Taking the Office to the Field

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Scott Sevon, CGR, CAPS, GMB, a remodeler and custom home builder based in Palatine, Ill., uses his Palm Tungsten W handheld every day. The wireless device allows him to check his e-mail and the Internet from the road, and doubles as a cell phone. A longtime proponent of handheld devices, Sevon spent between $420 and $500 each to buy handhelds for all the employees of Sevvonco Inc.

February 01, 2005

 

 


 

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Two of many handheld options

Scott Sevon, CGR, CAPS, GMB, a remodeler and custom home builder based in Palatine, Ill., uses his Palm Tungsten W handheld every day. The wireless device allows him to check his e-mail and the Internet from the road, and doubles as a cell phone.

A longtime proponent of handheld devices, Sevon spent between $420 and $500 each to buy handhelds for all the employees of Sevvonco Inc. as well. They use the handhelds primarily to access contact information and schedules.

 



Use the drop-down menus on the reports screen, CQM users can get an overview of production status by project (for new home builders), by job, by phase, by subcontractor or by date. The report screen indicates what phase the job is in, the subcontractor or employee working on it, the nature of the defect and the defect's location in the home.

"Setting them up was easy, but the added software and support gets into money," Sevon says.

As a result of using the handhelds, says Sevon, communication throughout the company has improved, primarily because everyone easily can access the most current contact information.

"We did have a great companywide scheduling software with separate and combined screens a few years back," he adds. "Then they got bought out, and we have yet to find another system as easy to use."

His problem is not uncommon, especially when working with smaller, newer software companies. In addition, software products, whether for handhelds, desktops or laptops, aren't always customized for the construction industry. That's why Sevon was intrigued when he first heard of Construction Quality Manager, a handheld application developed by Grayson Homes, a home builder based in Ellicott City, Md., in conjunction with technology firm Advanced Technologies Support Group Inc., Owings Mills, Md.

Construction Quality Manager

Designed to help Grayson's field supervisors inspect homes, CQM runs on BlackBerry wireless handhelds and was rolled out within Grayson in July 2004. As a supervisor goes through a home, he can compare the work against a series of checklists for each phase of the building process and note any defects, problems or incomplete activities. CQM then allowed supervisors to run reports by house or by subcontractor to create and manage punchlists and change orders and to identify recurring problems.

Grayson used the program to reduce defects and callbacks, speed up inspections, reduce paperwork and improve field supervisor productivity. CQM became an essential component of the company's overall quality program and contributed to it becoming an NHQ Certified Builder with the NAHB Research Center and winning a 2005 National Housing Quality Gold award.

ATSG launched the program on a retail basis at the 2005 International Builders Show. "CQM is applicable to smaller contractors," says ATSG's Steve Landsman. "The data is very customizable, and the hierarchy of the software enables flexibility to the needs of various trades. In fact, we are currently working with an electrical and a cabinetry trade, both of whom will be adapting CQM to their needs."

One of the key advantages of the program is the "push" technology, which ensures that information entered by the supervisors automatically is sent to the database, which promptly makes the updates. As long as users are in an area with wireless coverage, they can see the new information right away without having to return to the office to sync the handheld with the computer. Also, the program automatically e-mails or faxes trade contractors a report every day showing what incomplete items remain.

For more information on the program, go online to www.atsgi.com.

 

Two of many handheld options

 

The BlackBerry 7730 Wireless Handheld has a built-in keyboard and an embedded modem that allows users to integrate with up to ten business and personal e-mail accounts. The system integrates with Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes, as well as Hotmail, AOL and MSN. Doubling as a phone, this model offers international wireless roaming for phone calls and e-mails. T-Mobile offers this model starting at $499.99. For more information, go to www.blackberry.com.

 

 



The Palm Tungsten T3 — Palm still supports the Tungsten W model but no longer makes it — includes a 400MZ processor, 64 MB of memory (52MB for storage), a color screen, a slot for extra memory and a built-in Bluetooth radio for wireless connections. It offers a calendar, calculator, contact database, and memo, task and notepad functionality. It can also handle Microsoft Word and Excel-compatible files for Mac and Windows, as well as PowerPoint and Outlook files for Windows. The basic model costs $349.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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