Related Urban Construction, a Related Group company, is a general contracting and construction management firm out of Miami, Florida. Related Urban Construction specializes in the construction and renovation of affordable housing and workforce housing projects.
Veronica Naranjo is Related Urban Construction’s Contract and Compliance Manager. She has been working in construction financial management since high school and has a strong understanding of the unique challenges that a construction company faces when it comes to payroll and labor laws.
Paper, Paper Everywhere
Before using SmartBarrel, Related Urban Construction’s worker attendance was tracked using a paper-based system. Timesheets were turned in by foremen and field supervisors, and then manually reviewed by the Compliance department.
When Veronica took over as Contract and Compliance Manager, compliance reporting on paper timesheets was taking two hours per active job. Since Related Urban Construction normally operates seven to nine active jobs, the compliance department would spend up to 18 hours per week just reviewing timesheets.
Even worse, the manual system was highly inconsistent and error-prone. Paper timesheets could be lost or turned in incomplete. Writing could be rendered illegible, either through poor handwriting or exposure to the elements. As a result, the Compliance team was spending a lot of their time in additional communication with the team, attempting to collect or confirm the accuracy of the data.
And that wasn’t all.
Certified Payroll Compliance
As a contractor on federal construction projects, Related Urban Construction needs to comply with certified payroll reporting requirements. Every week Veronica needed to document and certify that employees on these projects were paid the proper amount. Failure to comply with these “Davis-Bacon” prevailing wage laws could result in the company being banned from working on federal projects.
“The employees have to be paid the wages that are set forth by the Davis-Bacon wage determination. So each project has their own wage determination and the subcontractors must pay those wages. And then in turn, here in the compliance department, what we do is we have to cross reference that information. So every employee that signs into the job site, we need to make sure that they were paid for the days and hours that they reported to the site and that they were paid the appropriate wages and have the appropriate deductions.”
Compliance As a Section 3 Business
For Veronica, the high error rate and lack of a data trail only compounded the potential for compliance problems. As the new Contract and Compliance Manager, this was too big a problem to ignore.
“For years we had the issues where employees would pre-sign in for the week or not sign in at all, and then there would be an interview from any monitoring agency and that employee was nowhere to be found. We had all sorts of issues like that, inconsistencies. And when checking certified payroll, that’s a challenge when you have so many inconsistencies for who wrote their name correctly and if it’s spelled correctly and if it’s that person. It was really challenging.”
The lack of accuracy was putting a strain on the relationships between management, subcontractors, employees, and the project owner. Just as bad, relationships with regulatory agencies could be strained by inaccurate data.
It was clear that something needed to change.
Switching to SmartBarrel
Veronica heard about SmartBarrel from a consultant, and decided to trial it on one project. She shared that initially it was difficult to get the team to start using technology and move away from using pen & paper for tracking the time for all workers. Veronica went to the jobsite to make sure that the field felt comfortable with the solution and understood the reason it was important to get accurate information for section 3 projects.
Once the field crews saw how easy it was to use and that it would actually save them time and money, there was no turning back.
“They don’t have to physically employ someone to sit there with a pen and paper to have people come in and sign. Everyone knows you need to go to the SmartBarrel device. You need to sign in on SmartBarrel. That’s it. It’s very simple. I mean, it’s more of an efficient process, obviously, for the Construction Managers at the start of the day.”
With the SmartBarrel device, employees enter their phone number or scan a fob, and the device takes a photo for facial verification. This log provides the Compliance team with the information they need for their weekly reports. Now that field supervisors and foremen no longer need to figure out when someone arrived or left the job site, they’re freed up to focus on managing the project and their team. And for the Compliance team, they can complete their reviews eight times faster with the SmartBarrel system.
“Using Smart Barrel has been extremely beneficial because the employee is accountable for their time and when they report, we know that they’re there. And it’s helped clear up some issues from the subs perspective because they can actually go into the system and see if that employee was actually there, if they were physically there because of the facial recognition”.
A Single Source Of Truth
SmartBarrel makes it easy for Related’s subcontractors on the job to track their own employees for payroll, Section 3, or prevailing wage compliance. This ensures that both the General & their Subcontractors are on the same page with everyone having a single source of truth for the data.
“Once I gave my subs access to the SmartBarrel website, I haven’t had any complaints. They, without any training, were able to go into the site, understand how it works, and be able to pull up whatever they needed for the day.”
While Related Urban Construction uses SmartBarrel for attendance, some of their subcontractors use it for time tracking as well:
“One of our shell companies is adamant to have their guys sign in and sign out and then they can cross reference and make sure that there isn’t anything funny going on. They’re using it as a secondary verification system. Typically the Davis bacon wages are higher than the standard wages that are paid for any given trade, so the subs want to make sure that they’re paying the correct time at that higher rate.”
SmartBarrel is proud to support Related Urban Construction as they build strong communities in South Florida. The SmartBarrel system provides compliance documentation in an easy-to-use interface. With SmartBarrel, Veronica and the whole team at Related Urban Construction know they have a long-term partner that is invested in their success.