Successful utility contractors know how much they made yesterday

Utility contractors’ challenges can be easily summed up in two sentences: they operate on a tremendously competitive market and their margins have been all but decimated in recent years. 

Utility Contractors’ challenges in an evolving landscape

With tighter margins and in an increasingly competitive market, each percentage point counts and it becomes vital to ensure each detail is carefully recorded and shared. While actual field data capture needs may vary from project to project, that capture will become of primary importance in successful contract management.  

In addition, contractors in utility engineering are required not only to deliver work on time and on the terms agreed, but must also be able to provide proof of said work, or risking not being paid for it.  So how can this be achieved?

Utility engineering in the age of digital transformation

There are countless factors that may derail a project:

  • Weather
  • Staff absence
  • Poor project details
  • Traffic
  • Equipment breakdowns

These in turn negatively impact across several elements of each contract:

  • Time
  • Parts
  • Gear
  • Staff
  • Money

Businesses need to fail fast, fail forwards and make it cost efficient to do so. This means creating agile digital strategies and indeed business plans that can be easily and quickly adapted if a project is not progressing as expected. * The Digital Transformation PACT, Fujitsu

Managers must be able to identify and tackle issues as soon as these arise, not days or weeks afterwards. This is what is means to fail fast, forwards and in a cost-efficient manner, to make any needed readjustments. Ultimately and regardless of contract minutiae, it becomes about knowing how much they made the day before: this is the metric that pervades all contracts, whether they are about water mains rehabilitation or laying fibre. 

The intricacies of utility contract management

In the world of utility contract management, contracts are by and large based on a fixed price for a specific activity, but the realities of accomplishing the work within those rules are tricky (see previous section for all the factors that may derail a project). The difficulty here lies both on retrieving actionable data from the field and on acting upon it according to the project’s KPIs. The touch questions to ask here are:

  • Has the project been profitable so far (i.e., what is the net profit)?
  • Have all costs, including ‘hidden costs’, been properly accounted for?
  • Have you separated the items you can charge on from those that need to be resolved internally?
  • Have you found and replaced the faulty process or damaged piece of plant?

So how do you know how much you made yesterday?  You have to measure everything: time, gear used, travel time spent, so on and so forth. Then you convert this information into business intelligence and benchmark it against your KPIs, including costs. This exercise is usually carried out days or weeks after data from the field has been retrieved, when in fact data should be reviewed on a daily basis.

Software for successful utility contract management

After making data-based decisions from field insights, the utility contractor has yet another challenge to tackle: how to provide evidence of work delivered. This second challenge demands of contractors that they can provide evidence of any delays, disruptions and changes to the project (either through pictures, photos or other field data). Once evidence has been properly compiled, it can be presented to the client if need be to demonstrate the reason for a job cost increase.

Technology and, more specifically, mobile software, has a role to play in this regard. With the right agile project management configuration, software can be made to suit the exact needs of each project, laying the ground for any field data capture.

All costs, both direct and indirect, need to be captured within the same framework and are usually grouped by Project ID or WO number.  Non-Attendance time and Non-productive time costs can be categorised to this level regardless of whether they are passed on or not; the important thing to retain is that if they can be proven, they may be passed on, and the contractor can likely get paid for it.

Using GeoPal for effective utility contracting management

Using GeoPal’s mobile workforce management solution, utility contractors are effectively leveraging our experience and expertise to achieve the best possible results. You can get data live from the field as the project unfolds and you can process the information within the web system before viewing it in our BI tools or your own. 

Conclusion

So now a project running over is something you can fix while its live not a month later, you can see how many metres, tons or units got done yesterday and how much it cost to do so.  Then you'll know how much you made yesterday like Actavo, TLI and Coffey group to name a few. Eager to get started? Get in touch and see the difference on your next project.

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