Construction managers face many challenges when dealing with this ever-changing environment. New tools and technologies are available daily that can impact workflow and improve upon efficiencies across all teams. Yet, managers have the difficulty of identifying what tools are the best to use, how to use them, and the best methods for implementing them into everyday processes. However, management can and should enforce the use of new technologies in order to improve field operations and optimize their resources. When doing so, leaders face questions, such as:
- What data is the most valuable?
- What are the proper approaches and technologies to utilize?
- Which deliver the most “bang” for the buck?
- How can different solutions and the resulting flood of data be integrated into an overall operations flow?
- How do you accommodate for different personnel skill sets and ensure adoption by the field personnel?
The following are five tips to help answer those questions when thinking about new electronic solutions or field service providers to improve field operations.
1. Take a Paperless Approach
The first step towards a paperless approach is either adopting an electronic platform for field operations or individual elements of electronic platforms in order to achieve a mobile field operations solution. When looking into a platform, elements to take into consideration are:
- Reduced error with processes
- Configuring data vs. capturing information
- Customizable and adaptable
- Easy-to-use data
A major benefit of going digital is saving money over time. It is estimated that $10 in costs occur each time a piece of paper is filled out by field operators and sent to the backoffice for processing. Not only is there the cost involved, but other problems arise with this process, such as the legibility of information, the re-entering of data into the electronic database, errors that occur with this introduction of data to the system, and difficulty in sharing documents with customers. All of these issues add up costs and create delays for projects. Systems that allow field-generated data to be input in real time and collaborate with backoffice systems will optimize speed and communication.
2. Create a Proper Process
It is extremely important to have a structured process that works for a company. This includes making sure the appropriate data is structured to go towards the proper elements like scheduling, analysis and employee fulfillment. The right processes will be able to connect each of these data points and optimize operations to utilize the right tools and personnel at the right time and place.
For example, when requesting a piece of equipment for a job, a normal system does not connect all of the needed parts like personnel required or other operations associated with the equipment. An optimal solution will know the location of necessary workers, their availability, and any backup or replacements that may be needed.
Data is important, but the proper data in the right place is needed in order to optimize this process. All of this allows for an efficient workflow with proper planning resources available.
3. Keep a Flexible Workflow
Any adopted solution needs to be flexible in order to accommodate remote environments where the backoffice is not readily available. Personnel in the field need to be able to access necessary data in order to perform their jobs, especially when management and backoffice are unavailable for reference. Tools and technologies play a large role in streamlining this workflow. Some beneficial tools to consider are:
- Data—To allow information whenever and wherever they are
- Rules engine—To supplement the knowledge and standardization of workers
- Collaboration—Involvement from personnel and back-office allows for open communication and an increase of pertinent knowledge for projects
- Workflow—Allows standardized processes to be more efficient and effective with things like ordering equipment or an approval process
- Integration—To allow other systems to work in accordance with the proper solution
- Documentation and forms—To include the proper documents specific to the industry, such as construction regulations
Some beneficial technology to consider is:
- Smart Client—To stay up to date even with a lost connection
- GPS/RFID—To keep workers accountable for their locations
- Attachment capabilities—To add in useful documents, photos, etc.
- Utilizing additional solutions—To integrate the use of payroll and other IT systems
4. Analyze Your Field Operations
Analysis of field operations allows for measuring production details, as well as creating reports. Obtaining large amounts of data is great, but not understanding that data prevents companies from optimizing their information. Analyzing the gathered information can help with measuring the demands of personnel and understanding the full extent of field operations that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
Capabilities like email integration or regularly scheduled notifications can help optimize the analysis and reporting. This can also help produce reports that are customized to different deliverables of a company and distributed to all of the proper personnel, which is vital to a company’s success.
5. Optimize Customer Involvement
Customers drive the business, from the beginning to the end of a process. Along the way, there may be some approval processes required, but allowing customers to stay involved from start to finish can be valuable. Giving customers tracking and approval capabilities can speed up processes and raise their satisfaction levels with the work being done.
There are many factors to consider when looking towards improving field operations for construction teams. Technology is proven to be an asset when used in the proper way. Optimizing on tools and technologies that are easy to use, customizable and adaptable for different projects and people can make a project more efficient and even lead to a happier client. Construction managers who leverage the digital transformation now can keep up and even surpass competitors. Utilizing these five tips can help any leader improve their field operations and optimize their resources.