A third-generation builder, Steven Crema oversees the labour force for the Crema Group...

...co-founded by his grandfather Gilberto back in the 1950s after immigrating from Italy. While Steven ensures the family business sticks with traditional values like taking pride in quality workmanship, he also looks to new technology to manage the reams of paperwork that come with running safety-conscious construction sites.

From streamlining the handling of Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) to shortening construction site induction times, HammerTech saves the business time every day and ensures everyone can get to work as soon as possible.

Growing from a small Concreting business in St Kilda, today the Crema Group incorporates two building companies – Crema Constructions and Camillo Builders – along with Crema Developments, Piave Concrete, Cambar Precast and SG Formwork. Tackling major building projects across Melbourne, the Group employs more than 350 workers while also working with a range of subcontractors.

Steven is a Director who oversees the Group's construction programs and labour force, but he didn't get his start in the family business with his father and uncles. Instead, he served a carpentry apprenticeship elsewhere to earn his stripes and then joined Crema Construction five years later. Steven worked his way up through finishes foreman and site manager before he was tapped on the shoulder for a senior position within the Crema Group.

Having worked my way up through the ranks, I do feel like I've got their respect when I'm onsite because I've actually been in their shoes.

"I'm not just some pen pusher trying to tell these builders, carpenters and labourers what to do. They can't really pull the wool over my eyes, because I've been there and done that."

Embracing digitisation to streamline paperwork

Rather than sitting behind a desk, Steven still spends his days on construction sites but deals less with subcontractors and more with their managers and company owners. In his 16 years in construction, he says one of the most significant changes he has witnessed is the boom in paperwork when it comes to managing important issues like safety and quality assurance.

To ensure all this documentation doesn't cause work to grind to a halt, Steven's OHS manager Mark Thomas recommended HammerTech in 2018. Together, Steven and Mark set the business on the path of digitising important paperwork and creating more efficient workflows.

"When I was introduced to HammerTech I thought it was a great idea because it streamlines everything and makes our business more accountable," Steven says.

"For example, both of our building companies recently gained ISO certification for sustainable building and with that comes a lot of extra new paperwork. By using HammerTech we can fast-track this paperwork and fine-tune our processes to make sure we're not missing anything, which makes everyone's life easier."

Helping people get to work quickly

HammerTech has also transformed the way the Crema Group handles critical paperwork like SWMS, which every worker must have sorted before they can commence high risk construction work.

Getting their own people and subcontractors to submit their SWMS digitally via HammerTech has been a "real game changer" which saves the Crema Group time on every job. Particularly as once workers are in the HammerTech system their details can be added automatically when they start on a new site.

As a result, OHS reps and site managers no longer need to spend time manually reviewing every SWMS. Meanwhile, inductions for subcontractors can be reduced to around 15 minutes whereas they could previously take up to an hour.

"Every person I employ is here to build things, they're not here to shuffle paperwork, that's where you're spending time and losing money," Steven says. "The quicker they all get to work the better it is for everyone."

"HammerTech would save me at least an hour a week at the moment, but it's not just me – it's my OHS manager, contract administrators, project managers, site managers and others. Once you multiply that out, it's a significant saving."

Taking a proactive approach to preventing injuries

Encouraged by the immediate benefits that HammerTech delivered with SWMS management, the business set about digitising other important paperwork such as pre-planning checklists, site day reports and injury reports.

Back when site managers submitted their paper-based site day reports into head office, these reports were often filed away without being studied. This meant that the business lacked insight into what was actually happening during day to day operations.

Likewise, the patterns revealed by paper injury reports often went undetected until they were examined at the end of a project. With this information now available via HammerTech, it is much easier for Steven to stay abreast of important details and even receive real-time alerts when issues are flagged. He can also take a proactive approach to reducing workplace injuries, which both protects workers and reduces lost time on construction sites.

"Through HammerTech we've created monthly reports with graphs which show the most common injuries, so if we see a spike then we can act quickly to address it," Steven says.

"You don't want to read through an injury report at the end of a job and discover we've had all these problems for the last 10 months, such as eye injuries, when Mark and I could have put mechanisms in place sooner had we been able to see the big picture through a HammerTech dashboard."

One step at a time

The Crema Group has only been using HammerTech for six months and is yet to take advantage of all of its features, with Steven and Mark deciding it best to introduce the new system in stages rather than taking a "big bang" approach and risk a backlash to change.

"Not everyone's 100 percent on board yet, but they're getting there," Steven says. "You've got a lot of different personalities out there, some are happy with change and others aren't."

"It takes time and you can't just bombard people with everything at once, or else you spook the herd, they run and they don't take ownership of it."

Rather than jumping in the deep end, the first 90 days of the roll-out was focused around Steven and Mark working closely with the HammerTech team to establish where the technology could bring benefits to the business and the best strategy for seeing quick results.

Building on this, Steven and Mark sat down with their own senior people – such as the general manager of each arm of the Crema Group – to explain the benefits of HammerTech and understand the best way to introduce the technology across the business.

Working down the chain of command, some levels of management were more reluctant than others to embrace change – particularly site managers. Even so, the immediate benefits delivered by shifting onerous paperwork like SWMS into HammerTech won them over.

"Those who were quick to see the benefits of HammerTech helped get the others across the line, because the encouragement was coming from their fellow site managers and not just down from senior management," Steven says.

"They also started working together and helping each other, and even today if one of them finds a better way to do things on HammerTech they'll share it with the others so we all benefit."

Help from HammerTech

Deployment and training is a critical part of introducing any new IT system and here Steven says "HammerTech has been amazing to deal with". "I couldn't fault their customer service and not just for me, but also the customer service for everyone onsite," he says. "Whenever a site manager or OHS Representative has a problem using HammerTech they are able to call HammerTech direct and they'll run through it on the phone or even be there onsite the next day."

"If it wasn't for that great customer service it would have been much harder to get this off the ground and get our end users to take ownership. The fact that the HammerTech team actually go to the sites and work through any issues with our teams has helped us get people onboard."

With all of his own people using HammerTech after six months, Steven's next goal is to finish getting all of the subcontractors onboard. As with internal takeup, some subcontractors have been slower than others to embrace change so Steven is gradually enforcing the use of HammerTech.

Steven's advice for businesses looking to roll out the technology is to work closely with the HammerTech team and invest plenty of effort into the planning stage. It's also important to have project champions, who will drive the take up of the technology across the business without trying to do it all in one big hit.

The key is to consider where you can see the benefits straight away, to drive efficiencies and help get people onboard, and then build on this over time, he says.

"I know as a builder, regardless of how great HammerTech is, if you just try to bombard the site teams and put all these new systems and processes in place at once then no-one will come onboard," Steven says.

"If you don't have everyone onboard then you're fighting a losing battle. So you need to implement it slowly and steadily, with a couple of key people driving the ship to ensure that you're making the most of what HammerTech has to offer."  

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