Software saves Michigan $22 million

Michigan Department of Transportation

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A software application that has helped Michigan's transportation department inspectors manage and track highway construction projects since 1999 has produced an annual savings of nearly $22 million, according to a state official.

"The actual savings that we documented comes from about 400,000 hours of labor that would have applied" if the state had used old processes, said Doug Couto, the department's agency services information officer. "Every dollar I can save on an administrative function like that, it's another dollar that can go in a construction project. To the layman on the street, it may mean another pothole filled."

The PC-based application, called FieldManager, provides inspectors with a centralized source for project information — including usage of materials, stockpiles, timetable and work item progress, payments and program modifications, and reports and inquiries — and allows them to create daily reports right on their laptops on-site.

The state agency decided to create FieldManager in response to significant cuts to the staff as the road/bridge construction program tripled in size. Replacing a paper-based process, FieldManager provides more accurate and standardized record-keeping across the state, faster and easier access to information, better response times and better decision-making, Couto said.

For example, one county government worker said she previously needed weeks to resolve problems with project data because she would have to leave notes for inspectors, who were frequently in the field. "We took what used to be a three-week project for her to something that's just a half a day," Couto said.

Couto said the state is developing a wireless solution so inspectors can transmit from the field, instead of returning home or to the office to upload information to the central database. The state, he added, expects to finish an enterprisewide communications component for agencies by the end of next summer.

The state developed the application with Info Tech Inc., based in Gainesville, Fla., using Sybase Inc. application development and data management software. Although both the state and Info Tech own the software, the company has marketing rights. When sales go beyond a certain threshold, the state receives royalties.

Couto attributes FieldManager's success to heavy user involvement in its development from the start. It is almost intuitive and easy to configure and customize, he said, adding that users also have an annual group meeting to discuss changes and new features in the software.

The application is being used in 43 state transportation offices, 128 local governments and more than 100 private firms in Michigan. Seven other state transportation departments are using the application, and the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs uses it on Native American reservations, Couto said.

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