Two years ago, Cicero's Development Corp. "took a leap into the 21st century," says Frank Thomas, project manager and information systems manager for the Woodridge, Ill., remodeling company, by incorporating SureTrak, a project-management software program by Primavera. With the help of the software, the company initiated multishift scheduling to increase job efficiency, minimize downtime and cater to the needs of its clients, 80% of which were commercial in 2002. Multishift scheduling can reduce the length of a project by 2 1/2 times, Thomas says.
Both commercial and residential clients are given the option to work in three shifts, which either provides the ability to get a project done in a hurry or allows remodeling to be done in off hours when customers are not present. Only 10-15% of Cicero's jobs demand multishifts, in part because most residential neighborhoods will not allow after-hours work.
"We typically cannot run three shifts straight out," Thomas says, because of inspections and subcontractor schedules. While some subs are willing to work on different shifts, the remodeling company works around its subs' schedules to avoid incurring extra costs. Mostly, the subs work during the regular shift. Then Cicero's crews come in behind them. Early in the hiring process, work crews as well as super-visory staff are notified that they will have to work different shifts.
The software program aids the scheduling process in a number of ways. With some of its larger commercial clients, such as Wyndham Hotels, which also uses SureTrak, the software allows them to track projects internally to see the status of all their construction or remodeling projects.
"The program also helps eliminate slippages to see where the problems are upfront," Thomas says. When relationships are designed correctly, for example, the system points out the delivery of different items and shows when the electrician needs to come. A recovery system is initiated if work falls behind. It also shows when it is necessary to tell the electrician not to show up.
"With all the balls you are juggling, it is easy to forget," Thomas says. Cicero's Development balances about six to 10 projects at any one time, roughly 10 to 12 projects per month, and in 2002 did about 130 projects for a sales volume of $7 million.
"We typically schedule things tightly," Thomas says. "More than anything else, the benefit is the lack of surprises. If there is a cost savings, it is in not scrambling around and not having to pay a premium charge instead of planning ahead of time."
He also says it makes a big difference in the company's relationship with clients. "Someone took the time and trouble to plan things out four, five, six months out rather than just see what happens," Thomas says. The software program "in a nutshell, helps us internally in running the project and externally in buying goodwill with customers."