Ashfield Building Group are known as experts in property development, but we have now ventured into digital development with the launch of a cloud-based project management system which is already proving to be a game changer in the way we operate.
Ashfield worked with a local software engineer to create a bespoke app which streamlines the communication pipeline between our site management teams and contract managers. User-friendly and responsive on desktops, tablets and mobiles, it provides the ability to link our clients and client consultants to an interactive programme incorporating quality control, HSE and site diary trackers.
The programme maps the progress of the elemental build sections – from walls to plumbing and M&E – throughout the project timeline. The scheme is illustrated and measured by an exportable Gantt chart tracking and scheduling each element with time intervals across the horizontal axis. All entries are evidenced and validated with pictures and notes, posted in real time and instantly viewable on any computer or device.
The software provides a fully integrated and interactive platform shared between contracts manager, site manager and site team, client and client-side consultants. – allowing all stakeholders to view daily progress updates and even site registers and inductions that are uploaded weekly. They have welcomed the opportunity to enjoy instant access and provide timely input at critical junctures. Month-by-month comparisons are entered to analyse progress and the system is invaluable for managing resources between concurrent projects – it enables us to examine time allocation required for future works determined by existing data and projections based on that data.
The system facilitates accurate calculation of pricing and rates, measurements and bill of quantities throughout the chronology of each development. It improves the reliability of assessments for the three key requirements in property development: price, quality and time. Based on progress reviews and analysis of current projects, we are able to apply rigorous, evidence-based evaluations when submitting tenders for prospective work. Unforeseen delays to projects are also recorded within the programme and this data is factored into tender estimations where relevant.
The programme also allows Ashfield to demonstrate other specific performance indicators during and after a project. For example, a number of local authority and public sector clients stipulate local employment in their procurement process. Our system logs the postcode of each site visitor, so local employment statistics are comprehensively documented.
Commercial industry software is available to serve the same general purpose as Ashfield’s cloud-based system, but the products currently on the market are primarily designed for corporations – as well as being prohibitively expensive, they are somewhat cumbersome in their functionality and lack the flexibility and scalability required for a fast-growing SME like Ashfield. Our bespoke programme is able to evolve and adapt to specific needs. For example, a prospective NHS client as part of a competitive tender required a system to track daily site waste removal whilst working in a live environment, a request we were able to easily complete with the simple creation of an interactive daily waste removal tracker.
As an SME, the operational efficiency of the app enables us to increase our workstream without adding extra layers of management. Its on-the-go functionality, utilising mobiles and tablets on site, has enabled faster decision making as well as making us more alert and responsive to unexpected circumstances. Giving our clients the ability to be involved on an interactive basis has certainly increased their comfort and peace of mind. As with any business relationship, better communication benefits both parties.
The cloud system has transformed the service that Ashfield can offer to our clients, but it’s important to recognise that the technology ultimately relies on human qualities – in other words, none of it would work without our site teams buying into the concept. When it comes to day-to-day site activities, the construction industry has a tendency to be tech-averse, but Ashfield’s site teams have embraced our new system. We have different generations working on site, but all have been fully committed to maintaining the process and as a result, they have seen how it can benefit their work. There is no doubt that, as Ashfield continue to grow, technology will play a vital role in driving our expansion.