How Gastier Operates Lean With Align
Gastier M.P. Inc. has been a leader in the Quebec construction industry for more than 50 years, but like many successful companies, Gastier faced significant operational challenges as it grew. Align (formerly ToolWatch) interviewed Usama Sabbah, financial analyst for Gastier, to learn how Gastier has implemented Align to solve some of its key operational needs.
Gastier sought to address inefficiencies and waste across a number of operational areas through the application of lean construction principles to improve overall productivity as the company grew.
1. Accurately Reporting Job Costing and Billing
When Usama joined Gastier’s team in 2014, his primary role was to support the operational needs of Gastier’s many simultaneous projects. The company’s field teams were involved in many fast-moving projects across a wide range of divisions. As a result, tool and equipment requests and returns were submitted as needed, and it was common for tool entries, project numbers, departments or divisions to have difficulties due to the use of paper requisitions that had to be handled manually. This operational challenge demanded immediate attention, which Usama prioritized and addressed with Align's job cost and billing module.
2. Streamlining Equipment Service and Calibration
Gastier manages inventory across multiple warehouses and job sites. Ensuring proper care of tools and machinery to prevent breakdowns is a challenge most construction companies face, in order to minimize production downtime while projects wait for critical equipment to be repaired or replaced. Equipment breakdowns also create additional logistical problems around managing labor and productivity, leading to significant lost time and process waste for personnel and transportation resources.
3. Aligning Teams and Inventory Management
Gastier’s equipment is often transferred to multiple sites within a short period of time, depending on how long each project needs a specific piece of equipment. Before Align, Gastier maintained paper-based records of equipment and their locations, which created significant overhead around storing, tracking, accessing, and updating paperwork. By moving to a digital system that connects warehouse, field, and back office teams, inventory data would become available in real time to every department across the enterprise, improving accuracy and efficiency. The digital system would also reduce the volume of data needed to be entered, reducing opportunities for human error.
Working closely with Align’s implementation team, Usama streamlined Gastier’s operations and asset management.
1. Job Costing & Billing
Using Align’s Job Cost & Billing module, Gastier streamlined its operational workflows and improved the accuracy and efficiency of its data in the process. This allowed the company to save significant time by eliminating the need to audit each invoice before sending it to clients.
Using Align’s financial management reports, Usama reviews each report before uploading it into Gastier’s billing system. The company also added an extra approval step to the client requisition process to ensure only the right tools and equipment are requested, picked, and sent to the job site. This additional step reduced wasted time and transportation resources.
Usama reported that this new process, incorporating Align’s financial management services, substantially decreased the number of billing and job costing issues.
2. Streamlining Equipment Service and Calibration
Gastier utilizes Align’s equipment management capabilities to track and schedule equipment oversight and inspections. Now, monthly service reporting enables Gastier’s team to identify service needs before equipment breaks down or becomes non-compliant, minimizing potential project delays and safety issues as well as extending the lifespan of the company’s assets. The result is less frequent equipment and tool breakdowns, minimizing production waste with increased efficiencies of the system and allowing productivity to remain consistent and profitable.
Usama can now be proactive; for example, he uses the monthly reports to monitor expiration dates for heavy equipment and large trailers to plan service ahead of time. Approaching equipment maintenance and service from a proactive perspective also gives Usama more control over the environment, instead of waiting for something to break before identifying it as a problem.
3. Aligning Teams and Inventory Management
The Align cloud platform allows for requisitions and returns. Having the right people completing requisitions and returns is valuable for Usama, which allows them to move away from manual processes, e.g., pen-and-paper, redundant emails, and phone calls. Gastier improved the accuracy of its inventory management and better-aligned teams across the company. It’s critical for the team to have the right people doing the proper steps; it keeps them following the correct protocol. For example, by having accurate data on the tool and material inventory levels, Gastier could better service projects in the field and reduce the overstock carried in its warehouses.
Align provides end-to-end operational workflows that are entirely digital. As a result, field requisitions trigger pick tickets in the warehouse, items get delivered on site, and then returned to the warehouse — all done via Align workflows.
Nothing has to be done by paper anymore. Usama provides a service calibration report to his Project Managers to identify tools and equipment that require maintenance within two days up to two weeks out, including equipment that gets the green light. Hence, the Project Manager knows these tools are safe to disperse to job sites. Usama appreciates that he can use data from Align to assist him with building the most effective reports for his team to utilize. This is critical for the safety of their clients’ projects and team members.
Gastier moved its internal paper-based tool catalog to Align’s digital platform and most recently started using Align Cloud to expand access and ease of use for all team members with a mobile device. This was especially important in separating tool and equipment requests from transfers and billing. Align and Gastier added a step to ensure transfers are approved by management before making the physical transfer.
“Align’s team essentially solved our problem,” explained Usama. “By separating the transfer, everybody in the field can request whatever they need, and the people who prepare the tools can now verify the tool and project, adjust the request prior to submitting the transfer, and charge it accurately to the correct project.”
Gastier is working toward complete transparency, and with assistance from Align’s reporting services, the company is well on its way to accomplishing that goal. Align reports are sent to Gastier’s clients so they can see all history related to their projects, which they appreciate.
Today, Gastier keeps projects running efficiently and accurately thanks to the operational improvements Align supports.
“Align is always adding new innovations and features that help me save time,” Usama shared. “Thanks to a strong support team, Align listens to our ideas, relays feedback to the development team, and teaches us how to use new features built with our needs in mind.”
Now, Usama has more time to commit to other functions of his job, which includes driving even more of the company’s operations using Align.
“There's a lot to Align that I don't know yet,” he said. “I needed the essentials to start, specifically the billing service, calibration features, and training. I’m excited to learn more about additional features.”
Through Align, Usama plans to create users on each job site who can issue a request for tools and/or equipment and send it to the Gastier warehouse using their Align app on their cell phones. When the request reaches the warehouse, Gastier staff can assign the requested item by job role instead of a team member’s name and require an approval step prior to making the physical transfer.
Usama also wants to add the purchase price of consumables and the equipment rental cost in the internal catalog, enabling Gastier staff to quickly provide more accurate quotes to clients. This update will reduce wasted time and productivity by reducing the time both parties review a quote.
Identifying new opportunities for continuous improvement is another lean construction principle Gastier practices, allowing the company to streamline operations further while driving more efficiency, safety, and profitability over time. Better operational and data analytics will also help identify areas where action is needed to follow the practice of lean construction and improve the safety of all parties, tools, and equipment.
The impact of Align on Usama’s job and the organization gives him the ability to provide any data needed with a few clicks. Needing instant access to analyze data and sort and filter to thread the needle through projects is a critical part of his role. When COVID-19 hit, they had additional supplies they needed to provide for their team members, and as a result, it increased costs, and they needed to pass that off to their clients. Without Align, instant access to all of this data would be lost. Usama has a bird’s eye view of the history of all tools and equipment purchases, costs, and consumables for each client they served. Align allows him to quote pricing easily for their clients as well. He counts on the data to serve the security and safety of their staff.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Align could empower your business to run more efficiently, safely, and profitably, please get in touch with us to book a demo today.