Roadrunner Drywall is a residential drywall contracting firm based in Phoenix but with offices also in Tucson, Ariz., and Las Vegas. Shane Mustoe, vice president and co-owner, tells IncTechnology.com that the firm, which has 310 employees, cut costs and better managed time for work crews when it automated scheduling and replaced its old dry erase board.
Elizabeth Wasserman: In your line of work, is it difficult to manage projects and keep track of where your crews are?
Shane Mustoe: That’s exactly the problem we were having. Drywall contracting is a little different than most trades. Drywall stocking is only done by stockers, who go to a work site and deliver the right amount of drywall. Then we have a crew of drywall hangers, an average of about four guys, who go out to the site and hang the drywall. When they’re done, there is usually some debris or scrap left over so another crew goes out with a dump truck and takes all that out of the way. Then we have drywall tapers and finishers, an average of four people on that crew as well. They go out and tape the seams and get ready for texture. In the west, we put a texture on everything when it’s complete. So then we schedule a texture crew to go out spray the texture on the drywall or hang the texture. When it’s dry, we have crew sand all the texture, clean the window frames and get the drywall ready for the painters. We often have seven different crews to schedule for one job. It’s pretty common to have 15 different employees go through one house.
Wasserman: How did you used to keep track of these crews?
Mustoe: We used dry erase marker boards. We had a 30-foot-long wall filled with dry erase marker boards and we would hand write the name of the job, the lot number, the date the job stocked, etc. Each phase of the job would be along the top of the board. We’d use different colors for supervisors. It was hard to keep track of the different jobs. The job flow is at different rates, depending on the size of the job. We couldn’t keep it in date order or alphabetical order. There was no way to constantly index them because they would finish at different times. It was hard to see visually where we needed a crew of hangers or tapers. We would have to go over each individual job and figure out who was needed where, who was working, and what jobs needed what crews. We had some supervisors try taking Polaroid pictures of the boards and take them out into the field. It was getting that crazy.
Wasserman: What did you decide to do?
Mustoe: My brother found something in a magazine about Alpha Software and their online database development solutions. There was a package for $99 so I figured I would try it. A week later I had created a scheduling application, which was wonderful, and I went in to our supervisors and said, “Here’s how you do it. But go ahead and still keep track of everything on the dry erase board. I don’t want to take a risk.” I went in a few days later and noticed they weren’t using the dry erase board anymore. They said, “We don’t need that anymore.” It allowed them to sort jobs by whether they needed hangers or tapers. They could look for jobs only on a certain side of town. We could put them in alphabetical order. It saved us countless hours every day in scheduling and it was much more accurate.
Then they started asking for some other things. There are small houses and there are big houses. It would be nice if we knew how many sheets of drywall we used in each house. We had all that information in a paper file. So we just started entering that data in our Alpha Software database. We realized that all that information was coming from estimating. So I went back to the very beginning starting with estimating and wrote an estimating program with the software. Now, when we are awarded a job we electronically move the takeoff information to a job file. Then when the builder is ready to have us start the drywall, we send the material portion of the file to the supplier, the scheduled start date goes on the supervisors’ report, the material budget goes to payables, and the labor budget goes to payroll. When the supervisor enters the name of the employee or vendor into the schedule, this name shows up at payroll and payables so the correct person or vendor gets paid for that job and the correct budget amount is already there as well. When the job is marked as complete by the supervisor, it appears at Accounts Receivables as “ready to bill.” As you can see the data is never entered more than once from estimating through accounting. Each employee is unknowingly adding information to each job that continues the flow of information onto the next employee.
Wasserman: What kind of results have you seen?
Mustoe: It’s really given us a leg up on our competition. Most of our competitors are still doing things with dry erase marker boards or with a pen and pad. Some have gone to multiple different software programs. By working with only one program that flows like this, we are able to do more work with less administrative employees. We now invite builders into our office to show them how we operate. They are generally impressed enough that they feel more confident in our estimates and our ability to schedule their job within their desired completion dates. This directly translates into more sales for us.