The introduction of the iPhone and mobile app in 2008 drastically changed the way we work and communicate. The app store initially opened with 500 mobile apps. With the improvements in internet connectivity and the onslaught of apps aimed at productivity, mobile app popularity skyrocketed. As of January 2017, the app store offered 2.2 million apps including hundreds of construction apps. With the mobility of construction workers, many vendors are developing construction apps to make their job easier. We will explore how construction apps are improving the construction industry.
Improving job site safety
In 2016, the construction industry experienced 991 worker fatalities making it the highest number in any industry. Because of the dangers associated with construction, a number of construction apps are available to improve job site safety. Construction safety apps include the ability to digitize safety inspection checklists, document safety meetings and incidents, and provide instruction in the event of accidents. Some construction apps take it a step further and notify stakeholders or an individuals’ emergency contact in the event of a fall.
Improving accountability of workers
Many employees have the perception that some construction apps are tracking devices. While not implemented as a “big brother” mechanism, construction apps do serve to make employees more accountable. Time tracking apps provide a GPS-stamp of the clock in location. As a result, employees become accountable for being on the jobsite and accurately reporting their hours worked (versus rounding up on paper timecards). In other construction apps, team members can assign punch list tasks to individuals. Because everyone in the app can view this assignment, the individual is now accountable to complete the task in a timely manner.
Improving data captured from jobsite
With construction apps, field workers easily capture jobsite information directly from their mobile device. They take pictures of any issues. The picture is stamped with the GPS location as well as the date and time. They can use the devices talk-to-text feature to capture important notes regarding the photo. The photo, time stamp, GPS stamp, and comments combine to create solid documentation to accompany any correspondence, request for information, or change orders.
Improving access to project documentation
Construction apps utilize cloud-based storage to create a centralized repository for project information. From any device and any location, all team members can easily find the most current documents. Most importantly, the team in the field has access to the most current plans and approved RFIs and Change Orders. Improved access to project documentation makes great strides in reducing rework.
Improving back office workflows
As the field teams capture their time, document issues, and complete their daily reports, construction apps record the information in the cloud in real time. The back office team can immediately process paperwork, such as RFIs or Change Orders, for approvals or any required invoicing. They can also reduce double entry in time cards, which ensures that your crew gets paid for the time they work. The Accounting team imports the information to the accounting systems to minimize redundant data entry. No more waiting and less errors.
Improving project visibility
With all the data captured in the cloud, construction firms now have valuable business intelligence to plot into meaningful reports and dashboards. Construction apps allow management to view all activity at the highest level. With this information and visibility, management can make data-driven decisions for overall project health and company profitability.
Construction apps like BIM 360 are improving project visibility across the board. Foremen and construction managers can easily view up-to-date drawings and documents. This ensures they’re working on the most recent plan which increases overall productivity.
Improving worker productivity
To improve productivity, you need to track how your employees are spending their time. Construction apps make it very easy for your field team to track how long it is taking them to perform certain tasks. They can track their time according to labor activity or cost codes. Capturing this information provides valuable information to determine which labor activities are taking longer than estimated and how crews are performing.
Time tracking and BIM construction apps can actually improve worker productivity. BIM drawings and models can estimate how complete a project should be dependent on week. Project managers can use them and the time tracking data to know how productive their team is, or if they need to add time to the project.
Improving communication with project stakeholders
Many general contractors require the subcontractors to complete daily reports. Construction apps allow field workers to complete very detailed and thorough daily reports. The daily reports includes weather, pictures, crew hours, and other notes that are pertinent. Construction apps automate this process to ensure that all stakeholders are in the loop regarding project issues and progress.
A construction project uses a lot of paper. On every project there are multiple bids, contracts, daily reports, time cards, RFIs, change orders, purchase orders, plans and plan revisions, invoices, safety checklists, inspection reports and more. Construction apps help transition to a paperless process, which will go a great way to improving sustainability. Even if just one process were to change electronically, like time cards, it would save hundreds of trees.
Improving customer service and professionalism
With all the benefits of improved communication, collaboration, and accountability that construction apps bring, the reputation and professionalism of your construction firm will greatly increase. “Having correspondence in standard formats and connected to projects in the cloud helps Entire Builders and Engineering (eBe) outperform project goals to achieve excellent ratings from clients,” says Nikmal Abdullah, Engineering Division Director, Entire Builders& Engineering. “In the end, the return on investment means millions of dollars in future awarded contracts to eBe because of our high quality and cost control reputation.”
Construction apps are here to stay. Examine your operations and see where you would like to improve. There will likely be an app for that. And an app that can help you improve multiple ways will yield a bigger bonus for your firm.