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Tips & Advice Trends & Technology

How to Manage your Remote Workforce for your Construction Business More Effectively

Construction has been one of the slowest industries to integrate technology into its workflow. Most of the on-site work is still done by hand, understandably, but even services that could be easily performed with the help of technology have been slow in transitioning. However, now that coronavirus has changed the workplace for everyone, construction companies are looking to grow their remote workforce and are seeking technology to help them manage the work.

Moving from on-site management to remote working presents several challenges for construction companies. Companies are scrambling to figure out how to manage remote staff, maintain project productivity, and keep the bottom line intact. Luckily, technology offers several solutions that can help construction companies maintain their productivity without affecting project quality, all while maintaining safety and health requirements.

Project management software

One of the best technologies available today is cloud-based construction project management software. It offers benefits to construction companies of all sizes and trades.

Because the software and its data are stored in the cloud, it’s easy for field staff and remote workers to access the information wherever they are. And since all that is needed for access is an internet connection, team members can review up-to-date project information from their phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. There’s no additional hardware investment for companies to worry about, nor do they have to maintain a server or perform software updates.

Since all the data is updated on the fly, team members have access to real-time information on their projects. Communication is simplified when everyone has access to the same documents, drawings, and other correspondence.

When project management software is integrated with accounting, cost information and budget reports can be made available for immediate access at any time. Team members don’t have to contact the office to get the information they need to make financial decisions about their project.

Document controlmanaging construction documents on the laptop with Premier Construction Software

Construction projects create a lot of paperwork, and that hasn’t slowed down during the pandemic. In fact, if anything, the amount of required documentation has only increased with the addition of safety and health checks. A software package that can keep everything organized is a must-have.

Documents such as submittals and RFIs are usually routed to several people before they are complete. Tracking who is responsible for the next step can be difficult when using a spreadsheet. Project management software can help by automatically routing documents and notifying responders when it’s their turn to review or respond. This helps keep the documents, and the project, moving forward.

With everyone working remotely, signatures are also difficult to get nowadays. Allowing contracts, change orders, and other documents to be signed electronically can improve efficiency and reduce the need for additional paperwork. Management software allows these documents to be completed and signed in minutes instead of days.

Time tracking software

supervisor using time entry app to approve field worker's time

Many companies still rely on paper timecards to track their employees’ work hours and appropriately code their time to the phase of the project. Handling paper timecards can cause delays in payroll processing, especially when working remotely, as well as create the potential for time theft and inaccurate reporting.

Recent technology developments have made time tracking software the most accurate and foolproof way to keep track of employee time and job costing. Wearable technology and cell phones allow employers to track the location of their employees at any time during the workday using GPS. Since the software knows when the employee enters the worksite and when they leave it, it’s much more difficult for employees to steal time. Timekeeping is also more accurate when logged by technology than by human hands.

Once time has been recorded by the software, the timesheets are approved and coded by the employee’s supervisor. This reduces the chance for time stealing as well as inaccurate cost reporting since all time entries are being reviewed before they are entered into the system.

Settings are available to force the cost codes for time entry to match those determined by the job, so only certain codes can have time applied to them. This improves the accuracy of job cost reports and ensures that costs are being categorized correctly.

Project reportingLaptop displaying a dashboard for a construction job

Cost reports and budget analyses are only as good as the information that they are based on. When accounting information is available and integrated with the project management software, cost reporting is more accurate and up to date.

Changes are often made throughout the project and communicating the information between the field and the office can be difficult. With project management and accounting software integration, changes entered in the field automatically update the accounting system without the need for double entry. This saves time and money on useless repeat work.

If cost information is available to project teams through a cloud-based system, everyone is able to stay informed about the progress on the job from wherever they are. Relying on this information, the team can make project decisions based on real-time information that includes up-to-date costs.

Manage construction projects with the job dashboard in Premier

Communication and check-in

When everyone is working remotely and in-person visits are discouraged, it can be difficult to stay in touch and know what everyone is working on. Setting time aside for daily or weekly check-ins with team members via phone or teleconference can help improve morale and offer a sense of connection when many are feeling disconnected.

Use these calls to set goals for the team, assign tasks to members, and report on the status of current items. It’s important to keep in mind that many tasks and duties may take longer due to the communication constraints of working remotely. Employees have a harder time concentrating and have many distractions when they aren’t working at the office. Keeping this in mind will help the team set realistic expectations.

For on-site project progress updates, video and photos can be used to accurately reflect the progress of work. These can be shared with team members, including project owners, who may not be able to visit the site like they are used to. Sharing these updates through a cloud-based system allows everyone access to see the progress, ask questions, and answer them if needed.

Technology improves efficiency and productivity

Transitioning from on-site to remote project management is easier thanks to recent advances in technology, including construction project management software, electronic document control, time tracking, project reporting, and online communication. When companies take advantage of these tools, their projects will become more efficient and productive, saving them time and money.

To learn more about how Premier Construction Software can help your team work more efficiently, get in touch with us today.

 

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.

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Trends & Technology

How is AI & Machine Learning Transforming the Construction Industry

In recent years, more and more construction companies have started to utilize artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in various ways to optimize efficiency, reduce costs, mitigate risks and improve safety. We often hear the terms used interchangeably and while they are closely linked, they’re not quite the same thing. Let’s begin by defining and differentiating the two concepts, and then we’ll discuss how their applications are already being used to transform the construction industry as we know it.

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

According to McKinsey & Company, artificial intelligence (AI) is typically defined as “the ability of a machine to perform cognitive functions we associate with human minds, such as perceiving, reasoning, learning, interacting with the environment, problem solving, and even exercising creativity. Examples of technologies that enable AI to solve business problems are robotics and autonomous vehicles, computer vision, language, virtual agents, and machine learning.” 

Simply put, AI is used to describe technology that is capable of performing, or augmenting, cognitive tasks that once had to be done by humans.

What is Machine Learning?

Machine learning is a type of AI in which “algorithms detect patterns and learn how to make predictions and recommendations by processing data and experiences, rather than by receiving explicit programming instruction. The algorithms also adapt in response to new data and experiences to improve efficacy over time.” (McKinsey & Company)

The four types of machine learning are: supervised learning, unsupervised learning, reinforcement learning, and semi-supervised machine learning. 

Examples of AI & Machine Learning in Construction

The possibilities of utilizing AI and machine learning in construction are vast, as are the benefits. Below are five ways construction companies are already implementing these technologies to improve processes and recognizing the benefits:

1. Increased productivity on job sites

Self-driving construction machinery is being used to perform necessary but repetitive tasks like bricklaying, concrete pouring, welding and demolition in lieu of human labor given the technology’s ability to complete the tasks quicker and more efficiently. Autonomous or semi-autonomous bulldozers can be programmed to exact specifications to perform excavation and prep work needed to get a site ready for construction. Project managers are also able to track progress in real-time using cameras, facial recognition software and other technology to assess productivity and adherence to protocol.

2. More efficient project planning

Industrial Engineering works in front of monitoring screen in the production control center. technology concept.

Some companies are already using AI-powered robots to capture 3D scans of construction sites, which are then uploaded into a deep neural network that can classify the status of various sub-projects. This allows for early intervention if something seems off-track, so the team can handle small issues before they turn into more complex problems.  

3. Risk mitigation

Every project phase has inherent risks associated with quality, safety, time or cost. Today there are AI and machine learning solutions that can be used to assess risk and automatically assign priority to complex issues or areas most prone to threats. Time and resources are limited, and this helps project teams understand where to focus their time and effort in order to mitigate the most high-risk situations. 

4. Prevent budget overrun

Project managers meeting to analyze and discuss on the status of projects, cost to date, and estimate at completion

Even with careful planning and skilled project teams, it’s not uncommon for projects to run over budget given the number of variables that can change and directly impact costs or the schedule. Artificial neural networks—brain-inspired systems intended to replicate the way humans learn—can be employed to predict potential budget pitfalls by assessing factors like project size, contract type and performance of team members, as well as analyzing other patterns too complex for the human mind, to reduce the likelihood of budget overruns. 

5. Improved worker safety

The construction industry is witnessing a rise of machines and sensors that are capable of increasing jobsite safety and reducing risk—for example, sensors that can detect worksite weather conditions to assess risk factors. These tools, when combined with AI, are able to intelligently monitor job sites by analyzing data in real-time to predict the likelihood of problems or malfunctions that may occur and translating that data into actionable insights. AI-enabled surveillance systems with facial and object recognition software also make it possible to detect unsafe behavior and alert team members of potential hazards. 

A Look to the Future

According to a recent Research Dive report, “the artificial intelligence in construction market size was $408.1 Million by end of 2018, and is anticipated to reach $ 2,642.4 Million by 2026, growing with a CAGR of 26.3% during the forecast period.” The continued growth will largely be driven by the cost efficiency and availability of advanced AI products, as well as the ability to more accurately predict needs, assess risks and improve safety.

For more construction industry insights, click here to check out our other blogs.

 

Author Biography:

Kathryn Dressler is a content strategist with more than 10 years of experience across the spectrum of marketing services, including blogging, social media, public relations, copywriting and editorial services.

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Tips & Advice Trends & Technology

5 Reasons You Should Invest in Construction Management Software

Largely driven by the ever-changing technological landscape, the construction is rapidly maturing and evolving. Like businesses across all industries, construction companies have come to rely on software and digital tools to perform everyday tasks and complete necessary job functions like communicating with team members, tracking expenses, submitting proposals and more. 

Still, many construction companies are unaware of what a comprehensive construction management software is, how it can benefit their business, and whether or not it’s a necessary expenditure.

In this blog, we’ll discuss five reasons it’s worth investing in construction management software. 

What is construction management software?

In a nutshell, construction management software is a set of project management tools used to improve and streamline the entire construction process, from planning to project completion. While there are software options that include project management features only, using an all-in-one construction software solution to manage your accounting and project management needs means the data used to drive key decisions is always in sync, up-to-date and reliable. 

What are the benefits of construction management software?

1. Improved Communication & Collaboration

Every project, regardless of industry, requires communication and collaboration to complete. Often times, communication barriers can lead to delays, misunderstandings and errors, all of which end up costing valuable time and money. Project management tools improve communication between team members and stakeholders by creating a central platform for real-time collaboration, brainstorming and problem solving. Providing a centralized place for team members to quickly access and communicate about vital project information leads to improved planning and faster execution.

2. Time & Resource Management

Being able to effectively gauge the required amount of time and resources needed to complete a project is critical for timely delivery and success. With construction management software, tasks required to complete every step of a project can be entered, assigned and updated easily. This allows project managers and team members to know what resources and equipment are required, and when, and allows for more accurate forecasting. 

3. Reliable Job Costing & Accounting

Having a constant pulse on project costs is essential to running a successful construction business. However, many companies use separate systems for accounting and projecting management that don’t communicate in real-time, which results in errors, inaccurate reports and untrustworthy data. An all-in-one software solution that ensures job costing and accounting data are synced means the information is current and reliable, and thereby allows informed decision making that reduces the likelihood of waste or over-budget issues. 

4. Document Sharing & Control

Because every step of a project requires some sort of documentation, construction companies have to deal with a lot of paperwork. A document management system provides a centralized place where critical information (like blueprints, wireframes and specifications) can be stored, managed, updated and accessed by those who need it. Construction documents are often complex and evolving, so having that information digitized, simplified and stored on the cloud saves time and reduces margin of error. 

5. Detailed Reports & Insights 

Construction management software records every phase in the construction process, and that data can be accessed at any time to analyze a project and to provide valuable insights that allow for informed decision making about next steps. Consolidated dashboards with various reporting options make it easy to digest and consume pertinent information, and provide the ability to drill down into the accounting information to view invoice or payment details, or to identify any red flags or pending approvals that may hinder project progress.

Is construction management software right for your business?

In this blog we’ve touched on five key benefits to using a construction management software and how it can help streamline processes, improve resource planning, enhance collaboration, and provide critical information needed to keep projects running on-time and at-cost—all of which ultimately lead to higher profitability.  

If you’re curious about Premier Construction Software but want to read reviews before contacting us, click here to learn more about us on GetApp.

Or, if you’d like to know how our all-in-one solution can be tailored to meet your business needs for maximum impact, click here to schedule a personalized product tour today. 

 

Author Biography:

Kathryn Dressler is a content strategist with more than 10 years of experience across the spectrum of marketing services, including blogging, social media, public relations, copywriting and editorial services.

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Industry Insight Trends & Technology

Top 10 Construction Trends in 2020

2020 has been a year of unprecedented change and challenges with the novel coronavirus causing global shutdowns and impacting all major industries. Fortunately, most U.S. businesses have now been permitted to reopen, albeit with new restrictions and requirements in place.

While the coronavirus has certainly caused some disruption and changes within the construction industry, there are still several industry trends that maintain constant and continue year-after-year. Staying attuned to industry trends will help you maintain a competitive edge by knowing what to expect and help you to prepare accordingly. 

Below we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 most noteworthy and must-watch construction industry trends of 2020.

 

1. Supply Chain Disruption 

For builders that rely on Chinese-made goods and materials, 2020 has been an especially challenging year with Chinese government containment efforts and quarantines stalling—or, in some cases, completely stalling—production in factories across the country. While the economic giant has begun to recover, the long-term impact to the U.S. construction industry is still yet to be fully recognized.

Fortunately, because materials sourced from China typically arrive in the U.S. by slow-moving ship, most projects underway likely already had their materials ordered and in transit months ago. However, given that China is the world’s largest supplier of construction materials—with U.S. companies sourcing everything from steel to plumbing fixtures—any production or supply chain disruption felt on its end will undoubtedly impact the U.S. as well. While we can assume there will be some impact to future projects, the extent to which is still to be determined.

 

2. Labor Shortages 

Prior to COVID-19, the construction industry was already facing a labor shortage due to a boom in projects and high demand for workers with the necessary skills to complete them. Now, the industry faces new labor challenges. Many U.S. businesses adapted to the coronavirus closures by shifting to a work-from-home model. However, for many construction companies, this model isn’t feasible and healthy workers are required to be on-site. 

School closures and public transportation disruptions have also created a myriad of new challenges for construction industry workers that impact their ability to show up to work on time, if at all. In anticipation and preparation for increased absenteeism—whether due to illness or other factors—supervisors should begin to cross-train employees to handle multiple functions, and utilize technology to streamline operations such as construction management solutions.

 

3. Improved Safety Equipment

Aside from the new health and safety protocols implemented as a result of coronavirus, the construction industry is witnessing a rise of machines that are capable of increasing jobsite safety and reducing risk. For example, some work boots can now automatically connect to Wi-Fi and alert others if a worker has fallen. Another example is environmental sensors that can detect workplace conditions (like heat, wind, noise) and assess risk.

These machines are changing the jobs humans do by augmenting the decision-making process and creating room for higher-level jobs to use the data to decipher and translate findings into actionable insights.

 

4. Augmented Reality

Although virtual reality (VR) has been an emerging trend over the past few years, experts say it’s quickly growing outdated as augmented reality (AR) becomes the new “it” trend. VR is strictly a digital experience, whereas AR combines digital and physical views to create an immersive experience in real-time. 

Benefits of AR for builders and developers include 360-degree video to enable fast and affordable simulations, 3D visualizations of future projects and automated measuring of buildings, just to name a few. For clients, AR can provide more efficient project staging and make pre-construction projects tangible for buyers and tenants.

 

5. Drones 

drones in constructionDrone usage continues to be one of the fastest-growing trends in the construction industry as the technology advances and becomes more affordable, and the capabilities of drones continue to expand. Drones are commonly used to produce heat maps and thermal imaging, but the advancing software now makes it possible for them to provide real-time and actionable data that can be used for rapid decision-making and to streamline the entire construction process. 

Drones can also be used to improve workplace safety and reduce injury. For example, drones can be used to survey job sites to ensure workers are kept from potentially dangerous situations. They can also reach heights unsafe for the human worker.

 

6. Cloud & Mobile Technology

Not that long ago, most people didn’t understand what “the cloud” was—let alone a cloud-based operating system. Today, most mobile devices can access information anywhere, any time, and from any device. Cloud-computing has become integral to the construction industry for a number of reasons, including powerful data processing, connected job sites, easy sharing, and data storage, just to name a few.

Given its ease of access, Software as a Service (SaaS) has become a leading way to get the most benefit from cloud computing with minimal investment. There are SaaS offerings for almost every construction task, and Premier Construction Software offers the most powerful, all-in-one cloud-based software solution on the market to help you streamline accounting, job costing, project management, document management, approvals, electronic signatures and more. 

 

7. Modular & Prefabricated Construction

Another growing trend is a shift toward modularization and prefabricated construction because of the time, energy and cost savings. Modular construction is a prefabricated approach to building repetitive structures like hotels, apartments, and office buildings. 

Because modular units are built off-site, companies do not have to deal with construction barriers like inclement weather or limited working hours. Prefabrication can save companies a lot of money because they can get bulk discounts on materials—which, in turn, also saves time (and time equals money). These processes are also considered more eco-friendly because any leftover materials can easily be recycled. 

 

8. Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Given the emergence of an open and highly collaborative data ecosystem, it should come as no surprise that BIM continues to be one of the hottest trends in the construction industry. BIM allows users to generate computer representations of buildings and utilities, and brings more accuracy to the building process by empowering the exchange of important project information between key stakeholders.

BIM’s further evolution—like 4D and 5D BIM—will be the catalyst for fundamental change within the industry. Improved technology is anticipated to make construction projects more productive, affordable, eco-friendly and safe.

 

9. Green Technology & Sustainability

Every year, green construction grows in popularity as more companies look for ways to incorporate sustainability into the construction process. Green construction entails building projects in an environmentally responsible and resource-efficient manner to reduce carbon footprint. Sustainability construction includes the preservation of the environment, with a focus on social responsibility.  

A few green trends gaining traction in the construction industry include bricks made of recycled cigarette butts, self-healing concrete and thermally driven air conditioners. 

 

10. Construction Management Software

Construction software plays an important role within the construction industry, but many companies are using multiple disjointed systems that don’t speak to each other in real-time. This creates disconnect between accounting and project management which, in turn, causes bottlenecks, errors, and inaccurate reports. 

Premier Construction Software empowers businesses to work smarter by providing modern, powerful and easy-to-use construction software. Our all-in-one software solution features accounting, job costing, in addition to project and document management to ensure the data syncs real-time, making it easy for businesses to trust the data to make more informed decisions.

To learn more about Premier Construction Software and to speak to a representative, click here.

 

Final thoughts

As the construction industry continues to evolve, it’s imperative to stay informed about trends that are shifting the business and global landscape. Adapting to these changes and leveraging technologies to maximize efficiency and reduce risk will help business owners stay competitive, offset additional costs and increase profitability.

 

Author Biography:

Kathryn Dressler is a content strategist with more than 10 years of experience across the spectrum of marketing services, including blogging, social media, public relations, copywriting and editorial services.

 

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Trends & Technology

The Secret Extension of My Construction Team: My Software Provider

Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”

When it comes to choosing software for your construction company, having a provider that can work with your business and for your business, will ultimately lead to better outcomes all-around.

Premier Construction Software is the number one cloud software on the market. Is it because the product is great? Absolutely. But it’s also because Premier takes a partnership approach when working with clients.

 

“Businesses want a partner that they can trust. Not only do we take the time to understand a company’s processes and desired outcome, we take the time to build a relationship with their people and learn about their work culture. Transitions can be difficult as typically a bit of change is required. This is why we adopted a “one team” mentality. We truly care about helping great companies become even better, and we know that they key to this is communication.”

 

For MAX Construction Inc., a full-service tenant finish general contractor company in Denver, CO, the Premier software isn’t just an efficient tool for the company—it’s an extension of the company itself.

When Alex Szollosi, President of MAX Construction, was looking for a software solution for his company, he sought out many options. When it came down to it, Premier was the best fit for many reasons.

“The reason why I like the product, is not just the product – it’s the people I’m working with. That comfort zone made my decision easy. And I can honestly say that I made the right choice with that decision. It’s six years later and I still have regular contact with Premier. They’re always happy to talk to me; they’re excited to know what we’re doing and I’m excited to know what they’re developing so we can use Premier not just for today, but for tomorrow.”

 

When a company is looking to purchase an all-in-one software solution, there are many factors to consider. Ensuring back-end technology is modern and fully cloud-based is vitally important, as is knowing about additional fees that may arise. Szollosi wanted to know about all facets when he was looking to make a software decision.

When you’re a Premier user, whether it’s today or tomorrow, you get the entire product and all future product enhancements at no additional cost. They do frequent updates with and you get unlimited group training for new staff. So you’re never paying more for the product than the agreed to amounts.

Training and support are required regardless of what software you’re using. With Premier, the process is transparent and user-friendly. Szollosi can attest to this.

 

“One of the key things with all these products is that you have to learn how to use it. I went to several different companies and they quote you on how to use the product. Premier’s classes are far less cost and all of their classes are online with real-time collaboration, so you can sit in your office or at home to take that class. They record the classes and they offer you unlimited use of them until you feel comfortable using the system. That was a tremendous difference that I really enjoyed because I knew I wasn’t limited or falling back because of business getting in the way and not always being able to take the classes when you’d like to. That was one thing that really stuck out in our minds.”

 

Understanding that collaboration is the key to innovation is paramount at Premier.  Szollosi knows this firsthand and has helped develop many new features in the software, including enhancements to its unlimited storage document management system and change order signature automation. Having a voice and actually being heard is a differentiating factor that separates Premier from the competition.

 

I really think that people need to look at who the people are that they’re going to be dealing with as much what the product is all about. In my book, Premier is a winner in both of those areas.

 

“What I’m trying to stress here is that Premier is not just designing a product, they’re listening to their users to design a more fluid product and one that’s better for the use of its individual clients. They implement our ideas. They listen. They’re constantly working on the ability to improve on the product.”

 

When it all boils down, it’s the people behind the software that makes using Premier Construction more user-friendly, innovative and seamless. As Szollosi puts it,

“They are truly an extension of MAX construction. It makes the product we deliver to the job site a better product as well.”

 

To learn more about Premier Construction Software and to speak to a representative, click here.