Don't Double-Handle Data

January 22, 2021
By: Joe Turner

We’ve all heard the term ‘double-handing’, and even with just a little experience in the construction industry, one knows that that is not a good thing to be guilty of. 

Double-handling means doing the same thing twice which means more time spent equaling more money wasted. 

The term usually refers to something happening out in the field on a project. Let’s say for example an excavator digs up some dirt, it’s picked up by a wheel loader, and dumped somewhere else - only to be picked up again and then dumped in its final destination. Why not take it to its final destination the first time? Great question. It’s usually an issue with the schedule, access on the project, safety concern, waiting on other work to be completed, and the list could go on and on. A little more complicated example could be stripping formwork from a concrete bridge pier. Instead of setting that formwork down, take it apart to move it (due to its weight) and re-erect it on the next bridge pier, maybe we would rather strip it, lift it with a crane and fly it to the next pier and re-erect it all in one operation. It could be even more complicated than that: maybe the crane can’t reach both piers without moving which may require setting down the form. Solutions could then involve putting the formwork on a barge to be moved if the job is over water. The examples could go on and on. The point being, double-handling is a big deal on projects and can require in-depth planning in order to be handled as efficiently as possible. 

Double-handling is a big deal on projects and can require in-depth planning in order to be handled as efficiently as possible. 

Would you believe that double-handling can be just as big a problem in the office with project controls and accounting?

Would you believe that double-handling can be just as big a problem in the office with project controls and accounting? In the construction industry, data is handled over and over within the office from accounting suites to project management and scheduling to coding job cost and possibly worst of all, reconciling invoices and credit card statements. 

The issue is that in construction we have a big need to categorize cost accurately in order to know where projects stand financially and to use later when estimating. One of the single biggest reasons jobs lose money is that the needed corrections don’t take place until it’s too late. The reason for this is that decision makers cannot see accurate cost within their project budgets. A few factors lead to this but the one we are talking about here is the time-consuming processes in order to code cost to the correct places. Double handling is a cost controller’s Achille’s heel. Let’s look at some of the different places that project and cost data is usually handled:

  1. Upon creation - a project number is created and it is given a list of cost codes to categorize cost into the correct buckets
  2. Entering project cost information into payroll software so that when payroll is weekly or bi-weekly, it goes to the correct place - this goes far deeper when a project has numerous crews all with their own timecards
  3. Entering project cost information into project management/scheduling software - this is not done by all but some of the more tech-savvy in order to visually track their job
  4. Invoices - every time an invoice comes in, it must be assigned to the right place

    Cost Tracking

Now, if we dive a little deeper in to #4, invoices, we see that there are many different scenarios:

  1. Material/supplier contracts - these are usual somewhat painless as they usually go to one or a few cost codes, and this can be set when the contract goes into place at the beginning of the job
  2. Small tools and supplies vendors (HD Supply, RAM Tool)
  3. Purchasing card/credit card invoices 

As you can probably imagine, numbers 2 and 3 in this list are the big headaches that lead to wasted time and not seeing cost until weeks or months later. 

This is where the system needs more than an input of human capital - the construction industry needs help from technology.

we pride ourselves in helping our customers to the fullest extent minimize the times they have to handle cost data associated with their purchasing process

A project controller should have a purchasing process where budgets, each with its own cost codes, are set up at the beginning of the project, and as transactions are made for small tools, supplies, fuel, and any other card purchases, that cost is automatically assigned to the correct budget/cost code. This means that this data is handled only once, when the project is set up, instead of each time an invoice or card statement comes in.

Here at Vendrix, we pride ourselves in helping our customers to the fullest extent minimize the times they have to handle cost data associated with their purchasing process. 

At the start, we import any necessary project cost information so that the customer is set up ready to spend efficiently. All the customer needs to do is provide it to our team, and we’ll do the hard work for them. Once set up, cardholders simply assign purchases to budgets and respond to text messages with receipts and that’s it. No more going through massive invoices line by line to code each transaction, and no more waiting on employees to do expense reports - Vendrix does it all for them. 

Project setup is difficult enough. You’ve already put in the hard work estimating and getting selected to build the work, now you have to put in more hard work planning and staffing the job. Project setup should be a much needed break, right? Usually not, the way it’s currently done most places. While some of that setup can’t be avoided, the purchasing process for all small tools and supplies and card purchases can be. Vendrix will streamline it and set your project up for success. 

Does this only save time on the front end entering all of the project cost data into the system? No way, time will be saved through the whole life-cycle of the project. Just think of how many times personnel in the office calls crews in the field asking about a purchase. What was it for? Who made the purchase? Where should it be coded? The questions go on and on. We can all agree that the interaction described above rarely ends up being a pleasant experience for the office and field personnel. To eliminate this, the employee making the purchase should be able to put it in the correct budget or code right when it happens, right? Of course. And that is exactly why Vendrix allows it’s cardholders to do that. 

the employee making the purchase should be able to put it in the correct budget right when it happens, right?

Next, let’s talk about month-end job cost reporting. Now, that’s usually fun for everyone, right! Not right. First off, sometimes it seems to take most of the month just to get all the right data in the system in order to create any sort of report. Next, if you run late on the reporting, you’re already getting into the next month and taking time away from that month’s reporting process. All-in-all it’s a time-consuming, headache-inducing process. But it must be done, because, as project managers, decision makers, and business owners, we must know our cost. Otherwise we’re just out there losing money. The solution is to make it easier - to streamline the process. While we can’t do it all for our customers, we can help with a large portion of monthly costs and that is by showing all purchases on the Vendrix platform in real-time, as it happens. Not at the end of the month. By then, it’s too late to make cost-related decisions. See all of your employee spending across all projects and budgets right when it happens. Not only that, export that transactional data straight into your accounting software  whenever you like. That way you won’t be doing last month’s cost reporting this month and so-on. See it all as it happens and make the necessary adjustments to be sure your projects are operating as efficiently as possible.

That way you won’t be doing last month’s cost reporting this month

This all sounds good and will probably save controllers and other construction financial personnel tons of time, right? But, now you’re probably thinking: it’s got to be complicated to use. Well, if you can work a mobile device, you can manage your spending with Vendrix. And I think it’s safe to say that most people nowadays can operate a mobile device (phone, tablet) better than they can do pretty much anything else. As we’ve already touched on, the project is quickly setup with our help so that minimal work is required, and from then on an employee who using a Vendrix card, simply selects a budget for their transaction to be assigned to, picks a not-to exceed amount for the card to be good for, and makes their purchase like any other time. Then, they’ll get a text from Vendrix asking to respond with a picture of the receipt. This very simple workflow eliminates all of that extensive work mentioned above. Just thinking of all of the productive work that can be done when unnecessary time isn’t being spent on your purchasing process. Let us do that work for you.

This is all about efficiency and time-savings on the back-office side of the construction business. We haven’t even touched on Vendrix’s amazing control that can be implemented on each employee and on every single transaction. That’s covered in another post that we highly encourage any construction professionals to read (or any professional at all, really,  if you have any desire to be able to actively manage and control employee spending across multiple budgets. 

By using the Vendrix platform to set up users, roles, and budgets, and then using Vendrix cards for purchases, cost can be automatically expensed to the correct bucket. Little to no up-front work, and no back end reconciling. Now, if that’s not saving time and money, I don’t know what is. 

Remember: don’t double handle your data.

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