By Emily Faracca – On
As construction projects become bigger and more complex, technology must keep up.
This article will provide you with practical tools to equip your team with technology so that you can promote organization and efficiency on your next project from start to finish.
Your team will thank you, your clients will thank you, and you will thank yourself!
Here's an overview of the tools we'll go over:
Mobile Office Management
Let's get started!
Remote Video Surveillance
The annual cost of construction site theft and vandalism is in the billions. There are many options for remote video surveillance to save you time in investigating a theft or defacing of the site.
Although it may be a bit of an adjustment, builders and municipalities who are in the habit of communicating and documenting changes through a mobile device can provide offsite engineers and inspectors the ability to monitor progress in real-time. This keeps work moving faster and accelerates the timeline.
Vehicle Mounted Cameras
Mobile Field Service Software
BYOD - or "bring your own device" - is the norm for most projects. More and more, experts are predicting that a fully integrated mobile system connecting contractors to workers will become the norm.
An example of this kind of software is Arbeit Voice. It's a VoIP office phone system that allows for true mobile integration. It's not a way to forward calls to your mobile phone - it acts as an extension of your desk phone operating on the same carrier. Your point people on site using a software like this can be equipped with a mobile hotspot, because Arbeit uses their own tier-1 carriers, calls will never drop or experience static. Plus, all the hours you spend on the phone will end up on one bill instead of two separate ones.
We can all agree that your construction site without tools would be pointless, to say the least. That's why we're going to start the conversation with the tools (get it?) for tool management. According to Dean Perry for ConstructionBusinessOwner.com, the ability to keep the proper tools in the proper place at any given time is crucial for the jobsite. He explains that when a tool isn't immediately available at any point during the building process, your team loses - whether by time, labor or replacement costs.
Luckily, there is software that addresses this exact pain point. Dean provides four strategies to keep tools under control that clearly display the importance of tool management software on the site.
Tool Inventory Management
Try Fishbowl, cin7, or netsuite. These kinds of inventory software will give you oversight and tracking ability in real time. Implementing this kind of software will streamline the processes of issuing and returning tools. It will also reduce tool hoarding and equipment losses.
This is especially relevant if you are working across multiple project locations. If this is the case, you'll want to make sure you can access a history of the usage for each tool or piece of equipment alongside the employee who used it. It will give you the scope of assets no matter where the tools or equipment are located.
You'll want to make sure your tools both comply with industry standards and are performing optimally. Keeping track of inspections, calibration, employee compliance, and regular maintenance can become overwhelming. Use the aforementioned software to make it simpler and automated. In doing so you will extend the life of your tools and equipment.
Tool and equipment safety
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the misuse and failure of tools and equipment are the most common causes of industrial injuries - contributing to 5,190 deaths on the job in 2016. If you can efficiently track maintenance and repair schedules, it will translate to fewer tool and equipment breakdowns.
Heated Jackets - Although these are not necessarily a technological phenomenon, models have improved over time. Jackets now have battery packs that can heat for 8 hours or longer, and have become lighter in material. Some jackets can be charged in a vehicle and others have been made reflective. Others include heat settings to be customizable.
Cooling Vests - For those working in extreme heat, these vests can be lifesavers. Most use fluid cooling systems that pump cold water through tubes along the vest to keep wearers cool. There are also personal air conditioning vests and ventilation vests on the market that are battery operated, using small fans to evenly distribute air around the wearer.
Smart Caps - We may not have flying cars yet, but these seem straight out of a dystopian novel. These caps have the capability to monitor brainwaves and measures fatigue to prevent micro-sleeps. If a worker begins to drift off, the cap sends vibrations and noise to let the wearer know they should stop what they are doing and wake up. It also alerts supervisors.
SolePower - These self-charging shoes improve situational awareness with real-time location, status and environmental factors. The intuitive boots can measure user fatigue, alert supervisors of emergencies, and increase workflow transparency.
Spot-R - These clips can identify the number and location of workers on any given site, at any given time. The built-in gyroscope alerts supervisors to the location of someone that has tripped, slipped or fallen. Push-button alerts allow workers to signal if they are injured. There is also a site-wide evacuation feature that alerts workers if there is a need to evacuate.
HoloLens - This headset allows users to visualize a 3D overlay of the building plans over a job site. The building plans scale on HoloLens so that project managers can see how things will work on the site before it's built. It doubles as protective eyewear and is expected to become the norm on most sites.
Exoskeletons - The idea behind these robotic limbs are to help construction workers perform difficult tasks using heavy equipment for longer periods of time, with less physical exertion.
Construction projects require strategic roadmaps. If the plan is too detailed, the slightest hiccup in progress can derail the whole thing. But of course, not enough planning can result in an unorganized mess.
Luckily, technology has emerged to help you find the balance and track progress.
You may have heard of the use of drones for enhancing public safety, supporting agriculture, or monitoring the climate.
It has since been found useful for monitoring construction progress as well. A few examples of uses include surveying large areas, providing real-time data on progress, identifying hazards, and assessing the conditions of bridges and buildings.
Building Information Modeling (or BIM)
The BIM market is expected to reach $11.54 billion by 2022. But what exactly is it?
BIM is an intelligent 3-D model-based process that gives construction professionals the insight and tools to plan, design, construct and manage their projects.
In other words, it's a digital representation of your project. It's primary benefit is the accuracy of measurements that allow for prefabrication. It helps improve the sequence of work, which addresses one of the biggest pain points in construction - sequencing phases. Failure to do this accurately often results in unbudgeted expenses and schedule overruns.
Recently, astronauts on the International Space Station printed a 3-D wrench based on designs “beamed up” from Earth. This is only the beginning. Back on earth, developers have begun to explore methods to print building components layer by layer using 3-D printing. This kind of process allows for flexibility in design, potential for mass customization, lower forming and tool costs, and substantially lower labor costs.
Construction Executive named Business Intelligence/Big Data as one of the technologies to look our for back in 2016. Two years later, it's clear they were right.
Although Business Intelligence is an umbrella term for applications, infrastructure and tools to improve and optimize decisions and performance in any industry, it strongly applies to construction in that by providing information across multiple systems, each person can succeed in their role.
On the construction site, Business Intelligence can improve reporting, monitor KPIs, align your results to the original plan, and empower those on-site to investigate variances on their own.
There are now technologies in place that provide complete visibility into the prefabrication process, so that anyone involved in the project can see what is being manufactured, how it is progressing, and when it will be delivered.
Just like the rest of the world, construction is going the way of technology. Luckily, there is constant innovation happening on large and small scales alike to keep technology available and cost-effective for contractors everywhere.