Managing workers

Handheld and onboard GPS systems, integrated with operations and back-office functions, are enabling Joe Christenson to improve productivity and reduce costs

Joe Christenson started his business in 1984. Today he is the owner and president of two companies, Remodel Works Bath & Kitchen and Plumbing Plus. From the very beginning, he relied on technology to give his business a competitive advantage and that is even more important in today's tough economic climate. According to Christenson, handheld and onboard GPS systems, integrated with operations and back-office functions, are enabling him to improve productivity and reduce costs.

“On the remodel side of our business, we use Xora GPS Time Track for Workers, which runs on GPS-enabled Nextel/Sprint cellphones,” Christenson says. “Remodel technicians are paid by the hour so when a worker gets to a job site, he or she enters a personal password on the cellphone and then the job code; we have 20-some different job codes. Every time they begin a new task, they enter that code. The system keeps track of the time on each task. We use the in-vehicle Networkfleet GPS system from Networkcar to cross-check that workers are at the right job site, as well as to monitor things like unauthorized vehicle use and manage maintenance.

“Now we've written software to integrate the Xora time-card system with job budgeting, scheduling and payroll. We can use the same data to cost jobs, drive payroll and also calculate state worker's compensation rates, which vary in California by type of work.” he adds. “It is great. Now I can manage by exception. If we are over-budget on a job, I can see the next day exactly what took more time than expected. Last month, we did 19 jobs that represented over $300,000 worth of work and we came in within 1% of budget — usually under.

“Our workers used to come to the office from the job site with their time cards every payday. At about $40 per hour per person, that was costing me about $800 per payday in lost work-time,” Christenson continues. “Now the data automatically flows from the Xora system to accounting. It used to take three people six to eight hours to do payroll every two weeks, now it takes one person less than an hour.”

Christenson is not finished wringing value out of his integrated GPS systems, either. “We are working on an automated scheduling system now,” he says. “It will take all our same job/cost code data and then look at the technicians we have available and assign them a ‘base rate.’ That is, the system will be able to tell us which technicians are best at the jobs scheduled. Some may take a little more time to do something, for instance. Since all our people go right from home to the job, the system will also look at zip codes and see who is closest to a job site to save fuel and driving time.”

A self-confessed “software junkie,” Christenson says he believes in using the data from his GPS systems to do much more than just see where his people and vehicles are at any given time. “Some of my competitors think that if you have good volume, then you are making money. Nothing could be farther from the truth,” he says.

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