If you dispatch workers daily and use a job board with handwritten or manually typed tags, here’s a product that will bring you into the 21st century fast vis-à-vis scheduling and tracking.
LaserDispatch 2.1, (LaserDispatch.com, www.laserdispatch.com, 877/473-2249) is designed to automate daily job dispatching in small- to medium-sized construction companies that still manually prepare daily dispatching data. The system can, according to the company, reduce a two-to-three hour process to 10 to 15 minutes, and provide instant access to much more information, including a wide variety of reports, to boot.
The product uses a laser printer to create bar codes for all items that would typically be on a job board and a bar code laser scanner to get those codes into the databases stored in the computer.
It was developed originally as a PC-based solution. Now, using the familiar Windows Internet Explorer-interface, LaserDispatch has evolved into a mixed-source solution, with some functions software-based and others Web-based from the LaserDispatch hosted Web site.
Once daily dispatches reflecting all job activity are uploaded, dispatchers can view and print reports on the status of all equipment, employees, jobs and materials on file. The product offers remote as well as local monitoring and retrieval of data.
The Current Dispatch lists who and what is on which job. The History Dispatch itemizes who and what were where yesterday or any day previously.
Dispatchers and managers can track all jobs in progress as well as all jobs on hold; follow individual pieces of equipment from job to job; and browse available equipment and employees available to staff and supply other jobs.
Range-of-date reports for all listed equipment, jobs and employees are also available.
In addition to easy access on the office PC, the daily job information is readily available in a SQL database that can be accessed and analyzed using a variety of hand-held devices including pagers, e-mail, IVR voice mail, personal digital assistants and digital cell phones.
The employee database includes employee phone, cell and pager numbers, current job number and location, employee billing rate, employee type (union/non-union, fitter, sheet metal worker, etc.), and whether currently active or inactive.
The equipment database includes complete equipment description, equipment number and bar code and equipment location description, as well as the person assigned to the equipment, its billing rate, and whether it is active, rented, in for repairs or down.
In searching the job database, users can find out which foreman is assigned to each job, view start date, and find out the status of the job: on hold, rained out, needs materials. Users are also able to insert notes throughout a schedule for a foreman or superintendents as well as create permanent notes for dispatch to everyone.
Reporting capabilities also include time cards (all jobs or range).
LaserDispatch 2.1 is the last version to be software-based (with the Internet taking over totally in the next edition). It costs $7,995. One full day’s training is an extra $495. Full database set-up and a day’s training runs $1,995.
Project team hub
JobCostOnline.com (www.jobcostonline.com, 770/431-1300) is a Web-based construction management application service that, among its capabilities, offers each company on a project team the ability to create and track schedules and track labor and materials, equipment and any other resource that is driven by a schedule.
Essentially it’s a community of communication channels set up as a project management system to distribute information for one or several projects.
Scheduling is typically created online. Online calendars reflect team member postings either on a job-by-job basis or as a single calendar showing all dates for the company. Information is updated in real time. Team members may be updated by e-mail that new dates have been set.
A subcontractor, who can schedule crews online himself, can always request more information through an internal messaging system that automatically tracks all messages for historical accountability.
In addition to viewing schedules online, a subcontractor (utilizing the subchannel.com module) would submit invoices online and track additional information about any job using to-do items and punch lists. (The GC can create a punch list once for all subs and send them out to each subcontractor and designate that each sub sees only his items on the punch list.)
A JobCostOnline.com subscription includes access to an online Forms Library stocked with change orders, progress reports, project schedules and other commonly used forms. Users are also able to scan in their own forms or create new ones and store them, along with descriptions, for use by everyone in their company.