Modern buildings rely on a foundation of information as much as they do concrete. But gathering, analyzing and disseminating that information is a never-ending job. The paperwork alone can be an endless routine of tedious checkmarks and chicken scratch that fills any business owner with dread.
Yet, as other industries have rapidly modernized how they operate with digital technology, automating their workflow with new software and tools, construction company owners often hang onto their paper and manual processes. According to a report from McKinsey & Company’s Global Infrastructure Initiative, that is a major reason why the industry is not more efficient and productive. While a reluctance to make wholesale changes is understandable, it’s also not a sustainable state of affairs as other sectors race into the digital realm, especially as aligned industries like equipment manufacturers that often partner with construction businesses, expect them to be at the same level of digital adoption.
That doesn’t mean this transformation has to be stressful for a construction business. There are ways to make such changes easy and fluid, so companies can embrace the digital revolution and get an edge in the hypercompetitive construction world.
Going with the (Data) Flow
Anyone working in construction understands that important information comes in all shapes and sizes. Counting bricks and bricklayers (and figuring out the budget for people and equipment) is just table stakes. Everything can affect construction; from the weather, the transportation infrastructure, the state of the jobsite, right through to how different contractors get along with each other. Collecting all of that data digitally, with mobile forms, sensors connected to the internet and publicly available data online, makes it a lot easier to keep track of how all the pieces fit together. Fortunately, mobile software capabilities have accelerated to the point that it is possible to analyze and understand potential obstacles, ensuring you can avoid them before the first brick is laid.
Collecting data with mobile devices sounds distracting when your day-to-day focus lies around ensuring dry wall goes up correctly or wiring is safely installed. But, having all of your business data collected digitally and stored centrally has many immediate benefits: keeping track of equipment and materials with greater accuracy, eliminating errors by auto-populating work orders with the correct customer information, and even providing real-time insights into multiple construction sites. Collectively, these and many more ways of using collected data can vastly improve efficiency and engagement with suppliers and customers.
Increasingly, platforms are available to demystify the whole process. Work processes can be customized to particular needs, ensuring the transition to collecting field information on mobile devices is smooth and providing quick savings in cost and time.
One of the most critical elements those in the construction industry have to think about is the web of local, state and federal regulations. Factoring in environmental, safety, labor and other rules is vital, but the time and effort to manually fill in the right paperwork is itself a drain on resources.
In recent years, the federal government has been pushing new mandates for businesses to transition to digital forms. Concerns raised in court by several industries reluctant to make the switch have delayed some of the specific rules, but streamlining these forms is about a lot more than easing the workload of employees.
Making a mistake can be very costly in fines, legal fees, and future business. While paper forms may be slower and are open to errors, they are familiar at least. But as digital technology has advanced, there are a growing number of platforms that can allay those concerns. Built-in compliance checks tick off all the relevant rules so that managers can be assured their construction sites and safety programs are up to code, avoiding costly penalties and fees.
This modernization means construction companies spend less time and money on paperwork. The savings in man-hours and insurance costs are potentially enormous. Everything from employee benefits to safety inspections becomes a matter of auto-populating forms, instead of a day or more writing in the same numbers over and over. Companies can use the data in the forms for other purposes as well through integrations with other software systems. The larger data pool makes it easier to spot trends, prevent future problems and generally improve the bottom line.
Technology and business are both constantly moving toward ways of creating and strengthening connections, leading to better, more informed business decisions. The construction industry shouldn’t be left behind.
Many construction businesses either already have or could easily acquire whatever technological tools they need to complete their digital transformation. And the reasons for doing so are only becoming more urgent. Improving the way data is collected and applied can drastically advance the efficiency and agility of a company. Construction companies that embrace the digital future are laying the foundation for the future of the entire industry.