Porter Davis Homes is one of Australia's largest and most respected home builders. The privately-owned company operates throughout the metropolitan and outer Melbourne region, building contemporary homes that cater for all budgets. Nine times during its 13 year history, Porter Davis Homes has been named Victoria's most professional builder. Despite its local focus, it has also been awarded the title “Australia's most professional builder” on four occasions and in 2011, was named one of BRW's Top 50 Places to Work.
In the largely manual world of construction, one of the traits that sets Porter Davis Homes apart is its willingness to embrace sophisticated information technologies for business benefit. The company is one of only two home builders in Australia to operate the SAP ERP solution. It is also the first to mobilise its field staff by investing in the enterprise mobility platform provided by Blink Mobile that can run on the iPhone and other mobile devices.
The company's innovative use of mobile technology has seen it solve a longstanding problem that occurred whenever site supervisors placed orders for extra products or services. Felicity Nutter, Group BIS Manager at Porter Davis Homes, explains, “During a home construction, there will always be circumstances where items are short ordered, damaged, or perhaps we need additional product. Sometimes, a tradesman will need to come back and repair something that has been damaged during the build. These are extras that get ordered pretty much on every job. It's an expense that we have to bear but unless managed carefully, there's the potential for those expenses to get out of hand.”
Historically, the ordering of extras was relatively uncontrolled. A supervisor would phone a supplier from the building site and place an order. This had to occur quickly so that the build would not be delayed, meaning orders potentially placed with non-preferred suppliers or at prices different to Porter Davis Homes expectations. The supplier would provide a reference number which the supervisor duly noted in a “run book”. The next time the supervisor visited the company's office – which could be a week after placing the order – he or she would be presented with a pile of invoices for such extras. Each supplier invoice would have to be matched to an order manually noted in the supervisor’s run book before being sent to the appropriate manager for approval.
At this point the manager would have the opportunity to see what materials were being ordered and raise any queries after which the invoice would finally be sent to Finance where it was entered into SAP. Up until this moment, there was no visibility to the business of actual expenses incurred on each project. Managers could not be certain what the additional costs were on a build. With extras usually running to a few percentage points of the gross cost of a build, these unseen orders added up to unrealised margin for the company every year.