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CASE STUDY - Digital transformation at Alex Murray Construction

July 1, 2024

Alex Murray Construction (AMC), a family-owned contractor based in the Western Isles, has been in operation since 1990. The company has grown into an all-trades organisation employing a diverse range of tradespeople including joiners, electricians, plumbers, and painters. Steven Murray, the Operations Director, has been instrumental in driving the company's digital transformation since transitioning from working as a joiner into an office-based role as Project Development Manager, before becoming Operations Director.

When he started in the office, he realised how reliant the business was on paper-based processes which led to inefficiencies, miscommunications, and a significant administrative burden. He recalls, "Almost everything in the office was on paper. Of course, we used emails and Microsoft Office, but there was no real implementation of digital in an operational sense."

The benefits of digital solutions

Recognising the need for a more streamlined approach – especially as the company sought to enhance its service delivery – Steven began to implement digital tools to address the inefficiencies at AMC.

The journey began with simple solutions like Dropbox Business, which facilitated better collaboration and document sharing, meaning people could all be working on and looking at the same version of a document at the time.

Over time, the company integrated more specialised software to digitise and further streamline specific processes. One of the initial steps was the adoption of EasyCert and EasyGas for electrical and gas certifications. These tools replaced the time-consuming manual processes where certifications were written out on paper, then scanned and filed.

Similarly, the company adopted GoForms a software that allows AMC to convert any paper form into a digital format, enabling real-time data sharing across the company.

Digital certifications, documents and forms also reduced errors associated with manual data entry and ensured compliance with industry standards. It also means that clients receive well-organised, typed forms and documents instead of handwritten ones, improving customer service. Steven highlighted, "Being able to share and receive information in real-time is a key benefit of digital. It means that as soon as someone completes something on site, they can upload the information and send it straight through, so we can immediately see what they've done and identify any issues before it turns into a larger problem.”

Altogether, these shifts not only saved time but also improved the efficiency of processes and the accuracy and accessibility of information across the company while freeing up time and resources within the company to focus on higher-value strategic tasks such as improving customer service and quality management.  

Learnings from digital transformation

Investing in digital solutions has brought AMC a huge number of benefits but also some challenges. For example, convincing some employees to embrace new technologies required patience and persistence. "You need to take time and be determined to follow through or you will struggle to get over these initial hurdles," Steven reflected. To overcome this, the company took a gradual, phased approach, starting with a few licenses, and expanding as employees became more comfortable with the new tools.

He offers advice to other SMEs, "Invest in tablets and software over a period of time. As people see the benefits, it becomes easier to expand the usage". He also suggests starting by targeting employees that are more comfortable with technology as their influence can help build momentum internally for wider adoption.

What’s next?

Looking ahead, AMC aims to streamline its digital systems by reducing the number of software tools in use and enhancing the integration among them. "If we could minimise the number of software we're using and make them more advanced and flexible, that would be the dream," Steven says.

Through its proactive approach to digital transformation, Alex Murray Construction has not only improved its own operational efficiency but also shown any SME in the construction industry can do the same. The company's journey highlights the clear benefits and strategic importance of embracing digital solutions for a company, no matter the size.

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