The Digital Road is a series of articles and blog posts that will highlight how Digital Transformation is changing people’s lives and the way Lakeside Industries does business. To learn more about my general views on Digital Transformation read my blog posts about it at brucefyfe.com.
In this inaugural episode of The Digital Road we focus on the job role of Superintendent at Lakeside through the views of David Anderson. David has been with Lakeside 20 years and in a leadership role since 2003. His last 6 years have been as a Superintendent in the Portland division.
David Anderson, Superintendent at
As a superintendent in Portland David does “a little bit of everything”. His job responsibilities include scheduling work, coordinating sub-contractors, promoting a safety culture on and off job sites, making weather calls and in the end helping make Lakeside’s customers happy and successful. As you can imagine David usually has his hand full.
To operate effectively, David and his team in Portland rely heavily on tools like SharePoint, Libra Gen3 and BlueBeam. He also employs more common tools like email, texting and Excel via his smart phone and laptop. These tools are essential to facilitate communication for the Portland crew, plant and office team.
The process generally starts with David using BlueBeam to create a paving plan. BlueBeam is a program that is used by Project Managers to do digital area take-offs for estimating and can also be used to mark-up PDF documents such as plans. Increasingly paving plans are required by various customers, mostly government agencies, before work can begin. David feels that using this tool the past season saved them days of work time due to efficiency improvements.
Once a paving plan has been created David and his team can use SharePoint to organize their projected work. The team takes information from their meetings and inputs it into a shared calendar in SharePoint. This calendar is very similar to a normal personal calendar with schedule appointments. However, in SharePoint the calendar has been customized to store additional information for appointments/events such as which crew is assigned to the job, type of material being used and the amount of material. The communication of the information helps the entire Portland team communicate and stay connected. The crews know when and where they need to be, the plant know how much to produce and the office team knows what they need to do to support operations. SharePoint can also send alerts via email to relevant people when plans change. David said that communication between him and his manager, Ron Green is far more efficient. Instead of David having to relay a bunch of information to Ron every day (or multiple time per day) Ron now calls David and asks, “Is your [SharePoint] calendar up to date?” When David confirms that it is Ron now has the information he needs to do his work and they both just saved 15 minutes of time.
Once work has started on a job David uses a report created by Lakeside’s Business Intelligence department using the Libra EIS/Gen3 systems in the asphalt plants/scales. This report shows truck hauling trip time in near real time, including how much asphalt is heading to the job site. This report helps Superintendents and Foremen better manage their trucking and job site work around the availability of asphalt and how long it takes to get it to the job site. This helps mitigate problems with unknown factors like traffic. The Portland team has even used historical data from the Gen3 reports to better estimate future jobs byt referencing known trucking times and efficiency.
In addition to consuming and creating all this information David is constantly emailing, texting and managing documents like timecards using Excel. This requires a commitment to learn these tools and stay current. It seems one of the only constants in life is that thing change; technology even more so. David is a self-described Lakeside “tweener”. By that he means he has been around long enough to have seen how tech tools have been introduced to Lakeside and has a positive and open mind to using them. However, he struggles like most of us do adopting every new tool. David finds texting useful in certain scenarios but often would prefer a voice call or even better a face to face conversation.
David had some very interesting ideas around technology and tools that Lakeside should be using. Most notably he would like to see more use of GPS (global positioning services) to better manage our equipment. He believes that there are huge benefits to tracking equipment location and usage that range from improved job site management to better accounting of assets and reporting. David also is very interesting in tools that will help field input of information such as time cards and required reports.
Finally, David has some very good insight into why technology and digital transformation is important to Lakeside. When asked why technology is important he said, “Everyone else is [using technology]. If you don’t, you get run over.” He also noted that the future of business in part relies on hyper-accuracy of information and delivery of that data in near real time. “Every ting is digital”, he says talking about job plans, bids and the communication with people.
When I asked him what his job and workplace look like in 5 years he hesitated. He said if he was asked that 5 years ago he wouldn’t have guessed he’d have a smart phone and laptop always with him. After some thought he talked about a job site where drones help to better manage job sites, tablets are used in place of paper and “efficiency drives growth”.
David did make a very good observation that while all these tools and technology are essential they do pose challenges and risks. The chance of miscommunication increases when we rely solely on technology. For example, emotion and body language do not translate well into emails and texts. He reiterated that these tools are great to facilitate communication but that that communication still needs often to be done in person. David did feel strongly that technology, when applied and used correctly, should increase people’s ability to communicate in person by giving us more time making Lakeside the “people first” company we strive to be.