Colin Yates, chief operating officer at WorkMobile, the mobile data capture solution, discusses some of the benefits construction companies can reap from ‘going digital’.
The construction sector has been slow to join the tech race. Recent research has found that construction companies are struggling to harness the power of mobile and automation technology, data and analytics and robotics – just 8% of firms would class themselves as ‘cutting-edge’ innovators and shockingly, 69% are ‘behind the curve’.
But times are changing and the sector is currently facing a number of challenges, such as the biggest skills shortage the industry has faced for 20 years, and the rapid increase in the amount of work coming in.
An independent study by the Construction Leadership Council urges the sector to embrace technological innovation, otherwise it risks being left behind. It also warns that, without getting on board, the industry will struggle to overcome productivity issues, skills shortages, or financial difficulties. Adopting tech will be crucial to construction’s survival over the next 10 years to ensure these problems don’t decline so much that they become irreversible.
So, how can technology help the industry combat these issues and why should firms be ‘going digital’?
Reduced operational costs
For employees working between sites, and without regular access to a desk, juggling mountains of paperwork is far from ideal. Documents can easily be lost, damaged or incorrectly filed. And when document management is poor, this can mean incomplete audit trails, time wasted on searching for information, miscommunication, and even the failure of a project. It can also lead to endless compliancy issues that put the business at risk of legal action. This could cause potential penalties or mean they are unable to invoice for completed work.
However, we are currently living in an age where physical paperwork is becoming less important. This is because there are various cost-effective, digital applications now available to simplify the data capture process and allow information to be collected more accurately than via a piece of paper. With these mobile solutions, everything can be stored remotely in one place and backed up, so documents are safe and secure and can be managed more efficiently.
An example of one effective data capture solution is WorkMobile for Construction. An application that can be accessed via a laptop, smartphone or tablet, this solution enables information to be captured in real-time by workers either on or off site. It can also reduce data entry costs, saving time previously spent on manual process, such as time keeping or filing documents. As a result, this helps to increase productivity, improve operational return on investment and streamline workflows.
By replacing traditional paper forms, field workers can easily collect, monitor and share data via their mobile device, such as job report forms, timesheets, locations, photos and signatures. Some data capture apps can also give organisations live updates of when the status of a job changes – such as whether a specific task has been completed. This can help to digitally record the exact progress of a project, making it easier to report back to clients or project managers.
Improved communication between workers
In an environment where construction businesses are under increasing pressure to cut operational costs, whilst maintaining a high productivity level, adopting cloud technology is a great way for firms to become more agile and improve employee communication. A major project will often involve people from several disciplines with differing skill-sets – from engineers to admin teams. With the development of cloud technology, it is now easier than ever before for tradespeople working at different locations, and without regular access to a desk, to can stay in contact with colleagues from other sites.
Before mobile technology was readily available, ensuring communications reached every different faction of a project was troublesome. However, the development of cloud technology has allowed everyone to keep precisely to the same agenda. So for instance, workers who have been tasked with updating a building’s interior can digitally record updates on where the job is up to, and even take photographs and videos to show progress. This data can then be uploaded to a platform hosted on the cloud and instantly accessed by head office; so, work can be actioned straight away, and results recorded and signed off quickly.
Remaining competitive is an important focus for any construction firm, particularly given the current economic climate, so businesses need to keep their eyes open for opportunities that can help to drive the company forward. Adopting new technology, such as mobile devices, data capture services and cloud technology, clearly provides great cost-effective and efficiency benefits for construction companies and now is the time to take advantage and stay ahead of the competition.