Frost Engineers are a multi-disciplinary engineering consultancy business proudly operating in Gladstone, Queensland for more than 12 years. With a growing service offering and expanding team to manage the local needs of residential, commercial, and industrial clients.
We sat down with Kaitlyn Carmody, Civil/Structural Engineering Superintendent, and project lead for their internal software transformation project to WorkflowMax and PlanRight for their team of 35+ engineers and drafters.
Hi Kaitlyn! Could you start with giving us some insight about the company and its history?
Our founder Mark first started the firm as a civil/ structural engineering firm, before expanding to also include mechanical and electrical engineers, along with a team of drafters.
Between approximately 2010 and2016, Gladstone went through a boom phase when all the gas projects were happening. This led to a significant increase in the amount of work being undertaken in Gladstone. However, just as quickly as it started, the boom ended, resulting in a significant downturn in the region. Frost Engineers significantly evolved after the downturn, with a greater emphasis on being a one-stop shop from project inception in the form of 3D drawings to implementation.
What systems were you using prior to WorkflowMax?
When I started in this role as the Civil Structural Superintendent, the invoicing was completed through the accounting system Reckon. All our information including project controls, and timesheet data was stored in an excel spreadsheet, there was no real overarching software management system in place or consolidated project or management reporting.
We then made the transition to Xero and started using Xero Projects, which was amazing in comparison to what we had been doing, but we very quickly realised it was limited in what it could and couldn’t do for the complexity and scale of our projects and team.
What did you want to achieve with this new system?
Martin (fellow colleague and project advisor) and I are engineers and not software experts, we had an idea of what we wanted to achieve but were not sure how to execute it using WorkflowMax. I have previously worked at companies that used large ERP systems such as SAP and JDE which I didn’t think would work in a small to medium sized business like us.
We wanted to have something we could use that was quite streamlined for the engineers and office. It’s been great because, while it has significantly more features, its user interface is very similar to Xero Projects. This has made the transition easier for the team.
How did implementing WorkflowMax impact your business operations?
The biggest improvement I’ve noticed is being able to visualise and track the lifecycle of each project, specifically the time spent on different tasks and when the job was scheduled to be finished. If we’ve estimated that there’s 40 hours in a job, we are now able to easily see when we’ve used 20 hours, which enables us to analyse and determine if we’ve delivered 50% of the scope or figure out the status of the project.
In the past we would have to wait until all timesheets were in and when we began invoicing to know if a project was over budget, whereas now there is a holistic view of how the business and team is tracking projects as opposed to a big surprise at month end.
I found that it was great for giving transparency for projects, scheduling in conjunction with PlanRight, and tracking milestone dates. In the past, the timeline and necessary tasks of a project would pretty much be stored in someone’s head to manage; so being able to oversee the tasks we have completed, and which ones are yet to be done has significantly improved our workflow efficiency.
How did WorkflowMax influence your business process from a quoting and resourcing standpoint?
In our line of work, we have a lot of small jobs that need to be completed so finding a time to schedule them all is quite difficult, but we’re seeing an improvement now after integrating PlanRight with WorkflowMax. I catch up with each of my project managers each week and discuss where we’re at, how we are tracking, and now we are meeting deadlines a lot better.
We use this as a basis for our quoting as we can look at the schedule and determine if we are able to complete a project in the requested time frame, whereas in the past it was all gut feeling. We haven’t really had a scheduling tool that has been successful in our company because of the amount of maintenance required.
Using WorkflowMax allowed us to break down the time we spend on activities such as project calls, working with the drafting team, and site inspections, which helped us to forecast more accurately and deliver tasks in a timely manner, added with the visual aid of PlanRight. We are now able to keep our clients and the business on track in terms of what hours we’ve quoted, what hours we’ve spent and avoid overruns. It’s so much easier now to track.
What surprised you about using WorkflowMax?
Just the little things such as being able to set up notifications so that we get updates telling us when we’ve used 50% or 80% of the budget. I found that this prompts each of the engineers to have a look at it because they don’t all have access to the invoicing side of things, so it’s been great that they can know where each of their jobs are at.
“Having a personalised walkthrough also made us feel a lot more confident that we had picked the right software for our company.”
What were you looking for in a partner to assist in your transition to WorkflowMax?
There’s so much choice found on the internet these days that you can often get sucked into marketing ploys disguised as optimistic promises. When we were looking for companies to assist us with the transition, we really liked that Business Continuum had the Process Design Workshop, in which we were able to map our understanding of what we were doing with what we thought we wanted to achieve in WorkflowMax. There were plenty of companies we looked at that did not offer the same level of transparency and back-end support Business Continuum did. This was a big selling point for us, going through that workshop and working together to come up with a solution that fit our processes.
How did you find the process of working with Business Continuum?
Business Continuum really took the time to understand our company processes and created different template options tailored for us. From these, we were able to determine which template was best suited for our project circumstances. Having a personalised walkthrough also made us feel a lot more confident that we had picked the right software for our company.
Connor from Business Continuum also echoed Kaitlyn’s sentiment and adds “ Once the system was set up, Kaitlyn and Martin themselves took on board what we had configured and were able to further evolve what the system could do through their own changes. They felt empowered enough to further and refine the system during the testing and acceptance phase, really highlighting how simple a software move can be with the right guidance.”
I was worried about having to manually add 200 jobs at varying stages, but I was quite impressed that we were able to give Business Continuum a spreadsheet of all our active jobs and just a couple of days later it was all in WorkflowMax and everyone could record time and costs to them.
The training and support period with Business Continuum gave us time to really test the system and make sure we knew what we were doing especially before going live with the rest of the team. The session that Connor ran with the team was also very useful because his expertise gave our staff the right amount of information and confidence to complete timesheets and navigate through the system. Everyone transitioned smoothly, it was quite seamless, to our surprise.
If you are looking to implement WorkflowMax for your business, then please contact us to book a time to match your needs and objectives, just like you have read with Frost Engineers.