Enabling mobility in your construction firm
Go where the work is
By Diane Haines
Your construction or real estate company balances back office functions – billing, paying invoices, running financial reports, payroll, planning logistics, etc. – with the physical presence needed on the job site or in a client’s office. Just like you, the entire construction industry is well known for its mobility of assets, materials and workers. Like other industries, construction is increasingly reliant on real-time updates and the constant connectivity offered by mobile technologies to improve operational efficiency. Today’s technological solutions must be able to serve users like you in both work settings.
Improvements through mobilityNew technology that optimizes operations has been welcome in the construction industry, but only when contractors know they will be able to see real improvements and a strong return on their investments. Flawless scheduling that properly coordinates all aspects of a construction project – assuring the plumber comes before the drywallers are expected, for instance – is vital to preventing cost and deadline overruns. When delays do happen, it’s equally important that the field manager alerts every group that could be affected, in order to prevent a backup.
Having constant access to information from the back office, no matter where you are, can help inform supervisors in the field and assist them as they manage construction projects in any location. Companies are looking to connect their mobile workforces and share information between anyone within the business, almost instantly.
The use of mobile phones in the construction industry is nothing new, and it has long been helpful for keeping a dispersed workforce current on the latest developments of a project. Keeping in contact with employees can be a challenge, particularly for construction firms running projects remotely. Establishing a mobile framework for staying in contact with a scattered employee base can help managers maintain productivity and keep track of top talent.
Reporting and time tracking from the fieldThe idea of tracking timesheets with mobile technology is gaining greater traction in the construction industry. Having the ability to keep workers out in the field instead of anchored to the jobsite trailer office has been especially appealing as every sector struggles to maintain productivity, while having fewer workers on the payroll.
According to Linda Eastridge-Jordan, Sprint’s industry marketing manager, construction firms could benefit greatly from mobile time-tracking technology, as the functions can cut down on errors and paperwork by automating the payroll and time systems, letting workers clock in and out via their phones.
“Any solution that increases productivity, whether on the jobsite or in the back office, improves profit margins for construction firms that are still recovering from the recent economic conditions,” Eastridge-Jordan says.
More than 67 percent of companies that responded to a ConstrucTech survey in 2011 said that they remotely report from the field, and more than half – 54 percent – said they manage projects remotely. While only 20 percent said they use remote solutions to track and maintain equipment, 37 percent report on monitoring safety remotely and 40 percent use mobile time tracking.
Construction companies have reported from the field for many years, but more are moving away from the pen-and-paper method and are beginning to use a variety of mobile devices to deliver those reports in a cost-effective way.
Mobile devicesAs noted by Constructech’s 2011 IT survey, contractors take project information “out to the jobsite with mobile devices as well as applying a host of applications on these mobile devices.” As the survey notes, construction companies are reporting from the field as well as “carrying out project management, scheduling, punch lists and time tracking tasks in the field today.”
This is evidenced by the growing momentum of mobile technologies in the construction industry. Yet, the type of device varies as much as the job sites do. According to the survey, “the smartphone is still one of the most commonly used devices at the jobsite (81 percent of survey respondents). Laptops (69 percent) and tablets (26 percent) also receive a significant response.” Given the advances in and adoption of tablets such as Apple’s iPad during the last few years, growth is anticipated in the use of the tablet in the construction industry as well.
About the Author
Diane Haines is director of strategic marketing for Sage Construction and Real Estate. She has more than 18 years of experience in high technology marketing and is responsible for driving Sage's product marketing strategy and initiatives in the construction and real estate market.