How IT is Changing the Construction Industry

Mobile Man / Tuesday, September 15, 2015

In the space of a generation, Information Technology has changed the way the world works. It touches all sectors and industries and pushes the boundaries of what was previously challenging, difficult or dangerous. It has also democratized access to information - armchair academics can do their own research from the comfort of their own homes, students can attend university without leaving the bedroom and freelancers can work for people they’ve never met face to face.

These advancements are often the results of technology trends, cycles of improvement, innovation and updates. These constant cycles lend themselves well to the early adopters - those who want to take advantage of bleeding edge advancements before their peer group does.

What we want to discuss today is how technology has made both massive and positive strides in the construction industry. Construction, more than many other industries, is constantly under pressure to decrease costs whilst improving productivity. These two aims can often be hard to reconcile. Nonetheless, the industry has reacted by looking to make these savings and advancements by using and deploying Information Technology in new and innovative ways.

An evolving industry

Let's take a look at some of the ways that IT has changed working habits in the construction industry. We’ve identified the following areas where progress is being made:

  1. Video and audio recording
  2. PDF annotation
  3. Picture Board
  4. Offline access
  5. Data editing;

To discuss how these changes work, we’ll use a rolling example. A local soccer team has been promoted to the top league in the land and as such they are obliged to make some changes to their aging stadium in order to comply with safety standards and boost capacity.

Video and audio recording

The ability to capture data directly from a construction site in its most natural format is one such area.  If we were to think about how many important visits are carried out on a premises that provides important feedback for clients, technology plays an important role here. 

Stadiums are granted safety certificates from local authorities before any match can go ahead, which naturally means that an inspection has to occur. Construction doesn’t always mean brand new developments, it can also encompass renovation, expansion and repair.  In one such instance, the power of capturing the audio feedback of a health and safety inspector alongside visuals of areas that they’re concerned about is very powerful. No longer do you need to wait for a scribe to compile and send the notes. Uploading assessor feedback directly to a private collaboration area allows remedial work to begin almost immediately.

PDF Annotation / Redlining

Part of any such remedial work may well include revisiting architectural designs and diagrams.  In the past, looking at huge stadia layout may have involved vast sheets of paper, several project staff and a considerable stretch of time. Using technology, all of these hard set requirements can be removed. Designs and discussions can be held digitally without obliging key personnel to stop working and travel.

One ability we’d highlight here is the ability to add annotations and red pen PDFs. Being able to scribble an update or note onto any PDF document from a mobile device allows that feedback to be transmitted to all interested parties. Imagine the time saved on our stadium renovation when a lighting engineer can simply log into a specific area to look at changes he has to make in specific parts of the stadium to improve customer safety.

Picture Board

We can follow on from the above by looking at how quicker access to visuals can work. The most obvious aspect that we’ve already touched on is the ability to upload files directly from a site. An application like SharePlus allows images and graphics to be geotagged, which saves having to set up a term store or metadata column for them in SharePoint. This comes in handy if more than one stadium is being worked on at one time, especially by the same engineers.

A second, less obvious example here is when images are consumed by those onsite. Image renders, new CAD diagrams and so on can easily be provided and uploaded by office staff for those on the construction site. Using the power of visual storyboards, a dialogue can be evolved alongside relevant imagery and renders. Going back a few years, this type of collaboration would have been very expensive.

Offline access & data editing

Now, we can guess what you’re thinking… there’s a massive red-herring in the room.   

Offline access.

Whilst working on football stadiums may entail some degree of internet access, other such locations may not. Most of the above facilities work with a stable connection or (dare we bring it up) a working VPN connection. Does the lack of connectivity represent a weak spot?  We don’t think so.

We think that this can be a positive thing as it offers reduced bandwidth and data costs.  Which is why we’ve built an offline capability into SharePlus. Having a local copy of your files that can be edited and worked on whilst out of the office is, obviously, very handy. 

Besides the obvious cost efficiencies, there is a productivity boost when you ensure essential colleagues aren’t tied to either an office or an internet connection. This allows reports to be started, edited and modified whilst on the go - changes can then be uploaded, reconciled and distributed to the relevant people once a connection has been restored.

Change the way you work

IT has certainly come on leaps and bounds in recent years. Some pieces of technology allow you to apply new working practices and to turn traditional negatives into a cost efficiency. All of the above discussed sections can be achieved with a raft of products. Or with SharePlus, just the one.

We’ve got the experience and the skills to help your relevant people make the right decisions, not just the decision makers. Technology, in our view, can help everyone improve their working practices.

Download your free e-book '10 Ways to Save on Construction Projects with SharePlus' and start streamlining, simplifying and saving on your construction projects today!

To discover how SharePlus can help your firm respond to industry challenges,  sign up for a free ten day trial here.