How Mobile Technology is Transforming the Construction Industry

Mobile Man / Friday, August 28, 2015

When it comes to technological advances, recognizing which emerging technologies would bring value to a business can be the key differentiator for a company’s future position on the market. The construction industry is no exception to this rule. With constant challenges and changes, highly fragmented teams, a shortage of skilled labor, high competition and tight margins, construction firms are focusing on the technology that will deliver the biggest and quickest return.

Not surprisingly, mobility is the number one technology trend that construction companies are focusing on in 2015 and beyond. Three key factors are driving the demand for mobile technology in the workplace: executive demand, an increasingly mobile workforce, and the growing need for real-time information, as found in a study by IDG Research Services. In another survey conducted by Sage Software with over 600 construction professionals from small and midsized firms, 33% feel the need to improve communication and collaboration, 32% want to streamline processes and over 80% think that mobile technology is a high or moderate priority.

Adopting a mobility strategy in construction enterprises is no more a question of when but a question of how because the future is MOBILE.

In fact, mobile technology is already transforming the construction industry:

Less Errors in the Field

Means Less Costs

Remember the times when employee and equipment hours were only tracked on paper cards? Errors could happen all the time – papers lost, equipment missing, people misinformed. And hours mean costs. Mobile apps are becoming a great solution for tracking labor hours and equipment in the field.

In addition, 65% of 900 Construction professionals surveyed by On Center Software say that the number one process which incurs costs and demands optimization are reworks. One of the reasons reworks happen is the difficulty of sharing information among all people involved in a construction project. Mobile technologies can tremendously reduce the errors that lead to reworks by enabling a disjointed team to collaborate efficiently, digitally.

Better Project Management

Means More Efficiency

Did you know that 80% of construction professionals already use mobile devices when managing projects? With smart devices like tablets, foremen can record all information related to a project via their devices and upload it to corporate document management systems, such as SharePoint. In this way members of the team from the field and the back office can all be on the same page. Everyone is working together on the same consolidated sources of information no matter where they’re located via the device of their choice - phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.

Top uses for mobile technology include accessing customer and job information (48%), drawings, schedules, photos, and documents (47%), daily field reports (38%), job cost and project reports (36%), time capture and approval (30%) as found by Sage Software.

Mobile technology can greatly help reduce project delivery inefficiencies. We already mentioned clocking employees in and out on the site with digital timecards, and tracking where equipment is located or when it is used. But the opportunities can go much further – foremen can request repairs of equipment or new equipment via their devices immediately to avoid project delays; work can be delegated and different roles can be informed about changes right away; incidents ca be reported on the spot by capturing images with geo-tagging… and the list goes on. Simply put, mobile apps can make construction teams more informed, connected, and productive.

Real-time Analytics

Means Agility

Big data and business intelligence have come a long way and are finally entering the construction field. Long gone are the days when reports were created only after the daily job was finished. Instead, foremen can now use real-time reporting tools on their tablets to keep track of team performance, field conditions and project costs.

The new breed of self-service mobile business intelligence can help project managers predict any needed corrections in order to take immediate action and keep projects on time and within budget. All team members will have access to analytics insights, be it in the field or in the office. Apps to capture all field information will streamline the creation of daily reports and their sharing with the whole team.

More Devices in the Field

Means More Control Needed

According to JBKnowledge’s 2014 Construction Technology Report, 50.1% of construction professionals surveyed use a tablet for work purposes. The same report also notes that the number of company-owned tablets is growing. 53 percent of information workers nowadays use three or more devices for work, and IDC reports that 328 million employee-owned smartphones will be in the field by 2017. The first wearable devices are also stepping in with the introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT). At one point in the future, it’s likely that every piece of equipment on the jobsite will be smart, enabling managers to track its use end-to-end.

This means three things: Technology providers will accelerate the creation of mobile-first and cloud software; construction professionals will have more devices to sync; and IT admins will have more devices to control to ensure corporate data security.

Surprisingly enough, contrary to increased mobile device use everywhere, 51% of construction firms still do not have any mobile security policy in place. In addition to being connected with team members at all times, the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) era hides security risks of data breaches if any devices get stolen or lost. Therefore, construction firms will need to account for smart technologies with secure information sharing capabilities in their mobility strategy. Mobile device management solutions, for example, answer some of the mobile security challenges by giving IT admins control over the access to corporate data with the ability to restore or wipe out data remotely on lost devices.

Where to Start?

Start Mobile-First

Managing construction operations has always involved a high level of coordination among a fragmented mobile team of contractors, sub-contractors, suppliers, and more. Thankfully, the advances in mobile technologies can bring exciting times to the horizon of the construction industry!

One of the main questions presented in front of companies is how to leverage mobile opportunities while keeping existing software systems without going into expensive IT development investments? 96% of Construction professionals admit that a consolidated technology strategy and a single source of data are crucial for achieving the mobile productivity they would like to see in the field. This is where third-party solutions which mobilize existing information systems, such as SharePlus, can be of help.

SharePlus, a mobile SharePoint and Office 365 platform, was specifically built for easy use in the field and could well be a start to quickly achieving true mobile productivity without incurring high IT dev costs. Get a free trial for iOS and Android devices today to explore SharePlus yourself!

Also 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!