Fulton Hogan, a construction company that specializes in transportation and civil infrastructure, is in the middle of a project that entails rebuilding parts of Christchurch, New Zealand, according to a recent Computerworld article.

As a member of the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team, the company is responsible for reconstructing parts of New Zealand's largest city, which was damaged significantly by severe earthquakes that took place in 2010 and 2011.

Like many projects of this magnitude, Fulton Hogan employees aren't completing the rebuilding process on their own. Instead, they are leveraging helpful technology, including enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

"ERP provides a 'single version of the truth' across all areas of a construction company and this delivers more timely decision making through enhanced visibility, and this is something that the more innovative companies within the sector are now taking advantage of," Steve Dunwell, a software specialist, said in an interview with WTG Webinars.

ERP's rise in the construction industry
Dunwell is no rookie when it comes to ERP for construction companies. He's been involved in the industry for more than 30 years, according to WTG Webinars, participating in projects that have spanned the globe.

If his responses are any indication, Fulton Hogan is far from the only construction company to have gravitated toward ERP solutions to assist with a major project.

Dunwell told the news source that he's helped with between 20 and 30 construction projects in the past five years alone, and "they have all included ERP."

"Until recently the industry has been dependent on either home grown or niche solutions, but there is a move to ERP software by many of the leading organizations," Dunwell said.

Sheldon Needle, president and founder of CTS Since, detailed the history of ERP solutions in the construction industry in a recent column. In the past, he noted that this sector "has been more fragmented in its approach," as different departments tended to work independently from one another.

Not surprisingly, this led to a number of complications: poor communication and collaboration, more than one version of the truth, increased error and delays, and so on and so forth.

More recently, however, construction companies have been facing stricter deadlines, with expectations that they will complete tasks faster than before. As a result, those fragmented approaches are no longer adequate.

This has prompted many companies to invest in ERP software, which provides "a single integrated suite supporting the whole business," Dunwell said, adding that these systems lead to "enhanced visibility."

Is ERP valuable for large projects?
The benefits of ERP implementation sound great, but are they worth it for a project as expansive as the one Fulton Hogan is taking on in Christchurch, New Zealand?

Absolutely, according to Dunwell, who told WTG Webinars that "integrated ERP can be used effectively across both large and small projects."

In his column, Needle pointed out three facets of such projects where ERP for construction companies could make an enormous difference:

  1. Planning
  2. Execution
  3. Finance

Needle suggested that ERP systems have the ability to help throughout every stage of a construction project, beginning with the planning process. These tools have the ability to map out everything, such as daily, weekly and monthly schedules, as well as provide accurate estimates regarding the cost.

Another major use of the technology is risk management. When it comes to construction projects, Fulton Hogan CIO Brian Northern told Computerworld that it's important to "make sure there are no surprises." With the help of ERP's risk management and estimation features, there shouldn't be.

In addition, Needle highlighted how these systems can "monitor the costs associated with the project" at every step. That way, construction companies won't run the risk of completing projects, only to find out they are millions of dollars in the red.