What Construction Management Software Looks Like in Practice: Tactical Examples
These days, construction companies are stretched thin. While there is an increasing demand for work, costs are skyrocketing and labor remains hard to come by. In short, crews are expected to do more with less. These factors will only exacerbate the ongoing construction productivity crisis that is costing the industry $1.6 trillion annually.
Optimizing operations will be vital in navigating these rocky times and maintaining profitability. Fortunately, tools are available that can make things more efficient, especially when managing your workforce and equipment.
Construction management software is a fast-growing segment of the construction technology sector. Designed specifically with the industry in mind, these project management tools have a range of features to help automate business processes like document management, scheduling, asset allocation, field communications and more. According to research from McKinsey, adopting digital tools like this can increase productivity by 14% to 15% while reducing costs by 4% to 6%.
It's important to examine the manual processes that teams are dealing with today and how it impacts operations.
What Operations Look Like Now: Manual & Disjointed
Compared to other industries, construction has seen one of the lowest increases in productivity over the past 70 years. Many companies still use the same pen-and-paper management methods that were the industry standard in the 1960s. But the work of construction has changed since then, growing more complex with bigger jobs, bigger machines and more moving pieces to keep track of. These outdated methods, combined with the complexity of work, have led to disjointed communication, fractured processes and limited visibility of operations.
Lack of Asset Visibility Slows Allocation
Allocation is one of the most important steps in the planning process, and it requires keeping track of many moving parts. This is difficult to manage with a manual system. The larger the scale of operations, the more assets there are to track and the easier it is to overlook something. Double-booking a piece of equipment or assigning a worker who doesn’t have the right certifications can delay a project right out of the gate.
Dispersed Methods Lead to Inefficient Communications
Communication with field workers is primarily a mix of text messages and phone calls and often requires contractors to reach out to workers individually. This is incredibly time-consuming when it comes to scheduling, as each worker needs to receive specific, detailed instructions for their next shift. Then managers must wait and receive confirmation from each worker that they can or cannot accept the shift. This is where allocation mistakes will frequently appear, with employees saying that they are already allocated to a different site and unavailable—something managers could have foreseen with the right processes in place.
Physical Paperwork Leads to Unnecessary Work
There is a lot of paperwork involved in construction—certifications, licenses, site reports, equipment checklists, safety checklists, permits, timesheets, etc. Without a well-managed filing system, paperwork can be a job unto itself. Then there is the additional task of making sure forms are turned into the right people. Many forms make multiple stops on their journey into the right hands, being passed on to managers or supervisors who then must drop them off at the office. Once there, the manual work of filing, deciphering handwriting and entering important data begins. Smartphones have helped in some ways, allowing photos to be snapped onsite and immediately sent to the office, but they can get lost in email chains and still need to be downloaded and moved to the appropriate file.
What Operations Could Look Like: Automated & Nimble
By creating a central location for company data, operations can go from disjointed to streamlined, letting workers do more of what they love—building.
Complete Visibility Makes Allocation a Breeze
With a resource management feature, operations management software puts all your workers and equipment in a central location, providing a complete overview of all company assets. From here, managers can easily allocate jobs and receive notifications if they are attempting to schedule someone who is unavailable. Advanced software can create custom rules for jobs or work types that prevent assets without the correct licenses or certifications from being assigned.
Communicate Schedules in Minutes, Not Hours
Scheduling features let managers send job details to workers in bulk, removing the need for typing numerous texts. Workers will receive a link that takes them directly to their schedule, providing details on the work, location, time, etc. Some systems include a confirmation setting, where workers can check that they are available on their phone, sending an immediate notification to the manager. Not only does this save managers from something that could take hours, but it also means workers can be notified of their schedules sooner, allowing them to better plan for their time outside of work and providing a better work-life balance.
Digitize Forms and Automate Filing
Virtual document management removes paperwork from the jobsite. Frequently used forms can be digitized and filled out on site with a phone or tablet, including time sheets—no more daily trips to the office to hand-deliver a few slips of paper. Information can be viewed instantly, and any red flags can be addressed immediately. Additionally, companies can save hours of time on manual data entry.
Keep important documents with corresponding assets by uploading photos of important documents directly to worker profiles or equipment files. Then stay on top of renewals and routine maintenance by setting up alerts for upcoming expiration dates.
Time Saved Results in Dollars Gained
There is a cultural resistance to adopting technology that the construction industry needs to work through to operate in today’s modern world. Yes, adopting technology takes time to implement and train, but the few months of adjustment are nothing compared to the hours of labor and wasted capital that companies will get in return. Companies who are willing to embrace technology will find themselves spending less time on unproductive tasks and more time on completing projects on time and within budget.