PART 1: Why We Love Construction Technology (and You Should, Too!)
Everywhere you turn, at work or at play, technology continues to make a huge difference in the way we do things. Construction technology is changing the way we communicate with each other, and it’s changing the way we communicate with our equipment. In this two-part series, we’ll take a look at some of the construction technology we especially love. First, we’ll review how new devices and applications are helping us be more productive person-to-person, and in Part 2, we’ll look at some examples of construction technology that are making our machinery more productive and our business management more effective.
Mobility helps you get more done, faster.
Smartphones and tablets are the perfect tools for people whose “office” is mostly in their vehicle or at the jobsite. Rather than having to trapise back to the desktop to look up or send information, files and documents can be captured wherever you are and passed along to anyone else that needs them. What can you do?
- Share and edit files from the jobsite, with multiple people concurrently.
- Access specs, drawings, contracts maps or other documents right away.
- Instantly communicate via email, phone or text, with co-workers, sub-contractors, architects or engineers, property owners or inspectors.
Wireless internet is widely available, so working on-the-fly is substantially less expensive than fiddling around with packing up bulky paper documents, FTP uploads, faxing, etc., especially when you consider you’re eliminating both time spent on that and the costs of postage and delivery services. Saving both time and money makes for a happier bottom line. Equipment World conducts an annual Internet Use and Social Media Survey, most recently this year. Responses show the growing use of mobile devices and offer some interesting insights:
- About half of contractors now use smartphones, for email, texting, looking up websites, watching videos and checking in with social media. A survey conducted by Sage North America says the percentage is even higher.
- 28% more contractors are using apps than two years ago.
- 38% say they typically spend from one to four hours each week visiting websites via their phone.
- Oddly, the number of them using mobile devices to obtain bid information, equipment information or equipment specs actually dropped significantly.
- 42% are using social media via phone, but it’s mostly non-work-related.
- Popularity of tablets is growing, but slowly.
Mobility brings challenges, too.
The ability to share virtually anything with everyone on your team can be a real boon, but only if everyone has the same capabilities. Otherwise, frustrating snags and delays can occur. You can work around this by ensuring the tools you choose are flexible enough to work with a variety of operating systems and devices. Avoid user-unfriendly programs people will have to download or create an account for before they can get to your documents. Security is an issue, too. A lot of employees use their personal smartphones, tablets, etc. for work, too, along with personal email accounts and other apps. That increases security risks. Lost devices may contain private company data, and many file-sharing and email systems aren’t encrypted, which could pose a problem if you’re sending or receiving proprietary information. Realistically, though, if your work-based email system won’t accommodate large attachments – and construction drawings and specs can be huge – consumer-based apps are the only workable choice. Look for sharing tools that offer as much access security and control as possible. Whether you’re ahead of the curve when it comes to the latest construction technology or your co-workers still think you’re a dinosaur, think “future” when considering which devices and apps to acquire, so you’ll have the flexibility to grow as your company grows.