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Australia’s mining boom propelled the economy forward while most other countries were faltering in the global financial crisis. Huge demand from China and India for resources such as iron ore and coal started climbing around 2003, but commodities prices began a downward trend in 2013.

Exports have boomed again, however, to a record $13.4 billion of metals and coal in December, according to the the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The previous record of $12.4 billion was set in December 2013, the heyday of the last boom.

Those figures bode well for contractors working in Western Australia and Queensland as mining firms invest in new plant and infrastructure. However, contractors would be wise to remember the last bust and position themselves more strongly in the marketplace with their own investments.

During the downturn, scores of contractors failed, and scores of consolidations occurred. According to Philip Cadusch, Viewpoint’s ERP Sales Manager, contractors that haven’t adopted current technology solutions, and those with shoddy processes, have exited the marketplace.

“The good ones, the ones with good processes, have made it through that period where lots dropped off,” he said.

In addition, many firms are behind the curve in adopting technology that can improve their productivity, but some now realise that they cannot compete without investing in technology.

“Though the construction industry overall have been laggards in adopting technology, some contractors have seen the need to invest in things that that ensure profitability and viability, such as systems, technology, people, and equipment,” Cadusch said.

Software designed for the construction industry offers contractors a particularly powerful approach for streamlining data management, collecting data, tracking costs and profitability, and connecting all stakeholders.

“It’s crucial that firms choose a construction based solution,” Cadusch said. “You don’t want to be using some generic financial system; you need all of the processes built in that support the construction industry players.”

Those processes include site management tools that enable site-based employees to track and share data using a tablet instead of paper forms. Those tools can track anything from defects to quality checklists to equipment maintenance forms and can send data directly to whoever may need it.

The site management software runs on the tablet without an internet connection, enabling the foreman to complete tasks as needed, then automatically synch with the home-office system when internet service is available.

Another element of the solution is the collaboration functionality, which enables access by all stakeholders to the information they need to know in real time. Architects and engineers, for example, can see from their offices exactly what is happening on the job site and share revised designs instantly with the site team.

Real-time reporting is crucial for controlling costs and ensuring the viability of the business.

“These tools make sure that a business is profitable, and can see where it’s going into the future,” Cadusch said. “The owners and managers can look at the data and project how much profit it’s going to make. Will it be able to cover its overheads, will it be able to pay for its employees.”

 
  • Certainly, it will be a challenge for resource based contractors now that the construction phase of the resource boom is over.

    One option for them will be to shift toward providing maintenance services for newly built mines. Another would be to shift focus toward other areas of civil engineering entirely, such as road and rail projects.

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