Software engineering

BASE Earthworks + Sturm

“We've doubled our revenue, we're delivering more jobs on time and our our supervisors couldn't be happier. I can't speak highly enough; Sturm have done a great job. They're quick, they respond and they get things done.”

— Dominic Crawley, Director

BASE Earthworks

BASE Earthworks service high-volume residential building companies such as Burbank, Highmark, Hermitage, Langdon and Simmons. For each new home they excavate and pour concrete piers, prepare the rock base, install pods, install steel reinforcing and finally pour the concrete slab. They coordinate tight timelines, suppliers, machinery, teams of workers and stringent independent building inspections at each stage.

“We've got 110 building company supervisors we deal with on a daily basis,” explained Dominic Crawley, Director at BASE Earthworks. “They're all about cash flow — hitting staged payment milestones for their customers. They want to be able to sit in a meeting on a Wednesday and say, ‘We're going to hit this date.’ The supervisors are always stressed and overworked; they have a massive turnover of staff. So while concrete is the product we put in the ground, the real service we provide is to make the building supervisors' jobs easier.”

Completed base prior to pods and steel installation

Triple-doing absolutely everything

“9 months ago we were completing 20 jobs a month, 100 invoices a day and growing," Crawley describes. "We were successful and in demand, but the business was wasteful; a lot of time, money and good-will being lost. We never quite trusted the spreadsheet, so we were triple-doing absolutely everything and sometimes even more. Because we're a remote business with people on site, if I was in Melbourne and needed to know what was happening in the office, I'd have to ring and hope someone was in the office to answer it because they had to be in front of the spreadsheet. We were emailing information around, but our business can change within minutes. We could have a steel inspection fail that changes everything: the concreters, the concrete, the concrete pump. Within 5 minutes that all has to be cancelled. We may be on our way to a final inspection that's all been cancelled; the spreadsheet may have been emailed, but we haven't checked our emails.”

“Construction is all about communication and we weren't keeping our clients in the loop. Our building supervisors would drive by a site at 6am and call us up to say, ‘You're not here?’ They knew about our issues before we knew about them, which made us look unprofessional and inefficient.”

“We'd turn up to a job with a team of workers and millions of dollars of machinery to discover that the site wasn't ready; the plumbers hadn't completed the drains. Not our fault, but again, waste that could be prevented.”

Completed installation of pods and steel

I was sitting on the phone of a night-time for 3 hours just hoping to get through to people to let them know we're pouring or setting up or doing a base; all the issues we had for the day.

— Dominic Crawley, Director

Jobs overview highlighting incomplete stages, days overdue and defects

To help BASE Earthworks reduce waste and improve communications, Sturm Software Engineering built a job-tracking and scheduling system to:

1. Provide a single trusted source of job information

Sturm designed a shared online jobs system to replace the existing spreadsheet. This provides all staff with access to the latest information about each job, allowing them to collaborate effectively and work confidently. Phone calls and emails are significantly reduced..

The at-a-glance overview gives a clear picture of the state of various jobs and highlights those that are behind schedule or have defects. The weekly schedule details the workload for each day, allowing people and machinery to be allocated more efficiently and eliminating the need to transcribe into a separate calendaring tool.

“Now it's all live, in real-time. As an inspection report comes in, it's updated in the system and we see the results immediately. I see that Xavier's just updated something on that job; I'll open it to find out what it is. See we're now getting to the supervisors with problems before they're getting to us.”

“It's funny now; the boys sit up here in the office saying, ‘We've got to get it all green by the end of the day.’ I hear them in the office back there ‘yeah!’ — everything has just gone green. People are very visual. And it makes it easy for me; I just look at it and see ‘ah good, they've got everything done today.’”

The bookings and signoffs for each job ensure nothing is missed

2. Increase rigour in bookings, checks and signoffs

Most importantly, the new system ensures that all the necessary steps are completed for each stage of every job. This includes booking of sub-contractors, materials, equipment and building inspections. The system also tracks the outcome of the inspections, ensuring that they don't get missed and allowing ongoing improvement. This avoids costly and unprofessional mistakes, which at best erode trust and at worst can require a whole slab to be ripped up and redone.

The system also captures significantly more detail about the communications with suppliers and contractors. These detailed records help the job run more smoothly and allow BASE Earthworks to pass on, rather than absorb, the cost of rectifications where the contractor did not complete the job as specified.

Automatic SMS notifications are sent to supervisors

3. Automate notifications to building supervisors

Upon accepting a new job the system automatically confirms with the building supervisor by SMS. The system also notifies the supervisor the day before each stage and after completion. This keeps the supervisor informed, reducing unnecessary phone calls. It also places the onus back on the supervisor to ensure the site is ready; reducing the chance of delays and allowing BASE Earthworks to confidently charge back to the building company in the case that delays do occur.

“Our supervisors now get an SMS message to say that we'll be on-site the following day. That's all about them not having to go out to our sites which saves them a lot of time. It's all about communication and the trust we've built with them. Compared to Joe Blow concreter down the road who says he's going to be there Wednesday; he might turn up Thursday or Friday or push it to next week; on a daily basis. So they can turn around to us and give us volume without having to worry about finding themselves 10 different concreters; dealing with 10 different personalities; 10 different issues; 10 different invoices. With BASE Earthworks, it all just comes through us and we take care of it.”

Defects are tracked to reduce costs and minimise delays
The number of jobs per month has more than doubled

4. Track and visualise the key performance metrics

Sturm worked with BASE Earthworks to identify the key figures that describe the overall performance of the business and customer satisfaction. These are:

Simply by capturing and making this information visible, BASE Earthworks can spot problems, minimise defects, and ensure they are continuously improving.

“If we can walk into a meeting and point to figures that show we're delivering 90% of jobs on time, they will choose us every time," said Crawley.

“From a building company perspective, construction is on a downturn, but we're becoming more popular and picking up work simply because they can use our services as a stage 1 manager. That means they have to put fewer supervisors on, so instead of spending $180k on overheads plus a car, they can use our service because of what we provide in the way of communication and evidence. To have the ability to eliminate a staff member and reduce the workload of the others is very, very attractive. But then the challenge from my end is to consistently deliver that level of communication and evidence. This system allows us to do that.”

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