The ability to take advantage of technology to easily communicate and collaborate while in the field is essential to creating an “intelligent” jobsite.
However, construction professionals have traditionally been slow to adopt new technologies that can improve communications and streamline document sharing and project management tasks. Instead, they’ve relied on hard-copy documentation, slow virtual private networks (VPNs), fax machines, and email chains to access and share information. As more mobile devices enter the jobsite, forward-thinking contractors are finding that they no longer have to waste valuable time running from the site to the office to the trailer to repeatedly update, print, and distribute plans and documents that are vital to a project’s success. What’s more, they’ve found that sharing critical project information with team members can be done in real time via mobile devices and well-chosen software and apps. It’s time to consider ditching the spiral notebook and begin investing in the following technologies.
Cloud-based Construction Software
Cloud computing is fast becoming a critical component of enterprise software that enable project teams to collaborate with ease while in the field. Cloud-based software allow users to immediately access and share the most current data (e.g., documents, spreadsheets, requests for information (RFIs), plans drawings and photos. There’s no longer a need to store the software on a computer hard drive or run an in-house file server back at the office. And because the data resides in the cloud, and not on a hard drive, employees don’t need to be in front of a desktop computer to access it.
For architects, contractors, project managers, superintendents and other project team members, the ability to stay connected to stakeholders and each other while on a jobsite can shave minutes and even hours from the work schedule. And by not having to chase down contracts, insurance documents, RFIs, change orders and the most current project plans, employees can keep the project moving forward while working in the field.
Mobile Construction Apps
Native applications allow access to the vital information stored in the software platform from any mobile device. With a tap of a finger, employees can easily access and share data from anywhere, at any time. Most importantly, apps are optimized for viewing information on the small screens of mobile devices, and work with the device’s built-in features. In essence, they make the experience fast, easy and convenient.
Certain apps also allow employees to work offline, and automatically sync updates when back online. This is ideal for construction professionals who find themselves on remote jobsites without access to an Internet connection.
Tablets are portable, lighter than laptop computers, and most are equipped with WiFi, GPS, cameras and microphones. Contractors are discovering that they no longer need to keep a box of files in their trucks or carry around an armload of plans. Instead, they can just tap the screen of their tablets to review, mark up and share project information.
As with smartphones, today’s tablet computers have more computing power than their predecessors, and many manufacturers offer more rugged versions—and protective cases—for contractors, so they can go onto a jobsite without fear of damaging them.
Kansas City-based general contractor McCown Gordon Construction, LLC is using cloud-based project management software and mobile apps to provide remote team members with instant access to the most current project information and documentation. This includes project costs, estimates and other accounting data.
“Having up-to-date, real-time information when making decisions is a big advancement,” says Dustin Burns, the company’s director of information technology. For instance, if a project manager runs into an issue while on a jobsite, and estimates that it will take so many manhours to get a task completed, he can use a mobile device to look at the project budget and retrieve labor costs. From there, he can decide if the task can be completed within budget, or if a change order is needed.
The company’s superintendents use mobile devices to digitally log issues, snap photos to illustrate them and issue RFIs. The software enables that information to be immediately shared across the team.
Perhaps what’s most impressive is that Burns’ team has used construction software to create a digital plan table: a 60-inch TV mounted onto a mobile cart with an iPad locked into a kiosk mount. The iPad is logged onto the cloud-based project management platform and subcontractors on the jobsite can get the drawings and documents they need without a hard-line Internet connection. A more rugged and secure version of the digital plan table can be rolled around the actual jobsite.
Make the Job Site Smarter
Investing in cloud-based construction software and mobile technology empowers each team member with real-time access to project information so they can make informed decisions and keep the project moving forward at all times. This virtually eliminates the need to:
- print and distribute documents and drawings;
- constantly make phone calls and send emails to chase down needed information;
- mail documents through the postal system; and
- spend valuable work-stoppage time waiting for project changes and RFI responses.
The more connected the team is, the more intelligent the jobsite becomes—and the more profitable the project will be.