by Craig Noble
December 1, 2011

Smartphones and their mobile applications (apps) have reshaped the construction industry.

The days of driving between the jobsite and office several times a day no longer exist. These handheld devices make the trip for us now. The ability to instantly send larger volumes of information from the field to the office and advances in connection technology have nearly abolished the term “remote location.”

The construction industry has always needed project information in the field. Until recently, many contractors have communicated information in more traditional ways—keeping hard copies of documents at the jobsite and using landline phones to communicate. But these methods leave room for mistakes.

Mobile apps, on the other hand, give contractors options to adopt more efficient, thorough and cost-effective practices. Smartphones, iPads and other similar devices continue to see year-over-year increases in growth. And many analysts believe this is due to an increase in enhanced mobile apps.

Several apps that offer web-based platforms with complex functionality have recently hit the market—and the list continues growing each day. These apps can provide many benefits to those working in the field.

Communication

During a construction project, information has to be delivered to several different people without delay or error. Mobile apps using SMS technology can simultaneously broadcast information across a jobsite to reach all crew members instantly. These text messages may include information like safety alerts, operational updates, scheduling or weather issues and equipment coordination. This app allows management to reach all employees and subcontractors with a push of a button.

Project Management and Scheduling

As more contractors use solid scheduling systems to control projects, they also need access to this system in the field. Project management and scheduling apps help users manage day-to-day collaboration tasks. Workers can search for documents among multiple projects, download and view the latest versions of documents, send and receive mail, make documents and mail available offline and automatically sync when the connection is re-established. These apps can also be used to create photos, videos and audio notes to send to a project team.

Project Development

Mobile apps for the development phase enable users to search through thousands of construction materials and products, find detailed product data, compile custom packages of product information and send messages to customers or other project team members.

Location-Based Services

The construction industry has to deal with theft and vandalism, and many business owners benefit from using asset tracking software on their mobile devices. Location-based services, such as automatic vehicle location (AVL) solutions for monitoring mileage, speed, route, hours worked and idle times, have become common tools for improved equipment management and compliance. This type of app pings a smartphone user on a periodic basis, which prompts contractors in the field to continually track an asset’s location.

Customer Relationship Management

With new mobile apps for CRM, contractors can access customer data and even approve contracts directly from their Smartphones.

All apps are not created equally. You must do your homework to determine which apps provide the best functionality for your needs. Also, be mindful of the app’s source before downloading it.

The expansive number of apps can be daunting. To efficiently evaluate each of the options, contractors should prioritize their research. Apps that provide quick, accurate information to teams in the field and those that directly improve productivity will have the largest impact on a construction business.

 

Construction Business Owner, November 2011