Experts have long criticized the construction industry’s unwillingness to get with the times. As one of the oldest industries in the world, it would rather stick to the status quo than try new things. That is until recently when some of the largest construction companies in the world started to recognize the benefits that technology and automation have to offer. And the reason for this change makes a lot of sense.
Construction has some of the tightest profit margins of any industry. Not only that, inefficiencies and errors shrink those margins even more. Automation aims to fix that by taking mundane, error-prone tasks and utilizing a system to handle them. The result is more efficient processes and fewer mistakes. Let’s take a look at a few ways construction is moving toward this automated world.
Automation in Construction
Construction automation conjures thoughts of robots and machines erecting buildings. While there are some machines that can lay bricks or pour concrete, construction automation is more about the processes behind the scenes, as a contract, documents, and invoice management. These processes take up a lot of time inputting data, double-checking documents, checking for compliance, and finding (and fixing) errors.
Many construction companies are moving toward smart contracts to help streamline and automate certain processes. These contracts work by utilizing “if/then” scenarios, recognizing that once one action takes place, another action needs to occur.
For instance, some smart contracts will recognize that once a certain stage of a project is complete (say, the contractor gets paid) that more materials will be necessary. The program can then trigger an order to a supplier, making sure there is enough material to continue the job.
This type of automation keeps the construction vehicle rolling, minimizing downtime and maximizing efficiency.
Manual compliance management and tracking take a lot of time. Someone needs to check to ensure that each contractor is meeting the requirements set forth but the contract. This could be keeping licenses on file, meeting bond requirements, updating insurance information, sending lien waivers, or many other scenarios. And, should some of those compliances expire, someone needs to know—this sounds like a job for automation.
Automated compliance tracking and management is a significant help to construction companies. Not only will the system track and log compliances as they come in, but it will also notify the project management team if any are missing. They can also prevent expired compliances from going unnoticed by automatically sending a warning to the team.
As much as the industry relies on raw materials to build structures, it also relies on documents (and lots of them) to keep the job on track. Between drawings, contracts, compliances, change orders, RFIs, and other construction documents, physically sorting and storing them all is mundane and time-consuming. Manual entry might reduce storage, but it’s also time heavy and prone to mistakes. Automated document management has the answer.
Some document management programs allow a user to upload a document into the system. The system then automatically reviews the document, pulls the important data, and stores it in such a way that’s easy to find and accessible for the whole team.
Payment problems are always an issue in the construction industry, but automation can help. By giving subcontractors and suppliers an automated system to upload invoices and compliances, you reduce the time it takes for them to get paid. You also limit your risk of multiple payments or paying more than the budget allows.
Beyond automated payment management, automated invoice management simplifies the entire process. Automated invoice systems will scan an invoice, pull the important data, cross-reference it with other documents, and assess the validity of the invoice. It will also recognize who sent the invoice, which job it’s attached to, and which contract it falls under.
Automated invoice management can go quite a bit further, as well. The more invoices these systems see, the more proficient they become at recognizing job numbers, vendor codes, cost types, and more, pulling these values and ID numbers straight from the page.
Possibly most important of all, automated invoice management systems reduce errors and oversights. The system will automatically check to ensure the amount is correct, as well as check that the document in question isn’t a duplicate or fraudulent invoice. This reduces lost money due to errors and mistakes, allowing automated invoice management to pay for itself.
Premier partnered with Smart Ui to offer services just like these. This system offers automated invoice management that only gets smarter the more you use it, helping you improve your company’s efficiency and accounts payable and receivable processes.
Automation Is the Future
Clearly, automation will play a big role in the construction industry’s future. From bots and machines to the way the industry handles data entry tasks, automating tasks allows for growth, increased profits, and better project management.
Tom Scalisi has over 15 years of experience working in the trades. Since moving to full-time freelance writing, he has developed a passion for helping construction companies grow. He enjoys teaching contractors how technology can streamline their businesses and educating them about their rights during payment disputes.