Mobile Apps Transforming Construction Productivity

Some of the biggest technology shifts underway in the construction industry today relate to the cloud and mobile-app technologies. These technologies empower field crews and allow them to increase efficiencies in the following areas:

  • Equipment and personnel scheduling
  • Project-cost tracking
  • Punchlist management
  • Plan viewing
  • Accounting systems access
  • Form completion
  • Invoicing from the field
  • Time tracking
  • And other functions...

“Work gets done more efficiently because information flows to where it is need in real time, and more accurately than ever before.” explains Cliff Mitchell, cofounder and CEO, ClockShark. “This improves efficiencies across the board, reduces costs, improves profits, and makes employees happier because they feel more successful.”

Today’s cloud and mobile technologies allow for easy access to these systems from field crews and the office, making communication and systems access much more powerful. However, app developers are still working to build and improve on these technologies, but the new technologies that are available are a huge leap forward from the client-server technologies of the past.

The Evolution of Mobile Construction Technologies

Today, mobile construction technologies can encompass many different areas—project management, data collection, and even building information modeling (BIM). Basically, it is all about putting the right data into workers hands.

“My favorite new technology is smart jobsite data, the collecting and organizing of information from the jobsite that helps business owners to identify when and if they’re making a profit,” explains James Jarman, vice president of marketing, busybusy. “The reason this technology is so exciting is because it is so simple. Basically, using an app, employees and supervisors are able to quickly and accurately document daily production in the form of notes, daily reports, (and) photos.”

He goes on to say the results are consistent with business increasing profits by 30 percent within 12 months on a regular basis.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges with all of the changing technology on the construction jobsite is determining how to implement and best leverage the new technology. Jarman recommends taking two key steps to ensure successful implementation of new and emerging technologies. 

  • Begin with the end in mind. Meaning business owners who want to adopt new technology need to identify exactly what they want out of it, and then work out how they want to get to that goal. Technology is like any other                 tool. And that means it can do many things and is only as good as the operator. Identifying exactly what you want out of it will shorten the learning curve, and maximize the return on investment.
  • Integrate from the top down. Simply, this means business owners are the foundation of a company, so if they don’t use a technology then neither will management, neither will field supervisors, and neither will employees.              Therefore, when a construction company makes the decision to use a new technology, it has to become part of the company culture.

 

Mitchell of ClockShark adds that having an internal person assigned as the champion for technology adoption can help as well.

“This person should have an innate curiosity and some technical background around apps and cloud technologies,” he says. “If you don’t have this person on staff, bring in a consultant that specializes in setting up modern app stacks for construction companies.”

This could be an experienced bookkeeper or consultant, he explains, but the bottom line is to find someone who has experience with this and has and understanding of new technologies with specific experience setting them up and selecting the right apps in a way that has created success for others.

Even more than having a champion, Mitchell suggests that success or failure of mobile technologies ultimately depends on a few key factors including:

  • The problem/solution fit has to be there, meaning choosing a product that is not an appropriate solution means it will not be used for long and that you won’t be successful at solving the problem you set out to solve. Mitchell says, “Take the time to try the product and see offerings from multiple vendors before making a choice.
  • Commitment of the management team is needed to stick out the implementation and onboarding phase.

“The good news is that once the software is implemented, and everyone is using it successfully, then you’re ahead of the game because you’ve automated work that used to be done manually,” he adds. “But having the resolve to stick it out through the implementation is needed because various employees can often resist change and new technology.”

Leveraging New Technologies at the Construction Jobsite

With an influx of data coming to the construction jobsite, there are new opportunities for everyone involved on a construction project.

For example, BIM can help virtually design and model projects, enabling workers to foresee challenges long before the project is built and decreasing the over-budget scenarios. While this has traditionally been used in the office, there has been a greater push for leveraging the BIM at the jobsite as well, connecting the field with the office.

“Technology paints the picture in a very clear way for everyone involved in a project—from the architect, to the GC, to the crew supervisor,” explains Jarman. “Using technology helps all parties understand how a building should be built, as well as the daily overall financial health of an organization. The result of this is that all parties understand their role in relation to the big picture, how they impact it, and how they are benefitted from it.”

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges with leveraging new technology at the construction jobsite today is that many construction workers understand the value of technology, but do not understand what to do next.

Jarman suggest this: Identify the goal of the technology and what you want to get out of it; get business owners on the same page for how they’d like to use the technology; get buy in and train business management personnel; get buy in and train jobsite supervisors and crew leads, and train employees.

Perhaps, most importantly, be open to feedback from the team, and always look for ways to make data better. “Always keep it about the information. Technology that is used for policing will ultimately fail,” he says.




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