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How Accurate Field Data Helps Don Mann Excavating Grow

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Marlene McClure’s father started Don Mann Excavating in 1941 with a small farm tractor and a few backhoes. Then, in the 1970s, her brother took over the business and grew it further. 

These days, Marlene is the controller for this Vancouver Island-based underground services business specializing in civil, municipal, provincial, and even custom work for home builders. 

Since her nephews took the reins a few years ago, the company experienced ‘explosive’ growth – even during COVID. 

Marlene says their CEO is hugely ambitious and wants to grow the company further. He wants Don Mann to be the premier excavating business in British Columbia, not just Vancouver Island.

Key takeaways

  • Less time interpreting time cards
  • Improved cost estimating
  • Increased utilization of equipment

The Problem with Paper

With more work comes more information that needs capturing in the field. 

Don Mann previously relied on paper timesheets and forms to collect this data. 

“Often, there were all kinds of errors, as you can imagine,” explains Marlene. “People failing to put their names on the paper, no date showing up, no piece of equipment, the list is long.”

The office team might remember who ‘Joe’ is in a small company without any other context. But with 160 employees, including new admin staff, this couldn’t cut it. So Don Mann’s accounting team was responsible for figuring out who filled out the forms. 

The process was time-consuming and included finding out from dispatch who they sent out and if they could remember what day that was. 

The Don Mann team also used one Excel spreadsheet per day per work order type. In addition, they would have a contract spreadsheet and a time and material spreadsheet. 

“But you cannot search back and find records of data quickly like that,” says Marlene. “A lot had to come from people’s memories rather than a system you could trace and search.”

Easy Data Capturing  

In October 2020, Marlene and her team brought Assignar on to replace their paper processes. 

Marlene says they started slow, focusing on using Assignar for time tracking before moving into the Scheduler. Then, once the dispatchers were comfortable, they went ‘fully live.’ 

Today, all employees at Don Mann fill out their time with Assignar, and they use custom forms to collect job costing, job numbers, and cost codes. 

For example, Don Mann’s mechanics use a custom form to record cost codes for the time they work on a machine and which piece of equipment it is. 

They also collect data for time and materials billing using Assignar’s custom forms, such as when truck drivers collect or dispose of fill. 

“So we are really capturing a lot through the custom forms, and that’s a great thing. We’re always looking for better, faster, simpler for the employees.”

What data can do

With Assignar, Marlene and her team don’t have to decipher timesheets and chase information anymore. Instead, workers only submit time for the equipment assigned to them, and the administrative team knows who submitted it. 

Marlene says that digitizing field data collection has “helped a lot to verify facts and confirm accuracy.”

Collecting cost codes this way also helps them estimate jobs. 

“We want to know exactly where we need to tweak our estimate. What were we missing? It’s a great way to evaluate one step further than looking at the overall job.”

The team also relies on Insights reports to understand their utilization and ways to increase it. 

“It gives us these KPIs that help us know where we have more potential for revenue growth and how we can manage those assets better to utilize them fully.” 

Assignar’s SMS capability streamlines Don Mann’s communication with their team. Field workers know their assignments the night before, but if anything changes, dispatchers can send a text to notify them immediately, so they don’t end up at the wrong job site. 

“Being able to text the assignment, or text anyone or even groups, has been absolutely huge for us.” 

Digital Reporting for Compliance

Safety is also one of Don Mann’s core tenants, and Assignar holds all their safety documents, such as toolbox talks, incident reports, and near misses, and makes them accessible. Their safety manager uses the data to log compliance forms with the governing body. 

Don Mann doesn’t have to sift through countless spreadsheets to get the necessary information. Instead, they can search for what they need through submitted forms and within the Scheduler. 

Plus, copying previous jobs to roll out future jobs allows Don Mann to take on more work without slowing them down. Understanding operations with more accurate and timely data lets Don Mann see how jobs match their estimates, so they can confidently take on more work and make more money. 

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