Engineering Procurement Case Study
Integrated Sustainability Chooses 4castplus as a Key Technology Partner in Aggressive Growth Plan
With a Specialization in Improving Water Management in Canada’s Oil Sands, this EPCM is Growing Fast
Founded in 2009 Integrated Sustainability Corporation (“ISC”) is a mid-size Engineering Procurement Construction Management (EPCM) organization serving Oil & Gas Producers and Owners in Western Canada. Based in Calgary, ISC provides expertise on water management in conventional oil and SAGD projects.
The founders of ISC had worked for Worley Parsons, a global EPC firm, for many years before branching out on their own. Their passion for good environmental stewardship drove them towards becoming experts in one of the world’s most precious resources: water. The extensive use of fresh water for the extraction of oil and gas in the energy industry requires a tremendous amount of careful engineering to ensure its sustainable management. This niche specialization, along with their expertise and ability to plug-into projects alongside partner engineering firms, has enabled quick growth and a strong reputation for ISC.
Their experience in a big engineering firm like Worley taught them many lessons about the importance of having a solid technology infrastructure for their business. Firms like Worley invest heavily in having the right software tools to enable their staff to manage complex project activities such as procurement, estimating, change management, tracking, billing, cost controls, etc. To a Worley, however, it’s about much more than just having the right tools in-house. Technology is also a sales weapon. Big EPCM firms leverage their technology investment as a way to muscle out smaller competitors.
The management team at ISC took this strategic insight into their own business plan: they knew that having the right technology infrastructure was a key business development tool to allow them to be able to bid on and win a broader spectrum of projects. In addition to the sales angle, they were also strong believers in the need for robust software tools to run their business efficiently and cost-effectively. They didn’t want to fall into the rut of running their business primarily on spreadsheets. “Metrics are important to me,” articulates Blaine Penny, CEO. “My management team and I keep a very close eye on every aspect of our projects and our business. We couldn’t do that if we relied only on a stack of spreadsheets and an accounting system.”
“I was dreading the idea of a bunch of single-purpose software packages, and our guys having to manually re-enter data between them. It’s time wasting, revenue draining and doesn’t give me a consolidated view of our business without having to export it all into a spreadsheet.”
Additional factors that weighed heavily on the ISC team in their search for the right software solution were:
- The solution had to be cloud-based
- It had to be a fast and cost-effective implementation
- It needed excellent business intelligence reporting
- The software vendor must provide exceptional customer support
Having identified the key features they were looking for, the ISC management team evaluated numerous project management, procurement, cost controls and tracking systems for almost a year before being introduced to 4castplus. “I knew immediately it was the right fit,” says Penny. “It had everything the Worley ‘In Control’ system had and more. And it was so much nicer and easier to use.”
Phase 1 – Timesheet Tracking and Customer Billing
In December, 2012 ISC and 4castplus partnered to implement 4castplus across the company for labor tracking, project estimating & bidding, and customer billing. The implementation included:
- System configuration for resources, rates, customers and vendors
- Import of historical project and timesheet data from a previous project management system
- Import of historical billing data to reconcile with accounting
Within a few weeks, the staff at ISC were trained and using the software on new and existing projects. Training was implemented using a ‘Super User’ strategy by providing targeted training with one key individual in the organization. Largely due to the intuitive Timesheet interface, and an easy to follow workflow, the ISC Super User was able to successfully conduct training of all ISC staff completely independently. “There were a few bumps along the way during the implementation,” points out Rich McDonald, VP of Projects. “There were several reports that we needed that weren’t available. There was also some missing or incorrect data that was showing up. That made me a bit nervous at first because I really didn’t want a repeat of the long and painful implementation we went through at Worley. But the team at 4castplus were amazing. They were incredibly fast to respond. They fixed any errors immediately; and they quickly added the reports we needed. On top of that, they were proactive. They didn’t always wait for us to tell them when something wasn’t quite right or we needed help. They were on us and asking questions and double-checking everything. They had this way of making us feel like we were being well taken care of.”
Complete and accurate capture of time is critical for accurate client billing as well as for key resource metrics, such as Utilization and Chargeability. The management team was committed to ensuring all time was being captured in 4castplus so that they could make certain every billable and non-billable hour was accounted for and that staff was well utilized. By providing time tracking and invoicing in the same application, ISC was able to make sure that every billable hour was captured and accurately billed out as quickly as possible, improving accounts receivable turnover, reducing invoicing errors and accelerating cash inflow.
Phase 2 – Estimating, Bidding, Budgeting and Forecasting
ISC runs primarily cost reimbursable (time & materials) projects but also periodically undertake fixed price contracts. In the current economy – with a potential business development change from primarily cost reimbursable projects to fixed price or convertible projects – it was a significant bonus for them that 4castplus can manage the estimating, tracking and billing for multiple project revenue types.
At the same time as the time tracking and billing implementation were being rolled out, the ISC project managers were starting to get up to speed on 4castplus estimating, budgeting and forecasting. For the management team, it was vital that all new projects are estimated and bid from 4castplus. This became policy for a few reasons. First, since 4castplus can estimate and track to a full work breakdown structure with complex cost codes, ISC could easily plug into the unique cost code structures of their clients. Second, 4castplus can time-phase project budgets, including any resources applied to a budget. This was imperative so that they could accurately forecast their anticipated cost and revenue projections over time. Third, it was central for them from a Projected-Man-Hours point of view. 4castplus provides Manpower Loading reporting that shows projected hours needed for each discipline (or person) in their organization on a month-over-month basis. This is vital information to effectively plan for upcoming projects.
Phase 3 – Procurement
ISC was growing fast. Their business model and reputation were presenting them with more opportunities – bigger and more complex opportunities. Having adopted a software solution that could support the needs of a growing EPCM was a strategic decision point. The fact that 4castplus has a built-in full construction procurement management system was a significant enabler to take on outsourced procurement as part of both new and existing contracts. Purchase Order management, RFQ, Expediting, PO Receiving and PO Tracking are all capabilities that ISC needed to take advantage of right away in 4castplus. “The procurement system in 4castplus is very well designed,” said Rich MacDonald, “It’s connected with project controls, the budget and all the other components and data in the system so it’s easy to follow and nothing gets lost. The reporting is great, so we can quickly respond to client requests for important metrics like accrual liabilities, change orders, expediting status, etc.”
Phase 4 – Workforce Management
Service companies like ISC spend a significant amount of time managing the week-to-week activities of their staff. Every week is a new challenge determining who is going to do what on which project. ISC will be working closely with the team at 4castplus as they build out the product’s capabilities for providing workforce management tools for service organizations.
As ISC grows to take on Construction Management projects to further the breadth of their service offerings, they’ll be able to leverage the full suite of project cost management capabilities available in 4castplus.
Other Tangible Benefits
“Having high-end project controls and procurement software in-house has opened a lot of doors for us,” underscores Penny, “Every time we present to clients we dedicate a portion of our presentation & slides to 4castplus. This part is always a hit with clients and prospects.”
For More Information
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