The construction industry is in a moment of enormous change. Business is booming — along with the number, complexity, and duration of projects. Increasingly, companies are expected to be able to meet or exceed timelines and budgets offered by competitors. According to McKinsey, many firms aren’t keeping up, with some large projects running 20% over time and up to 80% over budget. At the same time, construction companies struggle to find skilled workers to staff their projects.
To keep up with these increasing pressures, construction companies are embracing new technologies to gain competitive advantage. “The industry is at a technological tipping point,” says Stephanie Viers, construction industry expert at Smartsheet. “We talk to hundreds of our customers in construction, and we hear the same story: it’s evolve or die. The competitive pressures are just too great to forego the advantages technology offers.” Here are three ways technology is changing the construction industry.
1) Real-time Visibility Is Becoming The Norm
Updating and emailing a spreadsheet from a desktop computer to someone in the field can lead to out-of-date project schedules, poor decisions and delays. Today’s construction teams must be able to update a project’s status remotely from the job site, keeping everyone on the same page at all times.
When teams collaborate via a work execution platform, both office and remote employees get the same visibility into project status, as well as the ability to update tasks in real time. Instead of waiting for phone calls, field workers can update information using a mobile app. All departments that are involved on a project — from HR to finance, IT, project management, and more — have the same real-time information, leading to improved productivity, greater transparency and better and faster results.
2) Automation Is A Necessary Timesaver
Minutes and hours wasted on a project can add up to days and weeks of delays. Because often one portion of a project must be finished before the next one begins, progress often stops while people wait for information or approvals. By using a work execution platform to create automated alerts, collect digital signatures and keep project documentation updated, companies ensure their projects continue to move forward at all times, automatically.
The best software enables users to set up automation rules, so that team members are automatically notified about changes that affect their tasks. For example, if the plumbing contractor will not have their job completed until Friday due to a backordered part, the platform can automatically update the schedule based on this change. The most enterprise-ready platforms can also send notifications to all team members affected by a change, so they can immediately change their plans. They can also digitize many manual processes such as punch lists, change orders, and safety logs, and keep them in a single central location, so time isn’t wasted chasing down the latest information. The time savings can be significant. In a 2018 TechValidate survey of Smartsheet customers in the construction industry, 47% said the platform saves them at least six hours every week.
3) Collaboration Is Key
When team members operate independently, tasks are unnecessarily delayed and mistakes are made. Nearly every facet of a construction project is dependent on some other aspect of the job. Office workers, such as project managers, must collaborate with field workers, such as foremen, throughout the entire project. While mobile devices can greatly improve communication, for the greatest productivity, companies must also create processes that ease real-time collaboration. Many construction professionals begin using technology by purchasing a single tool and adding it to their processes. While this may result in some time savings, the data is often siloed and cannot be used for other tasks. Construction companies can see a complete picture of the entire project from one place and improve efficiency across the entire project by using a cloud-based platform that can handle work management, enable collaboration between employees, contractors, and clients, automate approvals and alerts, and do all of this in real time.
Find a platform that solves multiple challenges. Make sure that the platform also solves other challenges, such as bid tracking, change orders, submittals, and safety order inspections. When everyone has access to all project documents and up-to-date timelines — and can collaborate on them in real-time — construction projects are more likely to be completed on time and on budget, with the consistency and efficiency clients expect.