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Interview: Meeting the Challenges of Wireless Site Construction with Field Operations Software

Duane Kingma and Rob Tymchyshyn, co-founders of FieldCLIX, spoke to AGL eDigest about the risks and challenges associated with wireless infrastructure construction and how they can be mitigated with Field Operations Software.

What common challenges are wireless infrastructure construction companies facing today?

Kingma: The business of deploying crews to sites to construct towers and small cells is filled with risks and obstacles, whether it is travel, weather, fielding the right crew, having the materials they need, having the right equipment or common understanding of the scope of work requirements.

The tight pricing environment typically equates to a fixed number of hours that a project must be delivered in to be profitable. There are a lot of factors in play. We talk about the roles and responsibilities of all the people involved in mitigating that risk with our clients. Everyone must be in alignment.

If you don't attain this alignment in your organization, if everyone has different agendas, tools or communications channels then you end up with organizational gaps, or alignment gaps, which is where the points of failure occur. If it affects your deployment, this is where the profit margin can be lost on a project.

How will anticipated 5G/small cell growth affect project management?

Kingma: It magnifies the problem. You have all the same complex activities that need to take place for a successful deployment, but it typically in a shorter time frame. It magnifies the need to create alignment, because one additional unplanned dispatch can blow your margins out of the water and you lose money on that deployment. It shrinks your margin of error.

How can a software platform address these challenges?

Tymchyshyn: Software can orchestrate all of the moving parts of your company. You want to have the right crews with the right equipment at the right place at the right time.

A field operations management platform gives you the tools to plan in advance. The more time you can plan, the sooner you can identify a risk and mitigate it in a project life cycle, and the less expensive it will be. To support this, the software provides the project manager with information about the job requirements, the site conditions, the budget, and availability of required materials.

The platform also gives transparency during the actual project, so project managers can see when the crews arrive and leave and review site completion status and photos in real time. They can also be alerted when certain milestones are completed. Real-time visibility as to the progress of the project and expended costs against budget allows adjustments to be made quickly to help keep the project profitable and on track.

Kingma: Being in alignment means accessing the same data, enforcing consistent policies and procedures, using the same tools and the same communications channels. If you can get your organization in alignment, you can create a collaborative planning and deployment environment and put your field crews in the best possible position to be successful.

How does a company know it's ready for a project management software platform?

Tymchyshyn: Typically, companies have identified operationally what they would like to achieve, but they keep bumping into barriers in regard to the spot solutions they have in place. They have the policies in place and they have expectations to follow certain checklists and procedures, but it is difficult to create visibility and consistency across these departments so that people are working toward a common goal. A lack of a common platform leads these companies to an impasse where they cannot continue to perfect their operations.

How is your company involved with improving the efficiency of wireless infrastructure construction firms?

Kingma: We have developed a platform that enables all these capabilities, from planning to scheduling to execution of a project, with one integrated set of tools, which enables alignment across the organization. It also provides a number of different ways for individuals within an organization to exchange information. Communication is very important.

We have live dashboards related to financials and operations that give visibility across the company concerning the health of each project and of different aspects of the organization. So everybody is on the same page and they get to see, at the same time, how the company is performing.

FieldCLIX is a platform that allows for organizational alignment. We focus on primary pain points, including dispatch schedules, resource management, and timekeeping.

Rob Tymchyshyn and Duane Kingma are is co-founder of Fieldclix, a field operations platform designed to help improve productivity and profits for remote construction programs.