For Bob Kocis, owner of LIRemodel in Huntington, N.Y., performance management comes down to scheduling crews and ordering materials efficiently, ensuring regular cash flow and managing profit slippage. More than a year ago, his company created an extranet that, combined with Microsoft Outlook’s calendar, has improved efficiency by 10% to 15%, which cut the average project schedule by four to five days, Kocis says.
Although not intended for construction project management, Outlook serves the purpose for Kocis, who uses the program’s basic reporting and graphing capabilities instead of Gantt charts. LIRemodel annually produces 15 to 18 large jobs and 20 to 30 smaller projects with five full-time and 30 contract employees.
“I’ve played with Microsoft Project,” Kocis says. “My jobs move so fast, I would almost need a full-time clerical assistant just managing the adjustments. At the volume I’m doing today, I’m not sure I can justify that.”
Kocis’ chief project manager, Bill Marchioli, maintains the schedule for weekly project manager meetings. Kocis says a firm understanding of work flow helps him control cash flow. “When I look at my cash flow, I can say, ‘OK, we’re going to get a Sheetrock start check on the Jones job, so let’s have Sheetrock delivered Monday morning and get the crew over there to load it up. On Tuesday, the Sheetrockers will come and start rocking. On Thursday, we’ll start to tape and spackle.’ Friday, I can put my hand out to Mrs. Jones and say, ‘OK, I’m entitled to my next $10,000 check.’”
The extranet lets Kocis track projects on various levels. Created by LIRemodel office manager Peter Orilia using MSN Groups software, the extranet cost approximately $1,000 in labor, Kocis says. It allows creation of project Web pages that facilitate transferring communications, purchase orders, digital progress photographs and other information to clients, designers, subcontractors and materials suppliers.
“The project managers use the extranet to get the subs an itemized scope of the job so they will know they’ve got five bedrooms, two baths and a kitchen,” Kocis says. “They know how much raw materials they will need so that when the van shows up at 8 in the morning, they are prepared to work. Our subs congratulate us on our efficiency in getting that information to them so they don’t have slippage when they send their crews to my jobs.”
LIRemodel made sure its subs were ready for the extranet. Through an informal survey, “we found out that the key subs — not all of them, but the key subs — have Internet access and that they’re finding out it’s a lot easier than using the telephone,” Kocis says.
“Once they saw the value, I could log on, give them a password and, boom, they check in and know their materials and other project details,” Kocis says. Having the materials list in writing at a shared location limits costly side trips. “Here on Long Island, we have huge travel times,” Kocis explains. “For someone to run to Home Depot for a $5 piece costs me a minimum of $60 — that’s the labor to drive to and from, stand in line, find the part, pay for it and go back to the job site.”
The extranet also improves cash flow by letting Kocis post digital images online to show off-site clients that LIRemodel has completed a project phase and is entitled to the next payment.
Hosted in-house, LIRemodel’s extranet requires approximately two hours a week in maintenance by Orilia, says Kocis, in addition to the time that project managers need to update project information.