How Mobile Timekeeping Unlocks Field Productivity

Stephanie Patterson, Rhumbix InsiderSeptember 03, 2021 • 5 min read

When Rhumbix first started looking into the construction productivity problem, it became clear very quickly that timekeeping data was foundational to understanding labor productivity. Recently Guy Skillett, our Director of Construction Innovation, unpacked this topic on CONEXPO-CON/AGG Radio with host Peggy Smedley.

In this 15-minute interview, Guy touches on some of the original inspiration for the Rhumbix platform, why we chose timekeeping as our key measure for productivity and the other factors that play into successful adoption of field technology. What follows is a quick summary.

Telematics as Inspiration for Rhumbix

Simply put, telematics is the use of wireless technology, like sensors, to monitor real-time information from the job site, which is then transmitted to the home office for analysis.

When we first started thinking about how we might use technology to improve labor productivity, we really took note of the gains construction crews were already experiencing from material and equipment telematics.

Today, there are jobsites with thousands of sensors that help crews understand and monitor their fleet. They track everything from location to idle time to how quickly the brake pad is wearing down, and they save time by eliminating things like routine inventory counts.

We saw how this new technology was improving the management of materials and equipment and started asking, how we could take that technology further by creating something that would give us greater insight into the actions of construction crews.

Why Timekeeping

When we started applying the insights from telematics to building a core product, the data set that made the most sense to start with was timekeeping for a variety of reasons.

Labor productivity in its simplest form is about how many hours you earn versus how many hours you spent. In other words, how many hours you budgeted for a particular task, and how many hours it actually took.

Now, of course, there are a lot of factors that can impact this, including conditions on the jobsite, availability and location of materials, and so forth. But tracking worker hours is the baseline from which you build this understanding.

So we made timekeeping our primary data set, and built a mobile app that foremen use to enter worker hours. With worker hours as the baseline, foremen can also enter additional data including cost codes, quantities, and jobsite conditions like weather and delays. We like to call it the last mile in field data collection.

By digitizing timekeeping data, construction crews are able to understand labor productivity at a more immediate and granular level. And it comes with the added benefit of eliminating the paperwork burden on foremen, which also boosts productivity by keeping them in the field longer.

Using our app, we’ve seen foremen go from 4+ hours of paperwork every Friday, to less than 5 minutes per day.

From One Week to One Day

Daily data input is something we really try to advocate for in the field. Without real-time data, you’re never really able to fix the issues today that will help you be successful tomorrow.

Construction firms today are typically producing productivity reports every week- to week-and-a-half. But with that lagging perspective, you’re only able to examine underlying conditions that drove productivity IN THE PAST; you’re not asking questions about how to improve conditions on the jobsite in the immediate FUTURE. You’re making decisions based on conditions that happened 5-10 days ago, not what they are NOW.

We want to change that. And the key is collecting the data and sharing it in real-time with the most relevant parties.

So our mobile app gathers the data from the field, and then our platform makes the productivity calculations necessary to produce the metrics and KPI’s to proactively monitor productivity. And all of this is happening on dashboards hosted in a cloud-based environment so anybody that needs access to the data can get it, including payroll, operators, and foremen.

The foremen piece is really important to us.

A closed loop system is the key to really seeing the data. And insights generated by our dashboard make a difference in the field. Most field data today doesn’t make it back to the foremen level. They are responsible for input but they don’t get any of the output.

We ultimately set out to build a tool that goes in the hands of foremen because they are the people who understand better than anybody the conditions of the jobsite, and what can be done to deliver greater success.

Cultivating an Environment that Supports New Tools

When it comes to successful adoption of field technology, we’ve found that it’s not just about giving foremen a tool but also setting in place the conditions that encourage foremen and the people in the field to report issues.

The ideal conditions for successful adoption are a combination of tools, processes, and culture.

Rhumbix delivers the right tool with a super-simple interface that makes the transition from paper to digital easy, and a dashboard that gives project stakeholders the ability to synthesize and extract productivity insights.

We also support our clients in advocating for the process and culture changes that play a role in successful adoption, like transitioning from weekly to daily time input, and sharing data back with the field.

Most new technology requires a behavior changes to get the most value out of using it. We try and make that behavior change as easy as possible for crews using our tool.

About CONEXPO-CON/AGG Radio: A new radio show voice for construction equipment technology, CONEXPO-CON/AGG Radio explores the future of construction technology through the eyes of the market. CONEXPO-CON/AGG Radio is brought to you by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers and hosted by Peggy Smedley. Listen live every Tuesday at 10 am Central.