From the first crude stone instruments invented 2.5 million years ago to the sophisticated technology of modern times, tools have helped us work faster, plan smarter and build bigger.
Today’s jobsites are full of precision equipment that make possible what was once impossible. These tools and the constant innovation behind them have become critical workflow components, keeping work on schedule and jobs within budget. And the past few years have seen an explosion of new tool technology — advancements in everything from drones and robots to 3D printing and BIM offer new realities for modern projects.
These kinds of large-scale advancements continue to propel the industry forward. But tool tech doesn’t need to be automated or ride the bleeding edge of innovation to make work easier, increase productivity or ensure safety at the individual level. Smaller-scale new technologies and thoughtfully reengineered versions of old technologies are no less beneficial in their practicality.
Here’s a look at a few tools that can help you and your business save time, reduce labor and work safer.
Wired & Wearable
Wearable tech has been around for years, but it’s no longer just for organizing consumers’ lives or tracking workouts. Product developers are finding innovative ways to work wearable tech into the trades in two main categories: hard hats and work boots. This tech is still relatively new to the trades — products are either still in development or in pilot stages. The next year or so will likely see a boom in their deployment.
Connected Hard Hats
According to a recent study by research firm Grand View Research, the smart helmet market will become a $1.2 billion industry by 2025.
And when you look at all the uses and applications a smart helmet can have, there’s good reason for that. In the trades, smart hard hats can improve safety and efficiency with features like location sensing; forward- and rear-facing cameras for a more-complete visual field; proximity sensors to help wearers avoid falling objects; gas leak sensors to alert wearers of explosion risks; real-time monitoring of worker fatigue; and more.
Boots With Brainpower
Like smart hard hats, smart work boots are a product innovation driven largely by the need for combatting jobsite hazards. They share some of the same benefits as smart hard hats plus a few others, like two-way communication, kinetic charging ports for battery-powered devices and emergency alerts for coworkers when a worker falls. One of their coolest features is regenerative power driven by energy created in each step a worker takes, so they can avoid running out of juice. Though they’re still in the pilot phase, smart boots will be making a wider appearance in the coming years.
Low-Tech & High-Use: Duct & Specialty Tape
Some of the most effective tools to help you work smarter and safer also happen to be the least expensive: tapes. Today’s industrial grade duct tapes and specialty tapes are advanced, versatile tools engineered for the many challenges encountered in the field. Pick a task around the jobsite and odds are there’s a tape to make it easier, faster or safer. Tapes can help create containment barriers, mask surfaces, secure heavy loads (and even tow those loads), provide traction and help with on-the-fly repairs.
Ropes and chains are some of the oldest, most trusted tools in the trades. But they’re heavy and cumbersome, eat up valuable storage space in your work truck and are a pain to cut or adjust to a precise length.
A new innovation in duct tape has yielded a unique high-performance tool: extreme-tensile cloth duct tape that can replace unruly piles of rope or chain. This structural grade duct tape is so strong that you can’t tear it by hand and a single 36-inch loop can hold 700-plus pounds of weight. If you work in restoration or remodeling, you frequently have to move large, heavy furniture and appliances in and out of the workspace. Weighing just 1 pound and measuring 5.5 inches in diameter, a roll of extreme-tensile cloth duct tape is a perfect solution to safely secure those loads to a hand truck or platform truck.
Grips to Prevent Trips
Construction and trade work means being on the job in all kinds of conditions. When temporary work platforms, van step-ups and truck runner boards become wet, it can be a dangerous situation. According to Bureau of Labor statistics, slips, trips and falls caused nearly 800 fatalities in 2018.
New technology in the manufacturing of non-slip tread tapes has created products with a multilayer, grit-embedding process to add extra traction on surfaces. These extreme tread tapes will keep your crew safer by reducing the risk of slips and falls.
Like the Real Thing, Only Better
Augmented reality (AR) technology merges the real world with the virtual, allowing you to see an existing space with 3D imagery and other information overlaid. As the technology gets more sophisticated, the industry is waking up to the possible applications.
There are already a number of AR apps on the market, and they’re powerful tools that can assist in both planning and building phases. Their primary use cases revolve around 3D modeling. AR apps can assist in everything from prototyping in the design-build process to identifying potential mishaps that will cause construction delays later. Spotting construction issues in a virtual space and modifying the design before they cause problems in reality can be critical in avoiding scheduling delays.
AR viewers take the 3D models of a space a notch up by superimposing those models onto your visual field in real-time. They can run as apps on your phone or tablet or on wearables like glasses, goggles and helmet shields. Their most valuable applications are visualizing what future stages your construction project could or should look like upon completion. Team members can walk through a project and view the finished product and access real-time measurements. Despite their potential, AR viewers remain on the fringes of the industry as the technology evolves for easier, more convenient use. In the interim, some AR companies are offering free trials on a project basis.
Tools for Today & Tomorrow
Though today’s tools are far more advanced than the handheld objects of the past, they share the same design intent of their ancient predecessors to improve work processes.
So, whether it’s a novel invention that cuts out entire steps of a project or an innovation on an existing product that makes you more efficient, the latest tools can help you and your team perform better and safer on the job.