Three ways construction leaders harness digital transformation
The construction industry is lagging behind others when it comes to digital transformation. Some construction firms “are still using paper-based processes that can only be described as archaic,” according to a 2016 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP’s Strategy&.1
The industry’s old-school ways mean contractors waste time and money mailing revisions to blueprints, tracking paper receipts and invoices, or traveling long distances to do on-site inspections of small changes.
As construction professionals shoulder even more pressure to boost razor-thin profit margins, leaders are beginning to embrace the digital revolution. Fifty-five percent of construction and engineering professionals said their industry is ripe for disruption in a 2017 global survey conducted by KPMG; 95 percent think technology/innovation will significantly change their business; and 74 percent believe such a change will happen in less than five years.2
Digital disruption doesn’t have to be a burden. Here are three ways to harness digital tools to your advantage.
Manage Projects From Anywhere
Hard drives and technology are more visible than ever on the job site. Crews are now using tablets, for example, to review and inspect plans instead of old-fashioned paper blueprints. Some new applications help managers inspect remote sites by providing digital photos.
In addition, project management software can save time and increase transparency by ensuring that updates, revisions and plan changes are shared in real time, cutting down on errors and delays.
Manage Jobs Better On-Site
Increasingly, on-site job leaders are using tech to monitor and improve operations in real-time.
New mobile platforms allow foremen to update blueprints immediately on-site, instead of having to make the trip back to the office. Workers can annotate and track punch lists from the construction zone, letting them work nimbly in the field when inevitable changes on-site arise.
Being able to adjust or change plans in real-time reduces or eliminates the time-delay that can be a killer on projects. Some digital tools allow foremen to immediately retrieve and compare data on actual project hours, budgeted hours, and remaining hours, which helps keep projects on or close to budget.
Harry, a VP of Operations at a midsize construction firm, said the way that work gets done is definitely changing. “There's not too many contractors that don't have somebody that’s schooled in software,” he said. “Most of them have gotten smart enough to know that that helps.”
Track Expenses, Everywhere, Digitally
Having centralized expense control enables the home office to get a birds-eye view of all the project expenses — even those out-of-state.
Owners of mid-size construction firms say that it helps control expenses when their out-of-state workers are aware that their spending is being reviewed regularly.
Jake, the owner and operations manager for a construction firm that does about $25 million in annual sales on projects in multiple states, said, “We want our guys that are out of state to be aware that we're reviewing what they’re spending.”
Turning to the latest digital solutions helps construction leaders quickly and easily tabulate expenses and other various needs for projects. Additionally, by avoiding paper, expenses don’t fall through the cracks and pile up without your knowledge.
“We know ahead of time what our costs are going to be,” said Robert, president of a mid-sized construction firm. “We break up those costs, allowing our field personnel to make purchases for specific projects, up to a certain amount.”
Custom business Credit Card programs allow firms to digitize their invoices, track expenditures and automate payments through online dashboards.
“When we were looking around, I asked a couple of friends what they were doing as far as controlling their expenses and what they thought was the best way to go,” Robert said. “Most of them are using a combination of corporate cards and online financial management tools to manage their cash flow.”