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St. Paul improves infrastructure service capacity with centralized process tracking

St. Paul Public Works Department

St Paul, MN

St. Paul’s public works department was responsible for the maintenance of much of the city’s infrastructure and struggled to effectively manage projects with existing processes. By shifting all records and documentation to a web-based platform, the city was able to better track project progress.

Topics Covered

Customer Service
Process Improvement

Funding

General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Project Status

Operational since 2021

Gov Champion

Public Works Department

Problem Addressed

St. Paul's Public Works Department was facing an increasing work volume and needed to overhaul its management systems to promote efficiency. 

The City of St. Paul (pop. 304k) is Minnesota’s state capital and represents one-half of the state’s “Twin Cities.” Within the city’s public works department, street maintenance and public works construction staff are responsible for maintaining the city’s ~750 miles of roads.

The city’s construction inspectors were involved in all public works projects from pavement and concrete to sewers. Their work was integral to projects being completed in a timely and cost-effective manner but the systems used to track their work, on the other hand, were not ideal for achieving those goals.

Each inspector was required to document their work, including item record accounts and supply specifications in a bound journal whose notes were later transcribed into spreadsheets. The utility of these notes was limited by the fact that they were not standardized, and furthermore because the updated spreadsheets were inaccessible to inspectors in the field.

Because inspection work primarily takes place in the field, engineers or inspectors would routinely have to call someone in the office to verify details of project plans that were only accessible through office computers.

The problematic nature of these tracking systems became readily apparent when it came time to issue monthly payments to contractors. Because information was tracked through several different sources, it would take a lead technician a whole day gathering the necessary information from spreadsheets, emails, and journal entries to calculate the payment.

Short-staffed and facing increased work volume, the department knew its existing processes were unsustainable and were in dire need of standardization.

Solutions Used

The department adopted a comprehensive construction management platform that enabled better management and tracking of projects. 

Since transitioning to the new platform, the department has been able to easily manage projects holistically.

With increased access to project information, staff spent less time tracking down important project details. Now all construction project management records and documentation can be conveniently shared with stakeholders to ensure projects are on track.

The department no longer relies on staff manually transferring data from journals to spreadsheets, using iPads that allow them to enter information directly on OneOffice. For inspectors less experienced with technology, they can take pictures of their daily journal notes and upload them on the platform. With these improvements, supervisors and managers save time previously spent deciphering journal notes.

Previously, calculating contractor payments at the end of each month was time-consuming, given the decentralized data structure. With the uniform note structure introduced by OneOffice, information is organized and makes payment much easier to process. The payment process, previously an all-day task, now takes staff 15 or 30 minutes before they can get back to performing their essential work.

Outcomes

1

Project information can be entered and accessed from anywhere, no longer tying field staff to the office

2

Staff can recoup significant time savings due to improved organization and compiled payment items

3

Project details are organized in a uniform fashion, making review easy for supervisors and managers

4

Improving key management processes reduced strain on staff during periods of short-staffing

Who Should Consider

Towns, cities, and counties hampered by project management processes unsuitable for maximizing efficiency and information sharing.

Last Updated

Apr 1st, 2022

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