Small Business: App creators - Dave Bulling

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Dave Bulling, managing director, Cook Brothers Construction, a national construction company that operates in Auckland, Canterbury, Southern Lakes and Otago

David Bulling, managing director of construction at Cook Brothers. Photo / NZH
David Bulling, managing director of construction at Cook Brothers. Photo / NZH

Cook Brothers Construction is primarily involved in second tier commercial construction, as well as some high-end residential construction and currently employs around 120 people across the country.

Tell me about your approach to apps for the business?

We have recently developed three apps that are aimed at streamlining previously cumbersome processes within our company: a health and safety (H & S) app, a timesheet app, and, to be launched in about 10 days, a purchasing app. All of these apps were developed to improve accuracy and efficiency, save time, money and paper, and allowed us to more effectively manage the information that goes through our company on a daily basis.

Who, in the business, worked on it?

This really was a team effort. We have our own IT department with a very capable IT guru who had a large hand in the technical development and he worked in conjunction with a lot of our team members who all had considerable input into the functionality of these apps.

What does the apps do?

The H & S app replaces the typical paper process that is usually involved in a H & S audit of a construction site. This app essentially cuts in half the processing time of such an audit by allowing the Build Team Manager to provide a comprehensive digital report of their site via Samsung tablet, including photos, and once complete, is instantly sent to head office. This means there is no need for anyone to waste time inputting the data at the other end.

The timesheet app is a digital timesheet for employees that again, provides head office with a more effective form of information. The benefits of this app to the whole team have been huge, as first of all it ensures total accuracy of information. A timesheet can only be submitted if all the relevent criteria have been filled by the individual. It also saves the team members having to physically drop their timesheets in to the office as they can simply send it from the tablets on site. Thirdly, it makes it a lot easier and more accurate to track the hours on any given job, again saving time and money.

The purchasing app is our latest invention and we're excited to have it operational in the next two weeks. This app removes yet another paper trail for one of our most common processes; the purchasing of materials. We will be able to accurately track exactly what is being ordered, where, by whom and for what job, and it will have a built-in approval process for a purchase over a certain value.

Do you have other thoughts about adding to it?

The great thing about this type of technology is the ability to constantly improve and evolve our apps. We're already looking at the ways to filter information between the timesheet and purchasing apps, and the H & S app is in the midst of being upgraded to make it even more comprehensive and user-friendly.

Could it be made available to other companies in your industry?

At this stage, we've had quite a bit of interest in the timesheet app. There are other timesheet apps out there, but they either seem to be too simplistic or too complicated.

We think we've bridged the gap here nicely. There is definitely scope for this app to meet the needs of any company, large or small, and particularly because it is not specific to the construction industry.

Down the track we might look at making the H & S and purchasing apps available, but it's not on the short-term agenda.

The timesheet app would be re-packaged to suit the needs of the particular company, and there would be a set annual fee that allows for unlimited users.

Do you have other app ideas for your business and the industry?

We do, but then we'd have to kill you...


Next week: New Zealand has a vast number of one man/woman bands - people happiest working on their own, doing what they do best - piano tuners, software developers, electricians, plumbers, artists. They don't have staff to hand over to during the year so they tend to soldier on for the greater part of it without a break. Most of them at this time are counting down the days to the summer holiday when they get to relax for a change. Tell me your stories, how do you cope with up to a month of no invoices coming in?

- NZ Herald

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