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If there’s one thing business owners in the construction industry need more of, it’s time - time freed up from the drudgery of handling compliance requirements and other administrative tasks that take away from the important work of building people’s homes.
HIA member Bold Living in Queensland understands this only too well. The growing project builder constructs more than 300 new homes every year across South-East Queensland for a range of buyers, budgets and blocks. This requires large teams to create the modern turnkey home solutions that are its backbone.
With more than 150 subcontractors working with the business at any one time, and only limited staff to manage the entire compliance process in the business, its obligations have always been a challenge to manage.
‘We need a variety of documents and licenses from each subcontractor we engage,’ says Kristy Hinchey, finance manager, Bold Living. ‘There are construction licenses, WorkCover insurance, and public liability insurance certificates, just to name a few. We need to collect and validate them, and check when they expire or require renewal. It’s a lot of work and very time-consuming with such a large contractor base.’
That’s why HIA introduced HIA Tradepass, an online portal specifically designed to streamline this cumbersome process for both builders and contractors. After years in the making, and with valuable input from builder businesses experiencing the same frustrations, HIA launched the unique
product to market in 2018. The centralised system allows users to manage, verify and store key insurances, legal and safety paperwork required for every job, including from a tablet or mobile onsite.
Since the launch more than 100 builder businesses and 1000 contractors have signed up to take advantage. Kristy says the Bold Living team decided to become one of them because they knew they were struggling to keep on top of their compliance obligations.
‘We were looking for something that would ideally provide an alert to us and our subcontractors when documents had expired or required updating, and [secondly] would collect and review the updated information,’ she says. ‘We came across HIA Tradepass in our search, and after some further investigation we decided this would be the right solution for us.’
Stroud Homes Gold Coast was one of the first users to join after a HIA safety review identified the system as an opportunity for improving its contractor management process. The dynamic business established in 2014 builds around 40 homes per year and is continually expanding its operations, so a system that offers improved efficiencies and productivity on the ground and in the office is a win-win.
‘We employ at least 40 trades and suppliers for each build on a regular basis, but have a lot more in our database for specialised inclusions,’ says Peggy Dunn, accounts manager, Stroud Homes Gold Coast. ‘The amount of time spent chasing up Certificates of Currency, licenses or OHS cards has been frustrating for us in the past.’
Peggy says HIA Tradepass saves time for builder businesses and helps to minimise risk exposure. More than just a software system, HIA’s inclusive verification service also collects and authenticates contractors’ documents and business details.
‘Knowing that HIA is looking after compliance is like having free insurance, it’s peace of mind,’ she says. ‘The portal includes a straightforward and comprehensive search engine and the home screen shows a snapshot of our contractors’ status, which is a good feature.
‘Anything that saves extra steps in searches is a welcome addition for me.’
Kristy reveals that the time saved for the team has been the biggest help to Bold Living: ‘The man hours saved by not having to continually chase subcontractors, and advise and explain to them what is required, is a real advantage. [Plus] being able to review all our subcontractors in a one-stop-shop, and target only those who have expired documents, is really helpful... [we strive] to always have all of our subcontractors set up in Tradepass prior to commencing work.’
What was a welcome surprise, however, was the system’s affordability. The price starts from $220 per annum for HIA members.
‘We assumed it would be too expensive to implement, but after obtaining more information from HIA we found it to be very reasonably priced,’ she adds.
A lesser known feature is that builders can search for compliant Tradepass contractors through the portal by trade or region. Peggy says this would be particularly useful for builders in big markets.
‘At the moment we don’t use Tradepass to find compliant contractors. The Gold Coast has a population of around 550,000 so it’s not a huge market, but in a much larger one this would be an ideal tool for sourcing contractors.’
The ongoing support from HIA staff has proven to be one of the most appreciated features from users. Peggy found the set-up assistance particularly helpful.
‘Stuart McMillan [Manager – HIA Tradepass] is our point of contact and he always follows up when we send a new subcontractor’s details – which is one less thing I have to think about,’ she says.
Kristy agrees: ‘The team is always very responsive and always try to give us additional assistance. It is also a benefit to have that second opinion when we may have a contractor who doesn’t want to comply with one of our requirements and what impact that may have on us.’
When asked if they would recommend HIA Tradepass to other building professionals, both responded with: ‘Definitely’.
‘Several new contractors have been very appreciative of being introduced to the system,’ Peggy says. ‘I would like to see HIA Tradepass mandatory for all trades and suppliers!’
Kristy says most areas of compliance are covered by the system and once a contractor is set up ‘you know the rest will just about take care of itself’.
HIA members interested in a free three-month trial of HIA Tradepass can contact email@example.com, or visit https://hia.com.au/business-support/hia-tradepass and HIA’s YouTube channel www.youtube.com/user/HousingIndustryAssoc for more information.