On June 22, 2021 we sat down with Carlo, an underground construction site supervisor to learn about his construction career and how he uses the VIZZN dispatch and scheduling software.
VIZZN: Hello construction world. I’m here with Carlo, who is a superintendent with an underground construction company in Alberta, Canada. Carlo, can you give us a little background on your day-to-day functions as a superintendent in an underground construction company? And what kind of projects you work on?
Carlo: Yeah, I run most times several crews on different subdivisions; installing water and sewer. I look after the day-to-day procedures on installation, make sure materials and team members, appropriate team members, are on site. And that’s my job.
VIZZN: How big is your crew or crews?
Carlo: My crews, depending on the size of the job range from 14 to sometimes 18 people.
VIZZN: One crew of 18 or multiple crews?
Carlo: One crew net that includes the mainline team and compaction team.
VIZZN: Who do you report to? What titles / kind of people report to you?
Carlo: I report to the operations manager to and a general manager. I report to a safety manager every day about my jobs. All the team members in the field report to me.
VIZZN: About how many pieces of equipment, throughout the season, are you in charge of?
Carlo: Sometimes it could be 40 close to 50 machines, We have backhoes, several backhoes, loaders, track loaders, Packers, 710s, bo packs, several buggies.
VIZZN:: In a construction season, how many job sites would there be?
Carlo: There are two superintendents with our company. So we usually average maybe five apiece on a good year, sometimes more.
VIZZN: Thinking of contractors, service companies, gravel, city inspectors, how many other parties are in your world?
Carlo: Over 25 different parties. City inspectors, consultants, coring companies, manhole manufacturers, IPEX pipe manufacturers, EMCO (waterworks).
VIZZN:: Let’s talk about VIZZN when did you start using it?
Carlo: VIZZN came to us a couple of years ago. It’s made the dispatch end of our job, a dream come true. Getting everything dispatched is now a piece of cake and happens much faster than what it did before.
VIZZN: What would have been the process before and what would be the process now?
Carlo: Process before was to make a phone call, phone our dispatch person at the office and put in a dispatch but, a lot of times, she was on the phone with somebody else taking a dispatch. So now this lines everything up so that when you get to your job site and you open up VIZZN (it is an app as well) so you open up your iPad and you can sit there and you look at what your job site needs and you do the complete dispatch for that job while you’re there.
VIZZN: Is there a job site we can look at?
Carlo: Yeah, we can go right now to Cranston 70.
[Carlo demonstrates how he uses VIZZN]
So I did this morning put in for gravel on this site. All the dispatches should be here. Upcoming checking grades, fuel on-site contract, concrete delivery, checking grades, all this stuff. Yeah, delivery of materials.
Everything’s on here that you need to know I can see right now that Moe is bringing out a hydrant. I’ve ordered gravel for tomorrow. Gravel is coming today. They have two trucks today and one truck tomorrow.
VIZZN: Can you sometimes see the actual progress of the truck moving across the city? Do you get that view?
Carlo: Yes, you do.
VIZZN: So what you’re saying here is VIZZN, when a dispatched delivery heads towards one of your sites, if you want, you can see what part of the city that trucks in, you see him heading toward your site. You can tell your crew, “he’s gonna be here in 15 minutes. Are we ready to receive this gravel? Or where are we going to be putting this gravel?”
Carlo: I can show you our trucks. This one’s hauling for me right now to Cranston. And you can see him moving along. Yeah. heading toward your site. And a foreman would know exactly how many minutes away from here. There are no surprises of people showing up onto a site unexpected or, or why are there going to be late.
With VIZZN, each job is set up with a map. So each job has points on where to enter the job. And each job has a point on where to dump the gravel, we tell them to dump the gravel pile number one or gravel pile two or gravel pile three; 16 or 40 mil. They know exactly where to go.
If we have to change entrances, they know exactly to move to access number two to get in. So we set up the jobs where even the trucks hauling in the material have a laydown area pinpointed on their map on where to go to get unloaded for that laydown. All the job shacks, porta-potties, material laydowns, everything is listed on that map. So when you open the map for any job site, (I’ll show you Cranston because it has just been set up) everything is setup so that the truck driver can find “16 mil gravel piles number one” his accesses are all lined up. This job has two access points, one here and one here. And all this other stuff in the middle is a garbage bin, material, lay down, job shack. Everything is listed on this for everyone to find. So even if you come from the office as a project manager to go to the site, you’ll know exactly how to get in and you can go right to the material lay down and do an inventory and make sure everything is there.
VIZZN: Would job site management fall on your shoulders?
Carlo: That’s on my shoulders when the job is set up, it’s up to the superintendents to set up the job on the access points, the laydown areas for the equipment. The laydown areas for the equipment are important because that helps the fuel team who comes in later on after we’ve finished to fill the equipment with fuel so they have to know exactly where the laydown equipment is. And sometimes they’re getting in there it’s darker especially later on in the season when the sun goes down earlier and they can find all the equipment pretty quickly.
VIZZN: So from years before, trucks not knowing how to get in or getting lost on the way was that a problem?
Carlo: Years before we didn’t have lay down areas. Years before the machines parked, like main back hoes, just parked where they finished. The Cats in the Packers all park together but in a certain spot. But the mainline backhoes always parked where they finish they were left at the mainline trench. Now everybody goes in, parks in a specific lay down in a lineup easy for the fuel truck to stop at every individual machine. They do the oil check, they do the antifreeze check, they feed the fuel, they do the hydraulic check, and then move on to the next machine.
So we’ve bettered our performance on our equipment check. So when the operator comes in the morning to start his equipment, yes, he does still have to check his fluids, make sure everything’s topped off. But his machine is full and ready for the day. He never gets stopped during the day to get filled with fuel; only if there’s a breakdown.
VIZZN: Before you were using VIZZN, say a typical day, how many people were you phoning, emailing, messages just to figure out what’s going on?
Carlo: Oh, a good 15 – 20 people at times to figure out what’s going on. You phone the mechanic, you phone the shop supervisor, you the phone the operators. Now I can see it all here. If a machine breaks down, I see right away that this machine needs attention. I see right away when my foreman orders, i.e.. Cranston, when my foreman orders a hydrant from the warehouse and he needs the hydrant quickly. He VIZZN’s it to the warehouse and they get on it. I see concrete orders (on VIZZN) before I never saw that, before we were phoning our dispatch and asking, “did Cranston order concrete and what time is it,” now it’s all listed for us here (on VIZZN). I know exactly what time concrete is coming, we get to see the truck moving.
VIZZN: Would you rate working in this environment, the stress levels from before VIZZN and the stress levels now – how is that stress?
Carlo: Now I have a different procedure than what I had before, my procedure is to hit every job in the morning and get my VIZZN in order because it makes my day a lot easier. If I can get onto my job sites every day in the morning, and update my VIZZN on every single job, the rest of my day is a piece of cake, the rest of my day is doing my Superintendent roles because VIZZN will look after everything else. VIZZN will notify me when there’s a machine down, VIZZN will notify me when there’s a delivery going to my site. I’m not out of anything, VIZZN is telling me everything. I’m not guessing on anything anymore. Before, there was no information coming to me that material is coming out of our main yard to go to my job, or a mechanic was going to my job to fix the machine. I get to see everything now. It’s like it’s open my eyes. My job is easier.
If you take the time to set up your VIZZN in the morning, away you go.
VIZZN: So your job is easier to allow you to do it better?
Carlo: Yes, I’m allowed to do my job better. After all my jobs get set up in VIZZN in the morning and I know I’ve got gravel coming, I’ve got concrete coming, whatever my jobs need for that day – for the rest of the day, I’m doing my job.
It takes maybe an hour or two in the morning just to make sure all your jobs are set up and ready to go and then your job then you are the superintendent you are going around and you’re doing your job.
VIZZN: How do your crew feel about VIZZN?
Carlo: Actually now I’ve started to teach my foreman. I started at the beginning of the year with two foremen completely active on VIZZN doing their concrete orders and material orders and everything. I am now up to six foremen doing absolutely everything on VIZZN.
I can guarantee you that if we look at their phone bill right now it’s completely down. They’re not phoning the warehouse asking for this. They’re not phoning Ricky asking for concrete. Everything that they’re doing, they’re doing through VIZZN.
I see what they’re doing because I see their orders when I look at the maps and it works perfectly.
VIZZN: Productivity wise on your job sites, do you see VIZZN making the work more productive getting more meters of the trench completed?
Carlo: I do. I do because there’s nobody stopping the machines for fuel. We’re on top of the repairs right away. Because in VIZZN, each operator has to fill out an equipment checklist.
And the mechanic gets it. And the mechanic knows if there’s a problem with a piece of equipment and he jumps on it right away. So yes, our productivity is up. I find right now my job sites, because of VIZZN are way more organized. I know exactly where everything is, I know what I have left over. It’s nice, you actually see your gravel piles shrink in size, as you move along the job because, as you finished one section with a job you’re deleting gravel pile number one, and then you move into gravel pile number two, and then you delete gravel pile number two, and you’re on gravel pile number three. So it’s so much better control, you get to see what you’re doing.
VIZZN: When you’re reporting to your operations or GM, has that relationship improved now because you’ll be able to able to give them clear information?
Carlo: They see it for themselves. I don’t need to give them information as much as I used to, I had to give them more information before. Right now, for themselves, they can get on VIZZN and they can see what’s happening. They see the production through the time cards, but they see the organization and they see the jobs progress through VIZZN.
VIZZN: When it was announced that the company would start using the VIZZN dispatch and scheduling tool, what were your feelings before you knew what VIZZN was?
Carlo: In the beginning? I was nervous. Yeah. When you’re used to one specific way of doing things, you kind of gets nervous when changes happen. Right? It was a learning curve. But I think it’s for the better. I think this is the way things are going to work in the future. I think this made my role a lot easier.
David: How long have you been in construction?
Carlo: I’ve been in construction for 28 years.
VIZZN: So 28 years, you had 26 years pre VIZZN and two years with VIZZN. Was the change night-and-day or a little bit different?
Carlo: Oh, I wish I had VIZZN back then. It would have made my life a lot easier. I don’t know what I would do without it. I like to wake up in the morning now and go to my first job site and open my laptop and or my iPad and look at the job and see everything in play. I think this is the future, this is it. This runs your job.
VIZZN: Were there many times in the past where you couldn’t estimate when or exactly where materials were going to be delivered. And how did VIZZN change that?
Carlo: This happened quite a bit before VIZZN came. The trucks always ended up in the wrong place. And we’ve unloaded pipe on the wrong jobs. Because, in Calgary, sometimes we have jobs very close to each other. And a truck driver would see one of our teams because of our company colors and just drive in to a job site. The loader without realizing and not checking the ticket would unload that pipe not knowing that that pipe had to go to another job. With VIZZN, that can’t happen.
That truck driver has a map to that job site and to exactly that material laid down point where he has to upload so he can’t look across the street and see one of our other teams because his map is going to bring him right to where he needs to unload.
VIZZN: These improvements sound big. Did they all happen overnight? Or was there training?
Carlo: No, it didn’t happen overnight, there was a progress. It started off big but then the VIZZN team listened to what we wanted out in the field and they started adding things as VIZZN started to grow with us and it’s still getting better every day.
We used to call the office when we need fuel, now, we can tell VIZZN when a piece of equipment needs to be repaired. Things are growing with this thing constantly. And now you’re getting the project managers involved with maps in there, with all the locates are on our VIZZN now so we don’t have to go looking all over the place for locates everything’s available to us here.
We know what pieces of equipment are on-site, what pieces of equipment are being repaired right now, anything in red right now is being repaired. Anything in blue right now is being parked.
VIZZN: Is there anything in VIZZN that you find kind of pretty cool that you can show us?
Carlo: What I find cool is what I can do with my phone.
I can go to a job site, and I can pick the map. On the job site, I see all my points. VIZZN will show the location of my vehicle. Wherever I am, wherever I drive onto the site, my vehicle will show up, I can make a request and hit where my vehicle is and add a gravel pile or add a material lay down or, if I’m moving the equipment lay down around, I can delete data on equipment lay down that I have and make a new one. It’s precise. It’s exactly where the truck needs to find it. And, this makes it so much easier to set up your job. Because you drive onto your job now. And you can set up where everything has to go just by driving around. And then you hit filter and apply and it gets added onto your map.
You go onto your laptop, and you do a site builder and you pick up objects and everything is updated onto the maps for the project managers and everything. This is the best. This is the coolest thing that I’ve ever seen. This is wonderful.
VIZZN: Carlo, thank you for sharing your VIZZN story.