The world we left behind in 2019 looks quaint compared to the 2020 we encountered. And while Covid-19 threw a wrench in everyone’s plans, leaving plenty of wreckage in its wake, the construction industry figured out ways to move forward –– in part, by leveraging technology, as Mike Merrill, co-founder and chief evangelist of WorkMax, explains here.
So how are firms using construction technology going to make the most of 2021? That was one of the questions WorkMax set out to learn when surveying 134 construction leaders last summer. The goal was to explore their use of live field data, find out what data collection techniques are being used in the field and where contractors can improve to increase their productivity moving forward.
According to the Live Field Data Usage Report, here is why contractors are turning to technology to get a leg up on the competition in the new year:
Increase profits with digitised live field data. Live field data collection delivers fast and accurate data from the field to the office and back instantly. Technological shortcomings from analog collection methods can lead to wasted time, numerous job cost reallocations, and inaccurate billing –– precisely what construction managers need to avoid. The right tech solutions will streamline administrative efforts, collect and highlight critical data and improve your bottom line.
Make better decisions with accurate live field data. The report clarifies that live field data is the ground floor technology that all other tools and processes should be built upon. No matter the size of the operation, or the digital tools on hand, if the data collected and used is hand-written or spreadsheet based, there is an increased chance for unnecessary errors and delays. Without the right technology at your fingertips, key data from employees in the field is time-consuming and difficult to fill-out, collect and format. Even once collected, it still must be tabulated, organised and analysed to turn into meaningful and actionable data. In some cases, the time saved with live field data can replace hiring new employees.
Digitized live field data increases productivity. According to McKinsey’s report: Reinventing Construction: A Route to Higher Productivity, there’s strong evidence that digital transformation can result in productivity gains of up to 15% while seeing cost reductions of up to 6%. Increasing productivity and decreasing cost is something that can be taken to the bank, literally. Employee adoption is the key to helping data collection become a part of company culture. Once employees embrace this, they will uncover new levels of tracking that can drive employees, once they can see their current speed and effectiveness, to increase their speed and efficiency in every trackable way. Live field data means accurate data, driven by onsite workers, ensuring projects are more likely to be completed on time and within budget.
An all-in-one live field data platform streamlines workflows. Centralising data into one easy to use platform simplifies the data management process. As the report shows, simple is best for perpetual success. With a system that is easy to understand and use, the project cost structure from the accounting system stays in sync with the time tracking app to save employees time with time entry and allocation. When the project-restricted cost codes in the time tracking app are based on the actual scope of work for a specific project instead of just a full list of all cost codes, accountants will spend less time reallocating job costs. This results in more accurate and timely job costs, increased efficiency and productivity, leading to increased project control and profits.
Live field data gives small companies a chance to compete with large companies One of the most interesting aspects of the report is the difference between small and large companies. Typically large firms have always been ahead in the technology race, being able to afford the most advanced and expensive solutions. Today, the availability of affordable and easy to use mobile tech means small companies can become as advanced as their larger counterparts. According to the Live Field Data Usage report, now that advanced platforms are more accessible, small firms can reclaim one of the most effective selling points the larger companies have, predictability.
Live field data improves field to office communication. Over the next year, it will become clear what firms are using live data collection and management. Tony Booth stated it well on the Mobile Workforce Podcast: “So, it really starts in the management and the leadership. It’s got to start from the top down. The top leadership has to be good communicators, and they have to get that through. They also have to be ready to take it from the bottom up, and get that feedback.” Live field data’s ability to tighten processes, control budgets, and detect issues before they get out of hand will set contractors that use it ahead with predictable timelines, transparent progress reporting and budget shaving confidence. Using live field data in one app, companies don’t need to have an army of workers traveling from site to site gathering field data in an attempt to provide progress reports to owners or management. It’s simple for the field employees to provide rich visual progress reports with photos and videos to share the project status with the smartphone in their pocket. The labor hours and production reports are automatically emailed to owners without any human intervention needed. The parameters are set up once, and the owners know exactly what’s happening on all of their projects at the intervals they are looking for without being physically on-site or even having to ask the questions.
Integrated, synced data is the rule with live field data, not the exception. Manual field data collection processes using paper or spreadsheets and digital data that lags through apps that aren’t integrated, force contractors to make decisions today based on data that could be several weeks old. Having multiple software platforms for different areas of your business is a massive waste of time and resources, especially if the platforms aren’t talking to one another. That’s why integration is so important. That efficiency is maximised when everyone in your organisation has instant access to all project data from your accounting system, whether they’re in the field or the office.
As the economy starts to put itself back on track, companies must take advantage of every tool and process to give them an edge over the old way of doing things. Your peers have spoken, and it is clear that live field data improved their profitability, productivity and helped keep them on time and within budget. This is a new world in 2021. Now is the time to have a digital, all-inclusive, integrated, real-time, and simple platform to manage construction businesses.
Mike Merrill is co-founder and Chief Evangelist of WorkMax by AboutTime Technologies and host of The Mobile Workforce Podcast. He has been an entrepreneur and business owner in the construction and technology industry for nearly three decades.