U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations
This magazine is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information.
|Publication Number: Date: May/June 1998|
Issue No: Vol. 61 No. 6
Date: May/June 1998
A single highway construction contract can easily produce 10,000 pages of documents. In a state, such as Iowa, that awards an average of 300 highway contracts annually, the contracts let in only one year can generate a stack of paper as tall as a 40-story building.
The current approach to handling these documents is usually inefficient and time-consuming. In most states, the contract descriptions, site plans, daily field reports, estimates, materials laboratory reports, and other documents related to a contract are created using a hodgepodge of stand-alone computer programs and paper forms. As a result, staff members in various departments spend lots of time filing documents, looking for information, and entering information that has already been entered several times in other departments.
Now, imagine that you can find the information you need with a few clicks of a mouse; that you don't have to re-enter information because the various programs are linked to a common database; and that a computer automatically keeps records up-to-date, tracks contract authorization, and generates everything from progress reports to equal employment opportunity (EEO) reports. That's the promise of SiteManager, a new software program that automates and streamlines the management of highway construction contracts.
SiteManager was designed as an easy-to-use tool for state highway agencies. It works equally well on large and small projects.
By automating and improving contract record-keeping, SiteManager helps state highway agencies spend less time on paperwork, which means lower costs. States that have already implemented similar automated contract management systems predict that the systems will save them several million dollars each year, according to MCI Systemhouse, which developed SiteManager under contract to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).
For highway agency staff, SiteManager can eliminate the repetition of many tasks - freeing time to monitor progress at the project site, track contractor costs, and test materials.
Patty Cullum of the Texas Department of Transportation takes her laptop with SiteManager with her to the field work site.
(Photo credit: Floyd Inman, Texas Department of Transportation)
SiteManager also has benefits for highway contractors and suppliers. Because contract management procedures will be more efficient, contractors can usually expect faster turnaround on payments and speedier resolution of contract change orders. And suppliers will benefit from SiteManager's ability to automate procedures for certifying that suppliers or their materials meet a highway agency's specifications.
What Is SiteManager?
SiteManager is basically an integrated series of computerized forms for entering and viewing all information needed for a contract from the planning stage to the archival stage. The information entered on these forms is stored in a central database. This means that all information on a contract is in a single location - not scattered across different computer networks and file cabinets as is often the case now. So when a user calls up a record or report from SiteManager, it reflects the most up-to-date information available. In addition, there's never any need to enter duplicate information (such as an address) or to search for the most recent version of a document.
Another benefit of SiteManager is its ability to automatically transfer information from one form to all other forms and reports that use the same information. For example, SiteManager can take information from contractor payroll forms to generate annual EEO reports and can use information from daily work reports to prepare periodic progress payments to contractors.
Finally, SiteManager automates the authorization of contracts and other documents. The program routes authorization requests to each person who needs to review them. Upon receiving approval on a document, the program sends it to the next person in line. You no longer have to figure out who needs to receive documents for authorization, and you can see at a glance who has given authorization and when.
SiteManager takes full advantage of the capabilities of networked personal computers. The program is a client/server application - meaning that data are entered and manipulated on individual personal computers but are stored on a central computer server. This approach lets users work with data on powerful personal computers, but all changes are saved in a central file.
SiteManager runs on personal computers using Microsoft Windows 3.1, Windows for Workgroups 3.11, Windows 95, Windows NT, or IBM OS/2 Warp with OS/2 WIN. These graphical user-interfaces make it easy to enter and retrieve data.
SiteManager stores information in a relational database. This makes possible the exchange of information between SiteManager and mainstream business software applications, such as spreadsheets and word processors. SiteManager is also designed to work well with other software programs from AASHTO.
How Does SiteManager Work?
After starting SiteManager and entering your user identification number and password, you can access any of the program's 10 modules via the main screen. (See figure 1.) The program's contract management features are located in six of these modules:
These six modules provide online forms for viewing and entering information related to highway construction contracts. Pull-down menus and buttons make it easy to enter information and help prevent errors.
Contract Administration is the main module. Here you can view and enter information on all construction work by contract, project, or contract line item. (See figure 2.) You can view the key dates in a project, examine information on contract funding, and review the progress or schedules for an entire contract or for just one project in that contract. You can also call up information on contract status, the highway agency staff with authority over the contract, the subcontractors and vendors associated with a contract, and any contract disputes or claims.
The Daily Work Reports module provides forms for recording work completed by the contractor, conditions at the project site, the names of contractor and highway agency staff who worked at the site, information on equipment and materials used, the results of field tests, and other information. (See figure 3.) Daily work reports can be completed in the field using a notebook computer and then downloaded later to the SiteManager database. Information from these reports can be used to generate progress payments to the contractor.
The Contractor Payments module automatically generates payment estimates and tracks authorization of those payments. The module calculates highway agency-defined adjustments, such as incentives and disincentives, fuel price adjustments, and retainage. It also reports discrepancies in the estimate process resulting from item overruns, lack of certified payrolls, and other factors. In addition, the module tracks use of stockpiled materials and makes the appropriate adjustments to payments.
The Change Orders module is used to build change orders for a contract. The program identifies who will need to approve the change order and tracks the change order's progress through the approval process. Upon final approval of the change order, the affected contract items are automatically updated.
The Civil Rights module automatically tracks a state's goals and commitments on the use of disadvantaged business enterprises and produces reports on these goals for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The module also tracks on-the-job training goals and generates annual EEO reports.
The Materials Management module is used to enter and view materials information and the results of materials sampling and testing. The number of materials tests that are performed during a contract is automatically compared with the contract's required testing frequency. This information is then used in calculating contractor payments for quantities of materials installed and accepted. SiteManager includes forms for entering the results of 30 standard AASHTO and American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) tests. The program also includes a template so that states can add forms for additional materials tests.
In addition to the six modules for entering and reviewing information on contracts, SiteManager includes several modules for maintaining and running the program.
The System Administration module allows state highway agencies to customize the program for their own requirements. For example, this module is used to give individual users the authority to view or update contract information and to tailor SiteManager to fit with a highway agency's organizational structure. It also allows highway agencies to enter their own criteria for managing construction contracts, such as limits on contract overruns and the determination of who must authorize changes to contracts.
Other modules include: (1) Pipeline and Zip, which is used by field inspectors to transfer data to the project manager and by the project manager to transfer data to the main database, (2) Manuals, which gives users access to electronic versions of a highway agency's construction manuals and documentation, and (3) Accessories, which provides tools for electronic mail and other tasks. SiteManager also includes an extensive online help system.
Designed To Meet Users Needs
SiteManager was conceived in 1990 at a meeting of the AASHTO Subcommittee on Construction. After determining the basic requirements for a contract management system, the Subcommittee on Construction developed a project proposal and submitted it to the AASHTO BAMS (Bid Analysis Management System) Task Force - now called the Trns.Port (Transportation Software Management Solution) Task Force - which oversees software development.
In 1994, AASHTO awarded a contract to SHL Systemhouse to develop the foundation for a computerized contract management system. After evaluating the systems that were in use or under development by the states to see if any could serve as a starting point, the contractor concluded that a completely new system would be the best approach.
To make the development of SiteManager possible, 18 states, the province of New Brunswick, and FHWA each contributed $515,000 to the project. Pooling their resources not only saved them money, but it also allowed them to help guide the software program's development to ensure that it would meet a wide range of needs.
The contract for development of the software program was awarded in 1995 to MCI Systemhouse, which had purchased SHL Systemhouse. The software is now being extensively tested by the highway agencies in Iowa, Texas, and Virginia.
AASHTO will release SiteManager in May 1998 as a "warranty release." During the warranty period, which will be the first full-scale use of the program, the contractor will repair any problems that users discover. The final version of the program is scheduled to be released Nov. 1, 1998.
According to AASHTO, a statewide license for SiteManager will cost $155,000 per year, which will allow the software to be used by a state's highway agency offices and the FHWA division office. The price includes periodic improvements and enhancements to the program. The price of the initial license also includes approximately 200 person-hours worth of training, technical support, and other installation and implementation assistance. States can purchase additional technical support for assistance with tasks such as developing an implementation plan, re-engineering business processes to take full advantage of SiteManager, or integrating SiteManager with an agency's existing computer programs.
To make it easier for states to implement SiteManager, FHWA will allow federal-aid construction funds to be used to purchase the computer hardware required to run the program.
Read more on Trns.Port!
For more information on SiteManager, contact Bill Dowd, FHWA Highway Operations Division. Telephone: (202) 366-1580; fax: (202) 366-9981; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill Dowd is an engineer with FHWA's Highway Operations Division. He is one of FHWA's two representatives on the AASHTO SiteManager Technical Review Team, which is overseeing development of the program.