Charles Bull, group operations director at HBS Group Southern explores how granular and real-time insights have allowed the subcontractor to put customers first and stay one step ahead of the competition
How would you describe HBS Group Southern and how do you approach your work as a subcontractor to tier 1 housebuilders and main contractors?
We are an award-winning mechanical, electrical and renewable energy services specialist. For over 70 years we’ve been trusted to provide high-quality building services solutions for the housebuilding, construction, commercial and public sectors.
HBS works with a large number of tier one housebuilders and national main contractors. We have in-house expertise to manage projects – from consultancy and design, through to installation and aftercare – providing an end-to-end service tailored to specific project needs.
By offering a complete package of mechanical and electrical services, our clients can partner with one specialist provider to save them time and money in the procurement and delivery process.
This has seen many of the UK’s major residential developers and construction companies like Barratt Homes, Taylor Wimpey, Bellway Homes, Vistry Group, Hill and Wates choose HBS as their first-choice delivery partner time and time again.
Why did you choose to adopt a construction management solution?
HBS typically has over 150 subcontractors, electricians, plumbers and other trades working across numerous projects and in different locations, which means that a clear line of visibility over project performance is critical.
Previously, we operated a paper-based system, and it was a bit of a beast to manage. The system was good but was not scalable for the ongoing growth of the business.
Engineers completed their quality checks on site which at times became a battle to get back to the office and safely recorded in a timely manner. It also required great effort to ensure engineers had completed their checks to an acceptable level.
We adopted a construction management solution to ensure we could stay on top of completions and always have a real-time, accurate view of what had been done and what still needed to be done. A platform where we could have really strong visibility into our projects, but also demonstrate that to our clients, was the natural next step for us.
How has Procore’s ability to capture data provided you with better insights into your projects and business?
The project-level dashboards on the Procore platform give us granular insight into project performance, which is vital when you’re working on over 50 projects, each of which has anywhere between 50-600 different plots over multiple phases.
HBS monitors the progress of each plot by tracking and completing a checklist of 19 critical stages. Having the ability to see what stage each plot is at and drill into any one of those is invaluable.
The data is live and can be viewed at any time, from anywhere, so it’s not just held in a manager’s book. All that adds up to less time chasing the statuses of projects, and instead focusing on the tasks at hand.
When we can identify what stage any project is at, it’s a lot easier to order materials for upcoming plots before it’s too late. It’s far too easy for this to become a bottleneck, with subcontractors only ordering the materials they require when they actually need them. This issue has been exacerbated by the effects of Covid-19 and Brexit on our supply chain.
We are experiencing volatility in the merchants stocks levels and manufacturers lead times. It’s more important than ever to be able to forecast material requirements ahead of time.
What improvements and/or benefits has HBS Group Southern experienced since implementing Procore? How do these align with your main business objectives?
By using Procore, we’ve not only experienced improved visibility for our teams, but also our clients. We’re able to provide our clients with a status update using reports generated by Procore, showing progress and identifying any potential delays in the project.
This has removed the need to go hunting through reams of paperwork or emails. We have the information right at our fingertips, without having to search for it. Delays on a project can be costly, so it’s vital for HBS to be one step ahead in spotting potential issues before they occur.
Through using Procore, we’ve also been able to maintain our reputation for consistently delivering quality, service excellence and value.
The use of the technology has even allowed us to provide the most cost-effective and efficient transition through each phase of a project lifecycle. After all, focusing on using fewer, more comprehensive technology tools and increasing all stakeholders’ engagement with cost management will ultimately generate better cost-related outcomes for all parties.
How do you see your use of Procore evolving in the future?
If you’d have told me five years ago we’d have digital dashboards set-up for our projects, I wouldn’t have believed it, but that’s exactly where the industry is going.
With more effective analytics helping us to access the details of any particular project, Procore is always going to help us keep that one step ahead.
We are taking our dashboards to the next level by using Analytics to create greater granular visibility and flexibility in our reporting both internally and externally. This is something which will be key to sustaining our growth.
We have just started discussion internally about the possibility of using the Procore Financial Management Package. In 2022 we will start to explore this further as we believe there are benefits of having a cohesive platform which works across all our departments, not just the operational end.