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Late payments cost the construction industry billions of dollars PER year. What technologies exist for contractors to speed payment and reduce the likelihood of uncollectibles?

Mike Milligan
Head of Global Marketing and Strategic Partnerships

We’ve all experienced never-ending email trails, error prone spreadsheets, inconsistency in lien waivers, forgotten compliance documents, manual check writing to multiple subcontractors with different payment schedules and countless other challenges with management and coordination between general contractors and subcontractors. Added together, they turn into a lot of time that can significantly delay payment application approvals for subcontractors.

Payment processes to subcontractors can represent more than 75% of the project’s cash outflow, and being able to manage invoices, lien releases, compliance documents and other expenses efficiently are paramount to the project’s and company’s success. Technology can help to streamline this, especially when used in conjunction with your accounting system. Technology is not only increasing efficiency gains on the jobsite, but especially now in this global pandemic we're experiencing, it is helping to manage back office processes and workflows. Timely payment management helps to improve cashflow for both construction companies and their subcontractors, but also with technology, it allows you to eliminate manual processes and more proactively manage that cashflow.

Can digital drawing management fully integrate with the rest of a construction firm’s operations?

Steven Cangiano
Director of Product Management

Accelerating digital transformation trends in the construction industry have completely changed the way projects are planned and executed. Digital drawing management (DDM) is a component of construction technology that no project team can do without. The two statements below explore the importance of having the right DDM capabilities in place.

1. Ensure that your teams are building from the current set of drawings.

A construction project may require thousands of drawings, with revisions coming in from project owners, engineers and architects on a regular basis. Working off a wrong—or outdated—set of plans can be costly. Projects are dynamic, and everyone needs to be aligned to the same set of plans. This is where the right drawing management capability can make a difference.

Users should be able to upload drawings from anywhere and the application should synchronize everyone’s copy of the drawing set. With instant cloud-based document access, trips to the trailer—and the resulting delays—are now a thing of the past.

Built-in automatic version control supplies teams with access to the most up-to-date drawings. This avoids confusion and costly rework, helping to keep projects on track. Moreover, inviting subcontractors to use a mobile DDM app to access the latest plans enables synchronized collaboration.

2. Digital drawings should be used in the field to support punch lists and the closeout process.

Construction drawings “tell you what to build.” But they have also become a “location identifier” for many documents that get pinned to the drawing set, playing a critical role in punch list management and the closeout process. To resolve punch lists faster, users can mark up any issues directly on the digital drawings, ensuring that all team members become aware of the changes on a real-time basis.

Equipped with that information, teams can close out projects by ensuring that they have completed and signed off on all aspects of the work.

When working remotely, what key technologies do project managers need to effectively manage projects?

Steve Antill
Vice President of Business Development
Foundation Software

To be effective remotely, project managers need to have a centralized place to collect data. There does not need to be one system or software to do this, but whatever is used should be effectively integrated to communicate efficiently with one another. Not only is it a pain to manage, but you can end up losing critical details if all data isn't stored in one place.

More than anyone else on the jobsite, a project manager needs access to the granular details to make sure the project keeps moving. If working remotely or unable to get to the jobsite, having tracking software that gives them this information, even down to the last bolt or nail, will help them to ensure everyone has what they need.

Efficient project management is all about efficient tracking, and making sure they have their documents in order is just as important. Being able to remotely track, send and receive items like change orders or RFIs in a centralized location helps make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

If project managers spend the bulk of their time moving data from one system to another to make sure everything stays up to date, the likelihood of a mistake increases. Key technologies will house this information or offer efficient integrations to reduce time spent on manual input so that project managers can focus on everything else that needs to be done, even when working remotely.

How do you think the pandemic will inspire further use of technology on the jobsite?

Mike Ode

Prior to all the changes from the pandemic, we were already starting to see increased technology adoption across jobsites, and over the past few months, even contractors that were hesitant are starting to explore what options are available.

One of the first areas that was really tested was the mobility of data. With portions of the office staff working remotely, being able to continue to have access to data, even while working from home, became crucial. Cloud- and web-based software allowing workers to access jobsite data from anywhere became even more important than before.

While workers on a jobsite still have to be present, tech (like a mobile timekeeping app) can help with maintaining accurate hours for each employee without interaction around paper sheets or a manual time clock. Apps can also sync directly to accounting or payroll software so office or project managers don’t need to make a specific trip to the office. Plus, with remotely accessible technology in place, contractors can limit the need for jobsite visits to those essential to being there, which helps with restrictions like social distancing or personnel limitations.

Beyond increased worker safety, there’s also increased efficiency with functional technology in place. It’s a guarantee that the industry is going to keep seeing an upward trend with tech used on the jobsite.

How can construction firms harness technology to manage new health and safety regulations, and the shift to remote work brought on by the pandemic?

Dustin Anderson
Vice President
Sage Construction and Real Estate

Construction firms are adjusting to new ways of working that involve less people on the jobsite at the same time, physical distancing and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). As these safety practices are enacted to mitigate health risks, many are seeing a decrease in productivity. They are not able to do things as efficiently or as effectively as they have in the past. This is where technology can help.

Technology has played an integral role in keeping people connected and businesses up and running during this time. With less face-to-face interaction and teams largely working in siloes, mobile technologies can help bridge the communication gap. Contractors have increasingly been adopting cloud-based solutions and mobile apps to help streamline projects, increase efficiency, improve collaboration and keep teams in sync.

As variables such as material costs or labor hours are affected by the pandemic, there are a host of other technology solutions to help keep projects on track. Estimating software helps businesses produce faster, more accurate estimates, enabling them to pursue the right work at the right price. Accounting and project management solutions automate many processes, reducing errors and providing firms with the visibility they need to make the best decisions for their business, which is more crucial now than ever. Incorporating technology into business operations can help firms succeed in this challenging environment while putting the health and well-being of employees first.

Allison Scott
Director, Thought Leadership and Customer Marketing
Autodesk Construction Solutions

Since construction is an industry that necessitates working side-by-side, technology that facilitates collaboration and digitizes those historically “on-paper” processes is critical right now. In the office, that means utilizing virtual collaboration tools for documentation, drawings, data and model sharing. In the field, processes such as checklists, field reports, daily logs and other workflows that are typically handled in person are being moved to the cloud and are now accessible from anywhere and from any device, even when team members are not on the jobsite or even in the same location.

As many offices are still operating with smaller teams or are under limited office hours, we’ve seen a growing interest in digital preconstruction tools that support online bidding and procurement with BuildingConnected; as well as increasing usage of project management tools such as BIM 360 and PlanGrid for field execution. For example, new project creation in BIM 360 Design jumped approximately 350% globally since February. This shift to collaborative, cloud-based solutions is keeping teams connected and projects moving, while improving the ability to be safe on the jobsite and improve visibility of teams even if they can't be on site. This is a trend we foresee continuing to grow across the industry for years to come.

When maintaining distance isn’t an option, the top priority is ensuring jobsites are as safe as possible for everyone involved—which means contractors are following strict guidelines to keep employees and their families safer as they head back to work. In fact, Autodesk implemented new safety checklists in TradeTapp, BIM 360 and PlanGrid to do just this—each of which are helping manage risk for contractors as they ramp up with new compliance requirements.


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