Jason Barber is the vice president of construction market and innovation at Assignar, a cloud-based operations, compliance, asset and workforce management platform for self-perform contractors. Barber has been in the construction industry since 2005. Prior to his position at Assignar, he ran operations for an Emcor division and served as resident engineer and construction manager at Kiewit. He is a registered professional engineer and holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Colorado State University. Visit Assignar.
It’s no secret that growing businesses—in every vertical—often struggle with fragmentation (or the silo effect), which, as defined by BusinessDictionary, is a mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. The construction industry is not immune to its appearance and disastrous aftermath.
Even as firms modernize and continue to adopt newer technologies, some business owners still opt for implementing point solutions that help solely with individual department’s needs, or isolated pain points, and do not optimize processes throughout the entire organization. This strategy only solves issues in isolation, exacerbating the negative effect data silos can have on a construction company, and causing a neglect of the business as a whole.
Fragmentation within any business affects the bottom line. You’ve likely seen examples in your own organization of how a disjointed team can wreak havoc both internally and externally, creating silos among stakeholders as well, who could all be more effective with a streamlined, coordinated approach.
The Disconnect Between the Field & Office
One of the most significant obstacles to successful projects is the disconnect between construction workers in the field and team members working in the office. Jobsite logistics are a complex and ever-changing challenge.
From making sure the right workers are on-site, qualified and able to complete the job on time and under budget, to making sure the right tools and equipment are available and fit for your purposes, all must come to together to work in a safe and compliant symphony of tasks to ensure a successful project.
Miscommunications and mistakes happen daily, but the best companies find and deliver the correct information to the right people to solve problems as quickly as possible. In today’s market of increasingly tighter schedules, it becomes even more important that the field has access to the most up-to-date, relevant project information.
Construction projects can also suffer in the back office, especially when data from the field is incomplete or challenging to collect. As a result, delays or errors, erroneous cost accounting, and miscommunication regarding job progress can all occur. Moreover, administrative staff members are often buried in manual processes and paperwork, such as reentering data into disparate systems, which takes valuable time away from more critical tasks.
The Hunger for More Effective Solutions
Even as technology adoption rates increase among business owners, many construction companies still depend on paper, Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and single-point solutions to track workers, equipment, certifications, forms, schedules and other operational needs.However, recent statistics indicate that there is a growing appetite for more automated, flexible construction solutions.
In fact, productivity can be boosted between 50 and 60 percent by enhancing procurement and supply-chain management, reimagining design, improving on-site execution, and strategically combining technology and supply chain, according to McKinsey Global Institute’s 2017 study, “Reinventing construction: A route to higher productivity.”
Many construction business owners are transitioning to more customizable, collaborative construction technologies to help eliminate inefficiencies. Much of this cloud-based technology not only takes the complexity out of managing the construction business, but it also improves the productivity of owners, contractors and subcontractors. This, in turn, helps teams meet deadlines by scheduling and allocating available and compliant resources to numerous projects at the same time.
By leveraging the latest software, construction business owners can improve their entire operation—from the office to the field—in real time, for the entire life cycle of multiple projects. Many of these custom technology solutions provide this real-time access to data on all sides, regardless of where the work is taking place, using an up-to-date, single set of data that can be accessed anytime, anywhere. Ultimately, this strategy saves time and mitigates risk, giving your workers powerful tools to better understand their own productivity, as well as the projects.
While contractors are dispatched to different jobs, for instance, mobile technology tools can connect the office workers to field crews with important digital forms and timesheets, enabling more efficient scheduling, compliance and communication. Another example can be seen when considering qualifications within your own firm.
Let’s say you have scheduled a crew of five highly skilled contractors to complete a critical aspect of a project on one of your jobsites. However, you later discover at least half of these workers have not completed the proper jobsite safety orientation required. As a result, this team is unable to complete the time-sensitive work for that day, operations shut down temporarily and the contractors must go back to training before they can proceed with the work.
This all-too-familiar scenario can easily result when you are without the right data platform, costing you an estimated 40 hours of work in just one day.Digitized, collaborative construction tools help resolve many of these daily challenges that hinder productivity while improving asset and worker management at the same time.
This translates into more simplified operational management when it comes to vital areas like implementing routine and specialized worker documentation and licensing, maximizing special skill sets, streamlining quality control processes, organizing equipment, promoting worker safety, and overseeing temporary employees. Additionally, real-time reporting capabilities on precise field data help streamline daily operations.
The Enhanced Project Life cycle
There’s no denying that construction projects are becoming more and more complex, putting many business owners under extra pressure to enhance efficiency, cost savings and timelines. Digitized, construction-based technology solutions are helping many construction business owners reduce their firm’s amount of paperwork, downtime and on-the-job accidents.
They are also helping minimize the prevalence of company silos by making use of a common set of data, expanding access to essential information across entire project teams in real time. This automated approach not only helps open better lines of communication and collaboration among all stakeholders, but also makes the details behind each task easier to understand and perform in the long run.