Information silos have always been an issue in construction, as many contractors are plagued by separate systems that don’t talk to one another or are reliant on doing things “as they’ve always been done.”
(image source: istock)
This is despite the fact that construction technology has significantly advanced over the past few years to help make businesses more connected, efficient and effective than ever before.
In fact, according to a 2020 survey, nearly a quarter of all construction companies use six or more separate applications to manage their daily operations, with additional research finding that 48% of project managers said their project management software had basic or no data, and that it didn’t connect well to other software systems.
Disparate systems that don’t connect with one another typically means that there are multiple versions of the same data in various places, and that information is being manually keyed in by employees, which creates a wide margin of human error and takes time and money to accomplish each day.
All of this creates silos where different teams — the engineer, general contractor, subcontractors and accounting personnel — aren’t working off of the same information in real time. This creates not only inefficiencies, but mistakes and rework, which can lead to longer timelines and budget overages. Removing them can greatly reduce human error, streamline complex workflows and, crucially, save money.
However, in today’s modern landscape, it can be hard to tell which of the latest construction technology trends are worth investing in, particularly given the cost and training involved. Below are some of the technologies that can have the greatest impact, based on their ability to connect teams with a unified set of data to help streamline workflows and remove information silos so that projects can be run more efficiently and for less costs.
Technologies That Are Key To ANZ Contractors’ Success
1. Cloud-based, connected construction management software
Connected construction management software should be at the top of every contractor’s list because it allows the data, workflows and complexities of projects to be easily shared, analysed, discussed, communicated and understood, resulting in meaningful action across every phase of a construction project.
This means that a general contractor is working off the same information as the subcontractors, which is being funneled to accounting personnel for billing, invoicing and reconciliation purposes. It also means that the CFO of a company can understand the health of the business at a quick glance, while a project manager can drill into the weeds and get data regarding things like materials, labour hours, equipment management and much more.
When your information is hosted in the cloud, it offers real-time, accessible and secure data, instantly connecting those in the office and those on-site for more collaborative project management. Data backups are virtually automatic and information is more secure via encrypted user-level permission controls, single sign-on and multi-factor authentication, all of which help block unauthorised access to critical data.
Having a connected construction management system in place also enables contractors to bring everyone together more easily, particularly early in the process, which can help identify potential choke points later down the road that might not have been noticed if working in silos. This can result in everything from fewer change orders and less wasted time and materials, to lower project costs, which means more profit for the bottom line.
2. Mobile Technologies
In today’s world, almost everyone carries a connected, mobile smartphone device, which can be used to make construction jobsites more efficient and collaborative, significantly improving the day-to-day tasks of employees in the field and in the back office.
With mobile software apps, users can log their time, fill out reports, complete checklists and access information without shuffling through papers or making phone calls to find what they need. Many of these apps integrate with larger ERP systems, which allow instant access to the on-demand data users need, as well as allows data to be captured in the field and transferred back to the company’s software system in real time.
Using a mobile or tablet also removes paper from the equation, lessening miscommunication, errors and lost documentation. Eliminating the need to re-enter information from paper or spreadsheets into construction management software means that accounting personnel no longer have to wait for reports to arrive from the field by email or on paper. As soon as information is entered via mobile apps, it automatically updates data across all relevant departments and functions.
3. Advanced Construction Analytics
Construction analytics make advanced data, reports, and insights easily accessible, editable and shareable on a desktop or a mobile device, helping contractors gain immediate and actionable construction business intelligence right at their fingertips.
The ability to access real-time data on projects means a much more connected construction operation, with data and collaborative communication flowing fluidly between the back office, field and extended project teams.
This can help democratise data and decision-making by expanding access to data across the entire organisation and making it easy to retrieve and understand. Now instead of complicated Excel sheets, calls between the field and back-office teams or drawn-out emails, project teams in the field can visualise the most up-to-date project information, tasks and workflows and directly pull the data most relevant to their roles.
Access to advanced data analytics also helps contractors identify areas for improvement and opportunities to automate even more processes and workflows. With technology doing the tough math, facilitating tasks, auto-populating data fields throughout other functions and more, new efficiencies save contractors time and money.
For example, an equipment manager can easily pull up data or reports to see the average use of his company’s fleet of bulldozers over the past six months and compare it to a six-month period from a year ago, helping him discover if regular maintenance schedules should be adjusted to keep equipment running efficiently.
The Time to Adopt is Now
On today’s jobsite, information silos can lead to inefficiencies, miscommunication and mistakes, keeping a job from being completed on time and on budget. Luckily, there are a number of innovative technologies available to contractors to help them stay on track, with functionalities that facilitate communication and the sharing of critical data so that they can quickly analyse, compare and digest the scope and health of a project in real-time.
These technologies—from construction management software to mobile technologies to advanced construction analytics—will not only help drive your business forward, but they’ll also make your data more secure by being in the cloud versus on-premise; they’ll lower your costs by streamlining workflows and creating new efficiencies across your organisation; and they’re much easier to implement than most people realise. It’s not unheard of for a tech upgrade to take place over the weekend and be up and ready to go by Monday morning.
Those that haven’t or don’t adopt these technologies will soon be outpaced as competitors with updated technology win more work, leaving disconnected contractors behind.
Andrew Tucker is the Product Manager APAC at Trimble Viewpoint, a connected construction management software leader whose SaaS solutions help contractors around the world operate more efficiently, safely, sustainably and predictably.
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