A UK building firm unlocks new efficiencies by using FlowForma Process Automation to digitalize a wide range of construction site processes
The Pain Points:
The Next Steps:
Surplus Materials process is in progress that could save the firm hundreds of thousands of pounds.
A construction company operating in the southeast of England, Coinford has 120 office-based staff and a further 900 working in around 30 sites across the region. The firm has a hard-earned reputation for experience and professionalism, displaying excellence in every part of the construction process, from bulk excavation to building concrete frame superstructures.
Like a lot of construction companies, there was a disconnect between work carried out on site and back-office functions, a gap between physical and digital processes that was causing bottlenecks. The company wanted them to be standardized and transparent, with up-to-date information that could be seen in dashboards rather than tracked down painstakingly through emails and phone calls.
Archiving and storing site related documents was difficult; retrieving them for audit purposes time-consuming, particularly when paperwork went missing. The company had identified the solution, as Suzy Pinsent, Project Manager, explained; “We started getting a lot of boxes and it was becoming a problem, so we started digitalizing everything. The next step was to digitalize at source.”
After a three-day training course, Suzy Pinsent was confidently working with FlowForma Process Automation, kickstarting the development of processes that digitally connected construction sites to the back office. To date, 25 processes have been digitalized, with health and safety an early beneficiary.
Before, pictures were taken with a digital camera and shared over email to provide a visual checklist of completed tasks. Today, using the camera on a tablet with 5G providing the connectivity, FlowForma Process Automation enables images to be captured and immediately logged in designated files in SharePoint. “Tablets allow engineers, project managers and site managers to walk the site and use FlowForma Process Automation forms on the move, not just in cabins,” explained Shaun O’Donnell, IT Director.
Around 10 QA (Quality Assurance) tasks have all also been moved to FlowForma Process Automation. One process specifically, Ground Bearing Slab Inspections, is fundamental to every new build before concrete is poured onto foundations. Engineers and site managers are notified of an inspection through FlowForma Process Automation and prompted to complete a checklist. When every box has been ticked, a preparation stage report will be sent to the client for sign-off, which will sanction the pouring of concrete.
Defect Management is another QA form, used for reporting mistakes in the build process. FlowForma Process Automation has turned endless emails between the person managing defects and the contract manager into a seven-step process, where the site manager has several options, all carried out through the software tool. Notifications are sent back and forth between Coinford staff and the external client, so each can fulfil their part of the process. No more paper or email trails.
Another pain point for Coinford – and the construction industry as a whole – is compliance. FlowForma Process Automation provides an auditable digital record to help meet increasing regulatory demands, like the Building Safety Act 2022. The legislation calls for a digital audit trail of safety information across the entire construction lifecycle, something that FlowForma Process Automation enables for all stakeholders, simply and cost effectively.
Just 18 months into using FlowForma Process Automation, Coinford is seeing significant benefits, according to Shaun O’Donnell, primarily around time saving. Site managers and project managers estimate that having access to the tool on tablets as they move around sites has saved them between an hour and two hours per day (approximately 15% - 20% of their time).
Suzy Pinsent has also seen efficiency gains, estimating that both the Defect Management process and Slab Inspections have cut administration time in half. Better reporting is another big win, with the data collected from FlowForma Process Automation stored in SharePoint for easy access by different departments. “Nobody has to file anything anymore; they don’t have to print anything to a PDF. They know where everything is going to be,” she said.
Shaun O’Donnell is seeing a steady adoption of the tool across the business, with people in different departments seeing the benefit of converting more paper-based processes into digital workflows. Going forward, the plan is to train two more people in FlowForma Process Automation process building, one of them in HR because they see an opportunity to improve the onboarding of new employees.
The firm is also targeting workflows that could offer a bigger return for the business. In the pipeline is a Surplus Materials process that could save the firm hundreds of thousands of pounds, according to Shaun O’Donnell. “Essentially, it’s a way for different sites to put surplus material on a list that other sites can draw from, rather than them buying something that the company already owns,” he explained.
Overall, he sees FlowForma Process Automation as a great enabler for the business. “It allows our people on sites to complete a form on a tablet device very simply; they click finish and that’s their bit done. It frees them up and gives them a lot more time to get on with what they’re really good at,” he said. “The major impact is not from an IT perspective; it is enabling other departments to be more efficient and have better visibility of what’s going on.”
“Site managers and project managers estimate that having access to FlowForma on tablets as they move around sites has saved them between an hour and two hours per day (approximately 15% - 20% of their time).”