The concept of construction is nearly as old as the human race. Contractors may not rely on mud and sticks anymore, but the ultimate goal is the same: create a stable structure that can provide protection from the elements. In spite of all its advances in the last few hundred years — and the wealth of technology available in the modern world — the construction industry tends to be hidebound, clinging to outdated techniques and technologies.
This can leave teams at something of a disadvantage. The rest of the world moves on, and new construction companies are able to thrive with younger men and women at their helm because they’re not afraid of adopting new technologies and may even be eager to wear the mantle of an early adopter.
How can construction companies begin to digitize their business, especially if they feel like they’re lagging a bit behind?
Productivity has become a hot-button topic in a number of industries. In some, like logistics centres, labour productivity is something that’s measured down to the minute. Amazon distribution centres have become notorious for this, down to considering the use of wearable technology to track the movements of their fulfilment agents.
The wearable model may be viable in the construction industry, with wearables used to provide additional strength and stability to labourers, track health data in real-time for safety, and provide heads-up displays with information on materials or next steps.
Focusing on productivity also demands a lean construction model, which helps improve productivity by reducing waste across every aspect of the project. It might include using prefabricated sections crafted in a factory to prevent on-site material waste, or carefully scheduling shifts to coincide with material deliveries, or for one aspect of the project to be complete before moving to the next one.
Bring in Project Management Software
Accomplishing all of this requires the right kind of software suite. Project management software provides a hub for everything from blueprints and design changes to communication, reports, and even providing information to the client as the project progresses. This is one of the best places to start when it comes to digitizing the construction industry as a whole. Doing everything manually is inefficient and can lead to project delays.
Business managers who aren’t familiar with this sort of software may need to bring in a third-party company to familiarise them and their crew with these new technologies. This is useful for older or established companies that might be more set in their ways. The best way to bring in a new toy is to have someone on hand who knows how it works.
Adopt Mobile Technologies
Mobile technology comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes. It might seem like a wasted investment to have something as fragile as a tablet on a rough-and-tumble construction site, but utilising dust- and water-resistant rugged tablets can give crews access to all sorts of important information in a format that will survive the conditions on a construction site.
Other mobile technologies can also help foster productivity and digitize a construction site. As mentioned, wearables are becoming an important part of the puzzle. Some detect operator fatigue and send alerts, while others allow contact with team members without the distractions that might come with carrying a cell phone.
The average construction company uses a ton of paper every year. Everything, from contracts to blueprints and employee timesheets, has all historically been printed on paper.
This is one of the simplest ways to digitize a construction site. Simply start converting everything to a digital format. Digital time clocks, blueprints, and files are easier to sort and access, and help introduce a streamlined system that will, over time, improve efficiency and productivity.
This might seem like an insurmountable task, especially for established companies that may have years’ worth of paperwork and old contracts to digitize, but it can be an incredible tool moving forward.
Accept and Utilise Feedback
When it comes down to it, these decisions to digitize the company will affect everyone from the owner down to the newest labourer recently added to the crew. Everyone will need to be willing to adapt and change, and that means there might be some crossed wires or some established employees who might struggle with the new technologies.
The easiest way to avoid this problem is to keep an open door and accept feedback as new things are implemented. Don’t just let it go in one ear and out the other, though. Take the time to analyse the feedback. If it contains actionable points, consider acting on them. Utilising the feedback received from the crew can help business owners build a digital system that will serve everyone.
Digitizing Your Contracting or Construction Business
The construction company has a bit of a reputation for being the last guy at the party, especially when it comes to adopting new technologies. Digitizing the business is the first step toward bringing the industry as a whole into the 21st century.
By Evelyn Long, Editor-in-Chief of Renovated.