SERVICE/MAINTENANCE BY ANDREW P. MCCOY & FRED SARGENT
Anything that can be done to promote
efficiency in materials selection, ordering and delivery for service work will
produce a huge payback. What better
place could there be to begin the search
for solutions to such problems than in
the materials requisition process? That
was the question that two guys—an electrician with years of field experience and
a building information modeling (BIM)
coordinator with an architectural background—teamed up to answer.
With support from Dan Streicher and
Ed Schuler, owners of Schuler-Haas Electric Corp., Rochester, N. Y., Kevin Rickett
and Greg Cummins combined their talents to create Orange & Black contract
field management software (CFMS), a
subscription-based system for ECs seeking a solution to the perennial problem of
materials management. We stopped for
coffee with Schuler, Rickett and Cummins
to hear their story.
Ed, you worked for a large national
electrical distributor. How did that
experience help shape your philosophy
on the importance of materials
management in electrical contracting?
Schuler: Back in those days, computing
and communications technology was
not what it is today. I got to see firsthand
what I call the “—ings” of material management: ordering, waiting, locating,
distributing, receiving, returning, crediting, invoicing, reordering and replacing
of an order. Today, as owners of a contracting business, Dan Streicher and I
truly appreciate the advancements in
technology that now reduce the cost of
all those “—ings.”
There are many obvious benefits to using
a software solution (such as Orange &
Black CFMS). But, in our first glance at its
capabilities, the advantages that seem the
most obvious are speed and accuracy.
Rickett: Yes, and let me introduce a pro-
ductivity measurement that you have
probably never considered before: We
have drastically increased the efficiency
of procuring material. As an example, we
have reduced the average time it takes to
create a 10-item requisition from 22 min-
utes to 7 minutes.
Cummins: We want our foremen and
electricians to be able to focus on production, not paperwork. That’s what
they prefer, too.
Schuler: We knew there had to be
a better way to streamline the process
and update it with advancing technology.
Through the development of our software,
we have created the means of communication that eliminates inefficiencies of
paperwork that range from placing material
orders, to creating work orders, to submitting T&M [time and material] tickets.
Arriving on-site, a service electrician
typically has to size up the requirements
of getting the job done and gather
everything needed to do it. How does
Orange & Black CFMS make this process
as easy and efficient as you describe?
Rickett: Using Orange & Black, service
electricians can create a digital record of
what has to be done. Via the simplicity of
our online store, they can put together a
bill of material and place an accurate order
with either an in-house purchaser or an
outside vendor. Accurate orders minimize
mistakes. They cut down on wait-time
otherwise wasted at the will-call desk of a
supply house. They reduce returns.
When the job is complete, Orange
& Black generates an electronic T&M
ticket that can be signed on-the-spot by
the customer’s representative.
We often stress the benefits of
standardization in how work is done. Even
if the problems are different from one job
to the next, there is some commonality
among the possible solutions.
Cummins: Every job requires material.
The Orange & Black CFMS brings standardization to the material requisition
process. It can pay big dividends in many
ways: in universally improved communications with outside vendors, with a
contractor’s own prefabrication shop, and
with their BIM department. Our goal is to
bridge the gap between virtual construction and actual construction.
Smarter Material Management
Coffee break with Schuler-Haas Electric Corp.
SMARTER MATERIALS MANAGEMENT is especially beneficial in electrical service
work. Service electricians are constantly confronted with the challenge of obtaining
materials while striving to minimize the amount of lost time, back-and-forth travel
and rush charges that inevitably follow.
SARGEN T, a long-time veteran of the electrical contracting business, is president of SGT
LLC, based in Pittsburgh. He can be reached at
email@example.com. MCCO Y is the Preston and
Catharine White Fellow and department head of the Department of Building Construction in
the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech. Contact him at
From left: Greg Cummins,
Ed Schuler and Kevin Rickett