Huddersfield-based Big Red Construction is a main contractor with over 45 employees, including full-time tradespeople.
The company started working with RedSky in November 2021 and went live with Project Connect three months later. In the summer of 2023, we asked Big Red’s Steve Dearing, Head of Business Systems, to talk about the difference Project Connect has made.
“When we first approached RedSky, it was with a view to tightening up our document control practices, to make life easier for the guys on site,” said Steve. “The demo was great because we were able to see for ourselves just how user-friendly the system is. It’s easy to navigate, too – that was a big factor because some of our team members have better IT skills than others.”
“I wanted an intuitive system that everyone would be able to use. RedSky suited our business better than everything else on the market. The pricing structure was very straightforward and clear, too. It’s probably one of the simplest we’ve seen. There were no catches or tricks in the small print.”
Having purchased RedSky’s Project Connect construction software solution, it was time to get going with the implementation.
The RedSky team supported Steve throughout the process: “We originally booked a couple of online sessions a week, to work on building up our site diary document and the toolbox talk process. It was all very hands-on and I learned a lot.
“As the weeks went on, I was starting to book fewer sessions because I was able to get on with things myself. But if I ever forgot something or was struggling to get to grips with an aspect of the system, I’d contact RedSky and would always get a very swift response.
“I can’t speak highly enough of RedSky’s knowledge and expertise. They often came up with good ideas about how to do things differently.”
Digitising Existing Forms
One of the things that excited Steve most about his initial RedSky demo was seeing how easily he could convert Big Red’s own site forms into digitised versions.
Before RedSky, at the start of a project a Big Red administrator would gather the forms that would be needed and print out multiple copies of each one, to keep in folders for use on-site. Typically, the paper forms covered site activities like investigations, excavations and inductions as well as health and safety forms relating to things like RAMS, equipment and hoists.
Thankfully this laborious, environmentally unfriendly practice has been abandoned in favour of RedSky’s more efficient, digitised approach. “We have built up a library of around 20+ digitised forms and add to it whenever we need to,” said Steve. “Admittedly the first few forms took me a while to complete, but now I can create a simple form in under an hour.
“Setting up a new form on RedSky is actually a relatively simple task. It’s just a case of inputting headings, project names, dates, job numbers and so on. Based on my experience, before setting up a form, it’s well worth spending some time thinking carefully about what people may want to know about the project in the months and years to come – that might prompt you to insert additional fields so you can analyse them at a later date.
“Once the digitised form has been set up on RedSky, the overall look and layout are just the same as they were on the paper document, so it won’t take your teams long to adjust.”
Speedy access to Real-Time Information
All data on the system is digitised, securely stored and logically ordered. That’s particularly important to Big Red because the company is going through a period of rapid growth.
“When we joined RedSky we had just a couple of projects on the go,” said Steve. “The site offices had wall-to-wall lever-arch files stuffed full of documents. And no matter how good we were at filing paperwork in a logical way, locating a document was often like finding a needle in a haystack.”
Two years down the line, Big Red’s business has grown considerably. It currently has over 10 major live projects, lasting between six months and two years. The record-keeping requirements have of course ramped up accordingly, yet everything’s completely under control on the document management front.
Steve said: “Now that our project documents are maintained digitally on RedSky and stored automatically, we can locate any document in seconds. A few clicks and we’re there!”
That rapid access can certainly come in handy, according to Steve: “Let’s say there’s a health and safety incident on-site involving the incorrect use of equipment and the user says they never received the necessary training. The site manager can quickly uncover the facts of the matter by checking the training records – and the equipment inspection records – on RedSky.
“Or it could be that a visitor says they don’t need to do the site induction because they did it a couple of months ago. Within a couple of clicks on RedSky, the site manager can access the visitor’s digital record. If this confirms that more than six months have elapsed since the previous induction, the visitor will have to repeat the induction.”
External audits are now simpler, speedier and less stressful too. “Before RedSky, if an external auditor asked to see a particular record from three or four months ago, the chances of finding it quickly would not be high,” said Steve. “But now we just search using the fields on the system and can access the record immediately.”
The site offices are no longer rammed with files full of paper because most project documents are now digitised and stored securely on the system. According to Steve, on a 12-month project, with the help of Project Connect, Big Red sites eliminate up to 3,000 paper documents.
He added: “Often the hardest thing about finishing a big project is sorting out all the documents and arranging their long-term storage, which of course comes at a financial cost. We no longer have that problem. Everything is securely stored digitally on RedSky and can be accessed easily as required.”
Standardised approach Boosts site Efficiency
Project Connect is now being used in the same way across all of Big Red’s large sites, every day. This standardised approach is proving very handy for new joiners wanting to get up to speed with company practices. It’s also useful for anyone who moves to a different Big Red site or works on several sites because they know what’s expected of them wherever they are based.
The primary users are the management team: senior site managers, project managers, supervisors and health and safety managers. Steve said: “Once I’ve set up ‘the front end’ of a form, the users fill it in digitally. The system automatically saves the completed form and stores it as a record. There’s no additional effort needed.
“Site diaries are a good example. On some large sites, we have three or four supervisors. Before RedSky, they would fill in their diary on paper or email the details to head office. But each now fills in a diary on the system for their particular area of ownership and responsibility – that could be external, internal, first fix or second fix. It’s much more efficient: everything’s on the system in the same format and nothing gets lost.
“Many supervisors open their digitised diary at lunchtime and fill in what’s happened on site so far that day, including notes about site conditions (including the weather) and time-stamped photos of progress made on different work activities. They usually go back onto the system at around 4 pm, to add more details and tidy up the form. It’s then saved automatically as the daily site record.”
Sites are busy places with loads of different work activities taking place at the same time. It’s impossible to remember everything, but the system can help, according to Steve: “Let’s say a site manager has a nagging doubt about when a task was completed. All they need to do is check the site diary, where they’ll find a note or a time-stamped photo that will put their mind at rest!
“The site diary is also useful if ever we need to know what a particular subcontractor was working on and when.”
Exerting tight Version Control
On complex construction schemes, it’s vital that everyone’s working with the most up-to-date and accurate documents.
Reliance on outdated drawings can cause major problems because they may include incorrect measurements or obsolete design features – errors that risk causing costly rework and delays. They may even compromise the structural integrity of the building, as well as the safety of site workers and future occupants. It’s serious stuff.
Thankfully, out-of-date drawings are not something Steve has to worry about. He said: “Project Connect is the receptacle for all project information. Everything’s in one place. A contract manager can go to the Construction Phase Plan on any project and be 100% confident that what they see on screen is the latest version. This removes uncertainty and saves a lot of time.
“If a drawing hasn’t been checked for revision against the system, it’s not guaranteed to be the latest version, so they’ll need to double-check the version number. That tight revision control of drawings has been great for us.
“We also use the system to do high-level comparisons between drawings, either on screen or printed off on giant sheets. The system flags up any differences between the two documents, which means we don’t have to waste hours poring over drawings, playing ‘Spot the Difference’. We can also use the system to compare two Word documents.”
Dashboards help to Keep Projects on Track
“The project dashboard is a great tool that helps to keep projects moving along,” said Steve. “It provides prompts for regular tasks like completing the daily site diary, the monthly equipment inspections or the bi-weekly toolbox talks. If there’s not a ‘1’ showing on the dashboard, everyone can see that the task has yet to be completed. It’s simple but effective.
“Contract managers with responsibility for several projects love the dashboards because they can access high-level, real-time information remotely on their laptop, tablet or smartphone. All dashboard data links to the master data for the project, so they can drill down to the detail if needed, including the very latest site diaries, induction records and accident reports.
“Everything’s recorded and stored, ready for retrieval at any time from anywhere with internet access. The days of emailing site diaries to multiple recipients are long gone – if people want to look at a diary and are authorised, they can access it for themselves on RedSky.”
Summing up the impact of Project Connect on the business, Steve said: “The RedSky system has enabled us to standardise our processes and records across our sites.
“We no longer waste time tracking down lost documents because everything’s on the system and can be accessed in seconds. Collaboration on a site project – and between projects – is much simpler because everyone is tapping into the same source of information truth.
“Project Connect has streamlined our work processes and given us access to real-time data. It has made us more efficient.”
When asked what he would advise anyone considering Project Connect, he said: “Get a RedSky demo and see what the system can do. We’ve put it to very good use in our business.”