offering entrepreneurs opportunities.

Ennova presented Envision at the 2013 Tech23 conference. We were fortunate to be recognised with awards from Amazon and Cloudstaff. The video below features Adrian Smith, Director and Head of Technology, giving our 5 minute pitch.

Kanban for Work Package Management

Envision provides a Kanban style planning board for Work Package management. The principles of Lean Construction and WorkFace Planning have been fundamental in the development of Envision.

We’ve written a white paper discussing the application of Kanban to management of Construction Work Packages. Download the white paper.