Tracking utilization rates and improving construction resource planning collaboration

Tracking utilization rates and improving construction resource planning collaboration

Todd Reimers is the Co-founder and Chief Business Development Officer of Sabre Commercial out of Austin, Texas. Todd and Sabre have recently been faced with the challenge of driving profitability through the unpredictable market left in the wake of COVID-19. As construction sites open up and remote work becomes the new norm for his team, Todd remains optimistic about navigating the year ahead. Sabre has recently invested in real-time, web-based construction software that allows his team to better forecast project demands and collaborate on resource strategies for bids and estimates.

Sabre Commercial was founded by Matt Lutz and Todd Reimers back in 2008. Their goal was simple – they wanted to build a client-focused commercial construction company that works with local talent and has a reputation for quality, well-managed projects. Having completed over one thousand projects in the twelve short years they’ve been in business, and with 90% of those projects coming from repeat clients, it’s clear they’ve ensured that reputation precedes them. Sabre has been recognized three times by Austin Business Journal and also by the Austin American-Statesman as one of the best places to work in Austin.

Bridgit’s CRO, Sean Erjavec, sat down with Todd for an exclusive Q&A. Below you’ll find our behind-the-scenes look at the interview.

Resource planning before Bridgit Bench

Sean: Can you give us a sense of how you were doing resource planning prior to implementing Bridgit Bench?

Todd: Since 2008, we’ve had an Excel spreadsheet that helped us keep track of our resources. When we started in 2008, it wasn’t that difficult to know which people were on the two projects you had. You could pretty much do that on the back of a napkin. The goal now is to have those people allocated to projects as much as possible and to minimize those intermediate periods where they are not charging their time to a job.

The nice thing Bridgit Bench provides is it’s real-time, it’s shareable, and it’s on the web. A lot of the improvements that Bridgit has made have been huge as well. The dashboard improvements with true utilization rate – we can look months out and see where the holes are. It also allows us to track for vacations and plan to effectively backfill those resources when needed. It’s been a really helpful tool.

Life before & after Bridgit Bench

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Improving collaborative efforts

Sean: There’s quite a few team members that you have provided access to Bridgit Bench across multiple different disciplines. Anywhere from marketing, executives, estimators, PMs. What’s the basis behind the cross-functional team member involvement? Is it an effort to provide greater transparency and using Bridgit Bench for different use cases?

Todd: With estimating, as we’re getting projects – they’re looking at bidding, and it allows them to go into Bridgit Bench and see who’s available in what timeframe. It’s fitting pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle. It’s a great way to say “there is a project that’s coming up, here are the people that are available in that timeframe, and which ones of those personnel are a good fit for that type of work?” The answer may be none, and it may influence you to not bid that project, or the answer may be two of the three people are well-suited for that type of work so we need to go after that. The end game is making sure that all our people have a job to call home and to charge their time to. That’s how we make money.

Sean: My assumption is that the tool is providing better visibility and transparency to allow for better decision-making and really allowing you to push towards goal-delivered projects – not only on time but maybe even quicker.

Todd: Absolutely. The spreadsheet was fine but it required a lot of redundant manual input. We can handle everything that we were doing with the spreadsheet a lot quicker and a lot easier with Bridgit Bench. Usually I go to our meetings on Tuesdays, we pull Bridgit Bench up, we go through project by project, with the project managers and project engineers in the room, and talk about these projects. Where they are, how they’re tracking, if there’s been change orders for time extension. We go through and update anything that needs to be updated on the fly and it’s done by the time you walk out of the meeting. We don’t have to take notes and go back and spend a couple hours updating a spreadsheet.

Tracking project data with Bridgit Bench

Sean: The team at Sabre is using quite a few custom fields around the project itself with different levels of detail, information, and project notes. Part of that might be because you run quite a few projects. What sort of data do you collect on your projects and how does that help you make better decisions?

Todd: Some of what we track is whether or not a project is going to have a third point, which is our “one third of the way through the project review” to confirm that we’ve completed all of our submittals, got our responses, and have all our materials in hand. So we complete that project. We’re tracking what date that’s going to occur, if it has occurred. We’re also looking at what the contract completion date is. All of those pieces of data help us determine if we’re delivering projects on time and on budget, or if we are exceeding that goal, or on the occasion, falling short of that goal and what does that mean? How can we push these projects to completion more rapidly? If a project goes over, it hurts us financially. If we can finish a project ahead of time, it benefits us financially. And so, being able to keep a better handle on those resources and finding out where we are against the metrics that have been established either by the contract from the client or our internal metrics helps us drive to more profitability.

Leveraging the Bridgit Bench Forecasting Dashboard

Sean: How does the Sabre team leverage the real-time views when talking amongst one another?

Todd: The dashboards and the real-time views are where I find a lot of value. Specifically, that true utilization rate, and the ability to shift that timescale over and to see who needs work in November and who needs work in December. That is the most useful because it’s a quick snapshot and lets me know where I need to drill up.

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Resource planning during a global pandemic

Sean: COVID has impacted a lot of clients, and I know you have a number of projects on the go. How have you really used Bridgit Bench in a COVID-19 era over the last number of months?

Todd: Primarily to determine where the holes are that we need to fill in the workloads of our people as they finish jobs and get ready to start jobs. Being able to look out weeks and months ahead helps us plan to go search for the appropriate work, or as we get requests to bid projects that come in, to match us with people and go after them aggressively to match their skillset and their availability. That is invaluable because if I know who’s available, what they can do, I can match it with opportunities, and win opportunities. That’s what keeps us driving forward through these uncertain times.

Sean: Do you have any final thoughts or feedback that you’d like to share?

Todd: I really liked the product and that’s why I took the time to participate because I think there’s a lot of value in it. And I will say, it’s been nice. Bridgit has been very easy to get a hold of, and has been willing to do some things and listen to some of the wants and needs we have, which is refreshing. There’s some groups out there that are not as willing to take the client input and actually put it into play. So, I’ve seen nothing but incremental improvement in your product since we started using it, and it’s been a big help. Great product. Thanks for letting me visit and talk about it with other folks.

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Lauren Lake

Lauren Lake is the COO and co-founder at Bridgit. She holds a degree in Civil Structural Engineering and is well-versed in construction workforce management and resource planning processes. Lauren has been named to the Forbes Manufacturing & Industry 30 Under 30 and Best Of Canada Forbes Under 30 Innovators lists. Lauren has presented at industry events and conferences, including BuiltWorlds, Canadian Construction Association, Procore Groundbreak, and more.

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