Apple's phrase, "There's an app for that," is truer today than when the phrase was first used in a marketing campaign almost seven years ago. It seems like no matter the need, there's an app, an advanced technological device, or a specially designed software at our fingertips to help make our jobs and lives easier. The construction industry has especially benefited from the rise of technology. Long gone are the days of shuffling physical files and plans from office to job site.
What Types of Technology Are Most Commonly Used on Today's Job Site?
Today's job site looks vastly different than it did twenty years ago. Laptops, tablets, and smartphones are standard pieces of operating equipment used to capture images, transfer data, and update files. Mobile wireless hotspots and cloud-based servers have made working at remote sites seem just as convenient as working from the office itself. Supervisors and subcontractors alike have easy access to important site documents and rest assured that they are always working with the most updated information reducing errors and increasing overall efficiency.
Of course, mobile computing devices wouldn't be as helpful on the job site without specialized software:
- Plangrid. The software enables contractors, architects, and engineers to share plans, markups, site photos, and reports with the entire project team. Plangrid allows teams to maintain a single set of site plans, continuously updated, to keep everyone on track.
- Rhumbix. Billing itself as a bridge between onsite crafts workers and home office managers, Rhumbix streamlines communication across work sites. In addition to the usual menu of project management capabilities, with Rhumbix, supervisors can send high priority safety bulletins to staff in the field and manage emergency situations as they arise.
- Procore. With nearly 1 million registered users, Procore is one of the most widely used construction applications. Procore allows contractors to manage every aspect of a project from the initial bid phase through the final punch-out. Employee timesheets, task management, and subcontractor management and scheduling are handled seamlessly from the main office or the remote job site.
- Aconex. The highly rated Aconex is a widely used platform in the construction industry. Aconex boasts that contractors using their software have delivered over $800 million of project value in more than 70 countries. Users cite the software's ease of use as one of its major benefits allowing all members of a team to quickly access critical project documents.
- Getable. The easiest way to order, manage and pay for construction equipment. Getable removes friction from the process of renting equipment by offering transparent out-the-door pricing without hidden fees. Users can checkout with just a credit card and Getable handles the burden of managing the account, dealing with invoices, and settling disputes. Renting equipment has never been easier.
How Can Contractors Justify an Investment in Technology?
Contractors often operate with razor-thin profit margins which can make a significant investment in company-wide technology difficult. Budget allocations for IT staff, infrastructure, and equipment are lower in the construction industry than other industries. However, to fully take advantage of all technology has to offer, contractors must adopt, embrace, and make significant investments in technology and employee training.
Currently, contractors who embrace technology have a lot to gain over their competitors. IT savvy contractors will be able to provide more accurate cost estimating services, take advantage of centralized record keeping and project management which increases efficiency, and sync photos and files seamlessly between mobile devices in the field and administration in the offices. Contractors realize lower internal administrative costs with automated field reports, time cards, and payroll.
What Are the Latest Types of Technology Being Utilized by the Construction Industry?
Technically, commercial drone operations are banned in U.S. airspace until rules are finalized sometime this year; however, pressure from industry groups has forced the FAA's hand. So far, over 500 commercial "drones as service" vehicles have been licensed and given the green light to operate in the US. These services are particularly helpful for contractors who want to gather useful drone data but aren't ready to invest in a fleet of their own or the training necessary to leverage the machines fully.
Specialized software such as Skycatch enables users to get the most from their drone data. Once images are captured via drone, contractors can use Skycatch to use real-time images for logistical planning on residential, commercial, or industrial projects. Skycatch has been particularly useful in relief work situations such as in the immediate aftermath of the Nepal earthquake. In Nepal, Skycatch was used to quickly and accurately gather data regarding damage at UNESCO's World Heritage Sites and create a plan for rebuilding efforts.
While technology has changed the face of the construction industry, the revolution is not complete. As new technologies are developed, contractors will find new ways to leverage these devices to provide even better service to their clients. The work site of 2016 looks vastly different than it did in 1996. What will it look like in 2036?