John Sheedy is a product manager for B2W Software. He has had a leadership role in the development of the company’s specialized B2W Track element for field tracking and analysis and the B2W Schedule element for resource scheduling and dispatching. Visit b2wsoftware.com.
One of the most distinguishing features of the heavy civil construction industry is the volume and complexity of productivity, labor and materials that must be managed daily.
This amount of activity presents challenges for communication and collaboration, and these challenges are exacerbated when construction workers are relying on paper processes to capture, share and analyze project status information.
To bridge these gaps, more and more heavy civil construction companies are using specialized field tracking software and electronic field logs, which make information available to the right people in real time so that operations can be adjusted and profitability can be protected.
How Paper Processes Limit Field Tracking
All personnel within a heavy civil construction company would likely agree that daily field tracking and reporting are the optimal way to stay on top of progress being made in the field and gain visibility into the entirety of a project.
However, many continue to rely on paper processes, rather than modern software for field tracking and analysis.
Although paper-based processes might seem to have certain benefits—price and simplicity among them—these advantages pale in comparison with the disadvantages paper presents when attempting to empower your business with timely data for optimal performance and output.
Some of the most common drawbacks of using paper include:
- Fragility and ambiguity —Paper is a physical medium, and therefore, is susceptible to becoming lost, damaged or destroyed. Data captured on paper can also be unstructured, with the accuracy and quality dependent on the style and effort of the person filling it out. This can lead to errors, misinterpretation and extra steps during report compilation.
- Delays—Paper-based processes are inherently slower than electronic ones. Someone must be responsible for transporting and delivering recorded information between the field and the office. Paper records cannot be referenced in a timely manner —or sometimes at all—which can set a project back significantly. Field tracking data, however, can be delivered and analyzed daily to stay on top of
progress and performance. If days or weeks pass before paper forms are passed on to the necessary decision makers, it delays your ability to react quickly and manage projects effectively, which becomes costly.
- Lack of visibility —Employees in the field need to know where they stand on productivity and costs relative to the plan so that they can make appropriate adjustments. Using paper processes can deprive them of project insight. In fact, 93 percent of contractors report that they lack access to daily project performance data. Paper presents an impossible choice: Restrict your employees’ access to information, or spend excessive time aggregating data and creating reports manually to help them view, edit and share that information. This is a choice many heavy civil construction companies are faced with.
The Benefits of Field Tracking Software
As a modern, technological solution, field tracking software offers a far more robust method for data collection, information tracking, productivity and progress. Some of the advantages of field tracking
- Efficiency—With field tracking software, users can quickly and easily capture information about field progress—including productivity, labor, materials and equipment data—and send it to the right people. You can create highly customized field logs or use templates based on previous forms.
- Standardization and centralization —One major drawback of paper processes is that they often lack a well-established workflow, resulting in a high degree of irregularity in how they are fulfilled. Field tracking software requires users to include the same data and submit forms to the same people for approval, wrapping everything up within a centralized, user-friendly dashboard interface.
- Mobility—The right field tracking software includes mobile functionality, allowing employees to use it at any time with a variety of devices, including computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets.
- Error checking —Because there are no failsafe systems in place to catch mistakes and typos, paper processes are highly susceptible to human error. Field tracking software can catch problems, such as missing data, alerting the user to fix the issue before submitting the form.
How Digital Field Tracking Boosts Workforces
Making the switch from paper processes to modern software solutions can significantly change the game for a heavy civil construction workforce, including, but not limited to, the following ways:
- Employees are more motivated if they can see the progression or regression they are making on a day-to-day basis. The improved visibility that field tracking software provides will, in turn, create more of an incentive for workers to improve their performance.
- Workers make greater progress using field tracking software because it is easier to work with than paper forms due to its easy customization and support for mobile technologies. The dashboard interface also gives real-time visibility into your data.
- Managers do their jobs better, as they can view employees’ progress reports with the click of a button. This real-time information helps managers adjust quickly and take corrective action without having to wait for updates or spend time redoing work that has been done incorrectly.
A recent study found that nine out of 10 companies using field tracking software confirmed the technology allows them to make smarter, more data-driven decisions. Construction companies still have a long way to go when it comes to adopting digital technologies.
According to management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, the construction industry is one of the least digitized sectors, ahead of only agriculture and hunting.
To benefit from the advantages of modern software-based solutions and gain a competitive edge, construction companies need to combat this organizational gap by implementing digital software solutions, like field tracking, for streamlining heavy civil construction workflow.