When it comes to complex industries, the construction field is one of the main examples there is. If you ever worked on a construction site you probably know it can be complete chaos: workers are busy running around to assemble structures, managers are screaming loudly to be heard, materials and equipment are being moved all over the place, it’s not only hard to operate, but to coordinate operations as well. This turbulent environment can doom a company to fail if they don’t take one thing seriously: organization. And one of the ways to do that is by implementing time tracking in construction project management to simplify processes, put team performance in order and increase employee accountability.
A study conducted by Cornerstone Projects Ltd. with 170 British construction companies revealed that 85.2% of them had experienced schedule overruns around 2017. And here’s another impressive fact: a Harvard Business Review survey on filling timesheets showed that the U.S. economy wastes $7.4 billion a day in productivity simply because of workers who don’t record their hours.
And what exactly does time tracking mean?
Time tracking within project management allows your team members to add time entries to tasks and projects easily. This helps managers to assess the accuracy of work estimates, the effectiveness of their employees, the team members’ workload, and view and save time reports for clients or stakeholders. It also helps with budgeting, invoicing, or just a simple analysis of performance. You can say that it is essential for professional services providers, companies that have hourly employees, or work with outsourced collaborators or subcontractors, especially when those businesses use cost-plus pricing.
But, it’s important to point out that not all methods of time tracking are fully effective, practical, or even good for businesses. Some construction companies still use old-school Excel sheets to handle payroll, invoice calculations, and worksite budgeting, which can be ineffective, time-consuming, and inaccurate. This method can jeopardize a company’s ability to save time while also causing clutter and confusion in the long run.
What are the benefits of time tracking in construction project management?
Keeping track of performance
A smart way of measuring resources needed is analyzing time spent because once you assign contractors a certain amount of hours to each job, you are able to receive notifications when that time is nearly used up or how much of it they used. This helps you see who’s showing progress or failing to achieve performance targets as planned. It can also show whether a department needs more workforce and who brings the most value to the team. This is crucial information for the team and the organization as a whole. You can also observe team productivity and detect behavior inefficiencies that can show you if something needs to be changed in order to bring everybody to the same level. For example, as a manager, you might notice that you need to redistribute or share responsibility and workload among workers.
Keeping track of different formats of work hours
The perfect project management software can show you the number of hours worked in a variety of ways, including by task, by project, and by employees. Here are some examples of the types of work hours that can be time-tracked:
- Overtime, night work, and weekend work;
- Work time per task, per site or per phase;
- Authorized leave, unplanned absence, etc;
- The distance traveled to site location;
- Temporary workers and subcontractors work hours;
You can also use the information gathered to allocate clocked-in hours to specific tasks, for example, laying foundations, doing ceiling work, or making urgent repairs. Pretty useful, right? And there’s more: time tracking data is key to developing accurate time estimates for similar projects when new bidding comes up in the picture.
Reports made easy
Traditionally, time tracking applications can create two types of reports: Timesheets and Time Report. With timesheets, individual employees are able to do a quick overview of the tasks they worked on during a certain period and the time they spent on each of them. On the other hand, Time Report helps managers and other stakeholders review the whole progress and activity. For instance, if the construction project manager needed to provide the client with a report of how much time was spent working on their project last month, Time Report would the perfect feature to gather this information.
Receiving reports is also important because it helps managers discover bottlenecks and inefficient processes within their projects by monitoring how long tasks take and comparing those results to budgets, industry standards, and progress on similar projects.
Budgeting and costs management
You might think that these two concepts are independent of time tracking, but they’re actually strictly connected. How about an example? In construction, there are two main aspects considered when bidding on jobs: Time (related to the amount of labor required) and materials. Let’s say your company bid 100 hours to perform a task for a project, but it ended up taking 80 hours of work. Since you weren’t monitoring the time, you’re only able to estimate with no accuracy, but that precise information would be valuable for future bidding. Even better is catching time overruns while the project is still in progress. This allows you to get things back on track and try to maintain your profit forecast.
Another example? When your employees fill in their timesheets registering time on projects and tasks you won’t have any difficulty calculating how much of the project’s budget has already been consumed, you will only need to check if the rate cards and hourly costs were set appropriately. Not only that, but with hours logged accurately for the different types of jobs your members execute, you’ll quickly gather a picture of how long a job actually takes, so you can adjust your quotes accordingly.
In addition, to ensure that your project runs smoothly, efficiently, and profitably, you can set different alerts (in hours) to monitor the project budget’s progress. When a budget threshold is met, an alert is triggered and an email is sent to the person of your choice.
Some other financial aspects that time tracking helps to visualize when it comes to construction project management are labor and production costs, billable time calculation and competitive bidding, a priced summary of the work to be undertaken, the materials to be supplied or the services to be provided. Have you been underbilling clients for the time it takes to do a job? With the use of accurate time tracking software, you won’t have to worry about this again.
Simplify administrative tasks
As we’ve mentioned before, several companies used to analyze their time-related data using spreadsheets, and not only this method can be complicated, but the outcome can also be incorrect. Time tracking done right provides reliable information for your business. The collection of hours as close as possible to the reality of the construction site and the automation of their processing ensure the reliability of the data collected. This contributes to optimizing time management, automating HR processes, and executing more efficient payroll processing. Speaking of human resources, some of the benefits of time tracking include:
- Accurate, up-to-date, and detailed information on workers’ worked hours;
- Data directly integrated into their HR software;
- Quicker perception of anomalies;
- A centralized view of all available information;
- Improvement in leaves and holidays management.
And the benefits are not just for your company, your workers will also notice the improvement because time tracking will help them significantly save time when entering information, deal with a less administrative burden, stop collecting and searching for missing information at the end of the week, and gaining in productivity in the field.
Bonus: if you choose time tracking software you’re reducing paperwork
Since employees enter time directly into the system, you don’t have hard-to-read paperwork or any duplicate data to deal with. Time will be captured with practicality and accuracy no matter what entry method is chosen. This means less work for managers and less time spent tracking downtime information from employees.
And if you’re using timesheets to generate paychecks, invoices, or reports, you’ll almost certainly need an approval system. A good time tracking software should allow you to easily review, approve or reject your employees’ hours worked.
Managing a construction business is a challenging job, but time tracking makes it possible to monitor progress without micromanaging. Implementing this approach can make the life of a construction manager much easier by fostering an in-depth analysis of employees’ performance, discovering bottlenecks and inefficient processes by tracking how long tasks take, discovering pressing issues about the personnel and resources involved in completing a project. And, although project managers can easily find plenty of construction time tracking tools that just focus on the time portion, they’re definitely better with a complete project management system such as Nutcache where timesheets and reports can be used in conjunction with budgeting, team and expense management, invoicing and job scheduling features to give complete visibility across the entire process.
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