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Coming up with better ways to track, pay, train and communicate with field workers is a real issue in the construction industry. It’s not a new area of concern, but one that has created consistent headache over the years, and leaders are starting to turn to technology to improve this important part of their business processes. 

Technology is often considered a cure-all for anything that needs an “update,” and it’s something construction C-suites understand and are eager to apply. However, integrating technology isn’t always easy, especially when the area of improvement still involves the “vintage” use of phone calls and faxes to submit timesheets. 

One of the simplest and most effective ways to introduce technology that many construction companies are experimenting and finding success with is custom app development. Construction companies that are turning toward apps are experiencing savings in time and money, as well as the satisfaction of making the necessary strides to embrace technology, driving their company in a positive, future-minded direction. 

Developing a custom app is a growing trend within the construction industry, saving companies time and money in two important ways.

Accomplish More with Less

For one national electrical contractor, it was a complicated situation with more than 300 foremen, each managing a team of field workers. There needed to be a smarter, more efficient way to manage timesheets and complete safety forms, document training, etc. This company also was growing rapidly, with more employees being added weekly. Simply communicating with everybody in the field was an exhausting challenge. Oftentimes when a construction company is growing and hiring more workers, its administration, specifically payroll, must also grow to accommodate. This, of course, means spending more money.

But the electrical contractor came up with an out-of-the-box solution to refresh its outdated processes that worked out beautifully: introducing technology via mobile integration and developing a custom mobile app with an app developer. It was a big step, uncomfortable even, for an industry that is set in more traditional ways. But as a result of the app, no additional hires in administration were needed during this crucial time of growth. The existing administration team of four was able to do their jobs even when the number of field workers increased by 38 percent, thanks to the new app, where info is now all input electronically by the foremen from the convenience of identical tablets that were pre-loaded with all the necessary digital content, including the in-house app itself.  

Accomplish More, Faster

Typically with the design and development of a custom app, a major consideration is whether to create something akin to a swiss-army knife and address multiple needs and processes (for example, timesheets and safety training). Currently, many construction companies use off-the-shelf software products to help meet their various needs, thus various software products that can feel counter-productive. But when multiple needs are consolidated into one handy app, it replaces the need for additional software products and training sessions. According to the electrical contractor, it was difficult to find a single off-the-shelf software program that met all of its unique needs. But a single app that they could tweak and tailor to perform multiple and complicated tasks in partnership with a trusted app developer was an appealing benefit. 

A tough part of managing field workers is the training and documenting of safety procedures that require the careful management of forms and signatures. Having a tailor-made app that acts as a “live document” for these types of detailed systems demands a seamless integration if there is going to be an introduction of anything new, especially technology, to the existing work flow. By creating an app whose interface is modeled after previously existing paper forms, everyone from field workers to foremen to admins are able to familiarize themselves quickly with the app. 

There Are Other Benefits 

It’s one thing for a construction company to go outside its comfort zone to develop a custom app, but how the company integrates the app and presents new technology to employees is extremely important too. Simplicity is key. Minimal training is key. The last thing a company needs when trying to implement technology is resistance or anxiety from its team of workers. 

A tried and true way to integrate a new app is to deploy a batch of brand new, custom packaged mobile devices with the app and any other branded digital content already uploaded. The tablets are ready to use, with the company’s full-color logo permanently printed on it, which matches the custom packaging. It can become an exciting time for the company, a ceremonial welcome to the future. Having uniform devices also instills a sense of pride when out in the field and working with clients. Employees, particularly those who aren’t as tech savvy, are usually excited to try out this new technology, especially when they open up the app and everything looks familiar to what they’re used to because the app was designed with them in mind. 

“When you have a workforce comfortable with technology, it can only mean good things.It naturally creates more efficiency,” says the electrical contractor’s IT director. “Developing the app 100 percent kicked off our momentum as a company to be more open to technology; it’s opened up doors and avenues of being able to save on work flows, save on productivity and get things done as efficiently as possible.”

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