Founded in 1931, Westphal & Co. Inc. is a full-service electrical and technologies contractor serving the Midwest and contiguous United States from offices in Wisconsin and Iowa. This full-service firm provides any and all electrical and technology construction services their clients require, from large industrial and institutional construction to residential service calls. For more information about Westphal & Co., visit www.westphalec.com/
VP of Construction
Gary Fuchs knows electrical contracting from the front lines. Rising from apprentice electrician to service foreman, general superintendent, and ultimately Vice-President of Construction at Westphal & Company, Mr. Fuchs’ primary responsibility is meeting production objectives through field personnel and project management staff . In addition to coordinating the timely and profitable completion of all contracted projects, he also supervises all project managers, general superintendents, field supervisors, safety and warehouse personnel.
GARY's KEY TO SUCCESS
“Although new users can pick up the basics in just a few minutes, I knew I needed to really know the ins and outs of the program so I could train others. So I spent several weeks learning it, then taught the project managers. They showed other employees, and ultimately these internal demos really sold it across our organization.”
We operate differently than a lot of contractors our size—we don’t use a general superintendent. We used to operate like that, but about ten years
ago we decided to change the way we run our workforce and eliminated the general superintendent role. It just wasn’t working for us. There was very little scrutiny applied in that chain of command, the structure lacked accountability, and the cost of labor was going over budget too often.
So, our workforce is now managed and scheduled by the project managers.
Well, we immediately saw a huge improvement and labor savings, so we knew we were on to something. However, project managers weren’t used to managing workers directly and didn’t like it. When you have a pool of labor, and an ever-changing demand for workers with various skills, you need a way to match up the supply and the demand. PMs were frustrated because they didn’t have the tools to effectively manage their project labor.
I’d also looked into software for things like dispatching personnel from service departments, but nothing really fit our requirements for managing trade workers in a construction setting. By the time we found LaborChart, we were using a combination of a simple Microsoft Office contact database with all our workers—and a lot of email!
Our workforce is spread over 15 states and the ability to not only manage assignments but analyze the data for scheduling, job-costing, and resource planning on upcoming projects is tremendous. With LaborChart, we’re able to look at any slice of what we’re doing at any time and know we’re getting accurate information.
I’d rank LaborChart’s ongoing impact as comparable to our widespread switch to using CAD onsite in the mid-90s. LaborChart is doing for labor management what CAD did for building back then. Very few things come along in one’s career that change everything. Like CAD, LaborChart is one of them.
What it’s really done on a larger scale is make all our internal systems and relationships work better. Those savings are harder to quantify, but just as real.
Though LaborChart as a technology was ready for what we needed to do, changing how people do things is always challenging. The habit of sending those emails to request help didn’t stop immediately across the board once the tool was deployed, so we scheduled a meeting for project managers and said, “You need to show up ready to use LaborChart and show that your projects are properly set up in it.”
Some people came to the first meeting unprepared, but by making it a regular weekly gathering we both drove accountability and made it a sort of support group where you can get encouragement and help.
Gary's Favorite Features
“The people screen lets us view each employee’s qualifications, based on the tags we’ve applied for experience and credentials such as training. That way we can select the right workers for every job.”
“The boards screen shows all the assignments in one place, giving us a comprehensive overview of where our labor resources are deployed.”