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Bottom up changes create huge productivity gains for roading company

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Business Hawke's Bay

Going right back to basics and creating a new job card has helped the 97-strong Quality Roading and Services Wairoa Ltd team make massive efficiencies in its administration, with the result being better communications, morale and performance.

“It was such a simple thing, a job card, but changing it has made such a huge difference,” says Karen Burger, chief financial officer for QRS, responsible for providing road construction services to the region. So much so, that the hours now saved by the admin team has meant significant improvement in timeliness of information, and a reduction of 40 percent in the need for overtime hours to get work completed.

The job card was just one problem area identified in the early stages of a High Performance Work Initiative (HPWI) programme that the Council Controlled Trading Organisation (CCTO) has embarked on this year with the aim of increasing productivity through innovation and improved processes and systems.

Working with the QRS team has been local improvement firm Smarter, Better, Faster (SBF), engaged under the HPW initiative offered by Business Hawke’s Bay in partnership with Hastings District Council and co-funded through Callaghan Innovation.

At the outset, SBF’s Glenn Manahi facilitated a workshop of 25 staff and collectively they reviewed the processes in place right from when a job was originated. That revealed five areas to focus on and people volunteered for teams to tackle each one.

“During that process, we identified that the job cards were at the heart of many issues affecting the delivery of the monthly financials,” says Karen.

The new job cards have vastly improved efficiency. Payroll is completed a day earlier each week, monthly financials are now available within 10 working days rather than the previous 15 days, and overtime within the admin team is almost nonexistent. Recently a new invoicing system has been introduced to the company and due to efficiencies gained in other areas there has been sufficient time for staff to come to grips with it without adversely compromising timing.

Timesheets are now predominantly electronic, which is reducing keying errors, and the admin team is working with work crews to help them fully capture plant costs associated with jobs. This has seen the capture rate increase from 40 to 80 percent and Karen expects this to improve further as work teams understand the importance of their contribution to the system.

“For years now I’ve been saying how important timesheets are as everything stems from them. After the work we’ve done with Glenn, I’ve had people comment that they can now see the impact for themselves.”

This greater appreciation of repercussions and impacts of actions throughout the business has been greatly enhanced by the workshops and consequently there has been an increase in morale.

Mark Browne, QRS chief executive officer agrees. “Working together, we have a better understanding of each other’s responsibilities and where there are pressure points and stress levels that are affecting the total business.   We had been guilty of working in silos and now we’re developing processes and procedures to work more cohesively.

“Another spin off that was somewhat unexpected is that there’s a growing confidence and pride in ourselves, our company and our community.”

The positive results from the first year has seen QRS sign up for the Callaghan Innovation Better by Lean programme.  Another workshop focusing on planning issues was held in December.  “Acceptances for the workshop were immediate from the team and that’s proof that they really see the value of spending the time,” says Karen.

One issue for 2017 will be tackling disruption. “We need to implement ways to cope with urgent work that comes in and disrupts what was planned. It’s largely a matter of communication to ensure everyone is on the same page,” says Karen.

The workshop team has been implementing lean management principals and in addition to work spaces now being cleaner and more organised, the team has become more efficient and is getting through more planned work.  More projects are underway to address forward planning of maintenance checks of the multimillion dollars’ worth of vehicles and equipment. Moving from reactive to proactive maintenance is expected to net further productivity gains.

A full team building event is also planned for the entire staff, says Karen. “It’s important that we take the time to celebrate what we have achieved as well as continuing to find improvements.”

As a CCTO, QRS is 100 percent owned by the Wairoa District and has been since 1994. The business has a wealth of civil engineering knowledge, expertise and experience. Its speciality is construction and maintenance of all types of civil construction, infrastructure and roading for both the Council and private businesses.



 (Above) Workshop One – identifying the steps and impediments within the invoicing process by the QRS team; the starting point to significant improvements in productivity.

Quality Roading and Services Wairoa Ltd.