Goin’ Mobile: The Benefits of Mobile Construction Technology
“I can pull up by the curb. I can make it on the road. Goin’ mobile. I can stop in any street and talk with people that we meet. Goin’ mobile – The Who
Pay a visit to any construction site and you’re likely to witness mobile technology being employed. Mobile technology affects pretty much all parts of our lives these days, so it’s no wonder mobile has begun to occupy a meaningful role on construction jobsites.
Whether it’s workers clocking in with mobile time cards, a foreman storing daily reports with his smartphone or a project manager going over specs on a tablet, mobile technology is making a big impact on the jobsite.
For construction professionals, embracing mobile technology into their workflows makes complete sense. In the middle of the office, the jobsites, get-togethers with stakeholders and attending pre-bid conferences, you’re always on the go. Possessing the ability to get hold of the tools and information to get the job done from anywhere you are is imperative.
While many contractors recognize mobile technology’s important role, many still have a long way to go to make the most of mobile. Tablets, smartphones and other mobile technology can significantly improve the day-to-day tasks of employees in the field. What contractors may not realize is how adopting mobile can benefit an entire organization from the field all the way to the back office.
In a nutshell, here are some of the biggest benefits of implementing mobile technology in the construction industry.
Better record keeping
First, and this is key, mobile technology would mean better record keeping on a project. Employing mobile technology means data collection can be achieved in real time, such as transmitting information between the jobsite and the project manager.
In the past, paper-based processes, such as timesheets, project tasks and other such activities, were restricted to the office, an inefficient and often mistake-inducing process.
Today, having cloud-based options translates to on-site staff having the ability to file timecards, day-to-day reports, information requests, work records and anything else deemed important, all via a mobile phone or tablet.
Keeps field work moving
Put simply, the use of mobile devices can make things easier for field crews. Using mobile software apps, workers can log their time, complete reports and call up information quickly without the constant wrestling with papers or making phone calls to find out what they need.
Many of these apps integrate with larger ERP systems that permit immediate access to the on-demand data workers require, as well as allowing data to be acquired in the field and transmitted back to the company’s software system in real time.
Think about this—where in the past a project manager would have had to wait for all this information to be assembled and maybe even having to verify its accuracy, now they are immediately able to grasp the information they need to keep a project on time, on budget.
Plus, this information can be registered with date and timestamps, alongside GPS location data to make sure it’s authentic.
Construction management apps optimize tracking
Getting real-time information makes a huge difference where companies might have multiple projects running simultaneously. Here, tasks usually involve a bunch of equipment, and employees and material managers at times can lose track of equipment. Having a construction management app will allow everyone involved to keep an eye on everything.
It goes without saying, construction equipment is one of the major assets of any construction company. With mobile solutions, it’s becoming easier to track and manage their usage. By logging the hours for which equipment is used and keeping track of locations it’s being put to work, materials managers can significantly improve their planning and use.
Thanks to construction management apps, the chore of spending a lot of time and resources on data entry has been streamlined. Being able to share information in real time across the entire team – supervisors, foremen, trades, vendors and sub-contractors – helps keep projects on schedule by uncovering any problems that might hinder construction progress and lead to more significant delays.
Fewer errors mean less costs
Reworks are perhaps the major source of unforeseen and unwanted added expenses for most construction firms. And the best way to avoid reworks? Get the job done as it should be the first time – the way the client wants it, with the materials they are looking for.
That’s where mobile technology comes in – the automated activities described in this blog suggests the dependence on things like pen and paper, spreadsheets or disconnected software programs that don’t incorporate well with back-office programs is noticeably reduced. Often, these manual procedures required costly hours of paperwork and headaches for both field crew and back-office professionals alike. It also led to costly delays and mistakes on the jobsite.
Reducing errors comes down to everyone’s understanding of what’s required among the client, project managers and workers in the field. With real-time access to job documents and specs on their mobile phones, workers will have the facts they need to get things done right the first time, most every time.
As an example, a worker onsite can easily take a photo with their smartphone, build up a report and send it off to be reviewed while they get on with another task. Not only does this speed up the process but also cuts the chances of mistakes being made.
Yes, contractors have always snapped photos or defects, but mobile technology takes it a couple of steps further.
Photos taken from a mobile device can be tied directly to a specific checkpoint or corrective action. Plus, the inspector can mark-up a photo, circling or drawing arrows to a point of interest. Notes can be added directly to the photo and shard instantly with the project manager, subcontractor or project owner, or all those involved at the same time. After repairs are made, pictures can also communicate how the deficiency was properly corrected.
Improved communication and collaboration
One of the bigger challenges in construction has been keeping all those participating on a project on the same page at the same time. It seems that the lack of robust communication in the construction industry has complicated things. Communication gaps among project managers, supervisors and owners have been proven to lead to misunderstandings.
A seamless communication process is essential to help ensure that all the stakeholders associated with the project remain in sync.
Today, mobile technologies allow construction contractors to communicate with everyone involved in a project quickly and easily. Gone are the days of calling back and forth between the office and the jobsite. Many times, workers would tell their supervisors they weren’t able to see the “board” so they didn’t know there was a change in the schedule, or a client would say he doesn’t have access to a computer because he/she was on the road.
Mobile devices are quick to bring information directly where it’s needed. It’s convenient and it’s really a no-brainer to use by anyone involved in the project, from engineers to non-tech savvy workers.
Mobile technologies now mean a person can not only call off-site or remote personnel but also send images, documents and other information directly from the jobsite. Contractors no longer have to wait until the end of the day or until a face-to-face meeting to share important updates or project changes.
For those who are constantly on the move, it can be nearly impossible to keep track of documents and notes. But with all the information stored in one place now able to be accessed from a mobile phone, field workers now enjoy a much easier and compact channel to communicate and document their work.
As one construction project manager exclaimed, “Construction firms should always explore new technologies to help remote team members collaborate more effectively. Anything that speeds up collaboration speeds up productivity at the worksite.”
Mobile tech is convenient
Here’s a prime example: An inspection requires examining, measuring, testing, documenting and photographing work in multiple phases of a construction schedule. That inspector has a lot to carry and keep up with. He/she has to juggle a clipboard with many types of inspection checklists, along with pens, a camera and a laptop.
Mobile technology consolidates all this to one phone or tablet, for a more convenient, less cumbersome inspection process.
Technology creates a mobile office
One of the more appealing benefits of mobile technology is that a person is no longer stuck inside an office. Plus, there’s no need to squander time dashing from one jobsite to the next. Cloud-based software allows managers to assess jobsite progress, timetables and costs from wherever they are located.
A project manager can also authorize changes in workflow and other requests from your foremen in an instant. No further delays while the team is awaiting the go-ahead.
Plus, with real-time field reports, a manager can keep close tabs on a job’s budget and make changes on the fly.
Prior to the era of mobility, communication between field workers and the back office was limited to end-of-the-day debriefings. Accountability was limited. With mobile technology in the form of cloud construction accounting software, project managers now possess the capability to track time spent on-site, and to keep better timecards, which save on labor costs.
With real-time updates and notifications, the data entered on a smart phone or tablet in the field will instantly feed into the accounting system.
Provides customized documentation
Unlike manual paper documentation, mobile technology has allowed construction companies to customize documentation to correspond with their requirements. Employees can amend work orders to include things such as prices for individual parts. It’s also a challenge to change paper forms to add data which only increases the possibility of errors.
Implementing mobile technology helps assure that all the documentation is clear-cut and complete. Plus, there’s the flexibility for employees to add information if required.
Reduction in liability issues and other legal troubles
It’s been shown that mobile technology compiles information more precisely in the field when contrasted to manual data collection. This implies there is a lower chance of encountering legal issues.
For example, it’s particularly important to perform recurring safety inspections on construction sites; however, paper forms fall flat when it comes to verifying that safety inspections have taken place at a certain time and place. This can put a company at risk for litigations and other liability concerns.
By employing mobile technology, companies can resolve these issues and deliver authenticated date and time stamps as confirmation that safety inspections have been performed accurately. If there are any disagreements, this documentation can help to resolve any disputes or legal actions.
What’s the future of mobile technology in construction?
True, mobile technology has progressed considerably in just few years, but it remains anyone’s guess as to what the future holds. Wearable devices just might be the next big thing.
In the meantime, developers are starting to appreciate the demand for jobsite-based solutions. Future mobile devices and apps will no doubt improve upon today’s wireless resources to deliver the construction industry an even more efficient workflow. As data is collected, sorted and communicated ever more seamlessly, the industry will be able to focus on, as Larry the Cable Guy likes to say, gettin’ ‘er done.
By getting your business on board with mobile now, you’ll be able to take advantage of the powerful apps and devices still to come.
Hopefully, this blog had provided you with information to help you make informed decisions when it comes to mobile technology.
For further help with any such construction industry concerns, contact PDDM Solutions.
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