With the right technology, you can better control your upcoming construction projects.
The construction industry has, historically, not been one to rapidly adopt new technologies. However, shifts in employee demographics, combined with a cutthroat competitive market, means the construction industry is poised for massive disruption.
“As more young people enter the construction industry, they expect technology,” said Christian Burger, principal and owner of Burger Consulting Group, Inc., an IT construction industry consulting firm that works nationally and internationally with commercial, civil and specialty contractors to develop objective IT solutions. “Estimating, project managing, (and) scheduling using state of the art tools (are) all they’ve ever known. There’s pressure from within the company to automate and adopt new technologies. You can’t compete otherwise.”
In addition to a younger generation of employees that expect advanced software and tools, contractors receive external pressure from clients. For construction companies to surpass the competition and thrive in such a turbulent industry, they may want to consider investing in these seven types of software applications.
Building Information Modeling
Building Information Modeling, or BIM, is changing the way contractors operate. BIM enables architects, project managers, and contractors to design, plan, and construct buildings. It’s a single plan that lays the framework for how your project will unfold.
Take clash detection, for example. By viewing your project digitally, preconstruction, you can see immediately that there may be an air duct running straight into a concrete column. Pre BIM, this scenario would have unfolded at the expense of additional cost and time – not to mention a disgruntled client. However, BIM allows construction professionals to see these errors before they occur. BIM is also used for practical cases, such as staging a job site. After all, a tight construction job site in an urban environment requires thoughtful planning and preparation.
Further, adds Burger, the benefits of BIM don’t end once the project is complete. “You can hand over a detailed model to the facilities management department. There’s no need to unroll 10-year old drawings the next time someone needs to reference the structure.”
Internet security may be more critical than ever for those in the construction industry who use multiple devices and often rely on cloud applications. Burger said he’s seen a rise in demand for security applications to accommodate the vast number of workers who use hand-held devices.
“Some people are projecting that construction is the next industry, followed closely by health care, to be targeted by cyber criminals because of the heavy increase in users, distributed environments (job sites) and relatively lax protocols.”
Project management software
Efficiency is key. Burger has seen an increase in the availability of project management software, such as Procor, which can handle everything from bidding, scheduling, specs to drawings, photos and even meetings.
One of the critical advantages of project management software is enhanced collaboration. Gone are the days when you had to fax questions and answers back and forth – everything is in a single system, creating a single record for everyone’s reference.
“Software like this has increased transparency. At any given time, you know who has accountability for what activities.” Burger said.
Human resources tools
The construction industry has its human resources challenges like any other industry. However, more companies are turning to human resources tools to assist with training, onboarding, recruiting and asset assignment, which frees up a firm’s time so they can focus on current jobs and bids.
HR solutions common in other industries, such as Taleo, are gaining traction among larger construction companies while less expensive systems, like BirdDogHR, and native HR applications within ERP solutions suit smaller and midsize contractors.
These applications are ideal for construction companies that operate in multiple locations and are often short-staffed, with employees that wear several hats. Besides tracking training and onboarding, these applications can keep a log of on-the-job accidents and other occurrences, which you can see instantly from any location.
There’s no need to be ashamed if your estimators still rely on spreadsheets to get the job done. However, there’s a variety of solid software solutions you can turn to instead to estimate the cost of projects. These solutions offer a modern way to ensure you’re able to deliver projects within budget at a cost that makes sense for your business.
“These software solutions have become specialized and distinguished per construction type, as there are defined processes and considerations (for) each (type of project),” Burger said. “For example, estimating and bidding (on) a highway (project) is different than a general contractor bidding a building. Not all construction (estimation software) is created equal.”
Customer relationship management
The concept of customer relationship management, or CRM, is not new. CRM helps businesses manage every interaction with customers.
However, CRM is new to the construction industry. Many industries, such as marketing, use CRM to manage hundreds, or thousands, of customers. In the construction industry, a mid-size contractor may have just 15 clients they have active bids with and an additional 20 they know about.
“There can be an instance where there is one job that a contractor is bidding on, but the bid may be going out to several contractors. There are unique CRM requirements just for the construction industry,” Burger noted.
Once you’ve won that coveted bid, you can begin planning and scheduling resources and ordering supplies with specific features native only to construction CRM software.
Don’t forget the basics
While Burger has outlined the trends that are changing the industry – and that he’s seeing a high demand for – the rules haven’t changed when it comes to the basics, such as rugged laptops and smartphones. These solutions are a no-brainer in the construction industry, where so many workers are in the field and on the road.
Cloud adoption is picking up pace as well. Burger is seeing a rise in companies shutting down their data centers, instead opting for the cloud. Some contractors leverage managed service providers or simply choose cloud-based applications.
Photo credit: photofriday/Shutterstock
Joanna Furlong is a freelance writer and content strategist based in Southern California. Her background is in digital marketing, but she’s been writing professionally for more than 10 years. She partners with startups, technology companies and small businesses across the U.S. to tell their brand stories through compelling content. And, she loves to report on the intersection where business, management and technology collide.