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Industry Insight Tips & Advice

Go Mobile: 5 Reasons to Transition to Mobile Devices for Construction Reporting

Construction is a unique industry, where most of the work takes place off-site. This can lead to unique communication challenges, many of which have been reduced thanks to mobile technology. 

In the 2021 Construction Technology Report, the annual survey found that every year since 2018 over 90% of respondents is using smartphones daily. During the same period, tablet use has been increasing. Construction companies are increasingly recognizing the value of going mobile.  

Here are the top five reasons construction companies use mobile devices on the job, according to the survey: 

  • Daily reports 
  • Photos and video
  • Time management 
  • Safety management 
  • Drawing management 

While most companies are actively adopting mobile technology, some still rely on tried-and-true paper documentation. Due to the nature of the work, this can lead to project delays and added costs due to rework. Adopting mobile technology has several benefits for construction companies. 

Benefits of going mobile

  1. Better communication

Construction projects require almost constant communication between team members and the office. A lapse in communication can lead to errors and rework. Using mobile devices allows workers to communicate with the office and other team members while still in the field. There’s less wasted time in meetings and going to the office. Improved communication leads to better outcomes in the field, reducing errors and rework. Team members’ questions get answered quickly and efficiently without downtime. 

  1. Access real-time information

Many mobile apps allow field workers to provide input to and pull up reports, drawings, and emails without leaving the field. Project managers can see budget reports at any time, so they know where the project is. Supervisors can access productivity reports and compare them to past reports. Team members don’t have to wait for reports to be generated, they can access them when they need them. This allows them to make better project decisions quickly, avoiding schedule delays. 

  1. Improve productivity

With access to data at their fingertips, workers spend less time in meetings, going to the office, and on phone calls. They can spend their time actively working on the project, instead of looking for lost documents, timecards, or other paperwork. Productivity is maintained and efficiency is improved through the use of mobile technology. 

  1. Improve organization

Mobile apps provide document management, helping workers find the information they need when they need it. Workers no longer have to spend time looking through multiple folders on a shared drive or combing through files in a truck. Drawings are automatically marked with revisions, making it easy to know when you’re working with the current version. This helps prevent mistakes due to lack of communication and reduces rework. 

  1. Integration

Integrating information between the field and the office improves productivity, prevents mistakes, and improves organization. Workers spend less time reentering data into multiple systems and are able to be more productive in their work. Data entry mistakes are reduced, and information is available at the touch of a button, instead of waiting for lengthy reports. 

Premier Construction Software allows teams to communicate in real-time, from the field and the office. This improves communication, gives teams access to real-time data, improves productivity and organization, and is completely integrated. The mobile connection saves companies time and money on slow paper processes. It helps ensure that everyone is working from the same data at the same time. 

If your company is ready to go mobile with your project management and accounting software, contact us for a demo or to answer any questions. 

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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Features Industry Insight Tips & Advice

Construction Forecasting: Developing and Maintaining a Project Budget

In 2015, KPMG reported that 31% of construction projects come within 10% of the budget. And it seems the bigger the project, the worse the financial uncertainty. In 2016, McKinsey reported that 80% of large projects go over budget. The research shows that contractors and owners are struggling to maintain their budgets throughout their projects. Forecasting costs has only become even more difficult in the last couple of years, due to the global pandemic and supply chain issues. 

Knowing how to build a project budget and manage it over the life of a project is a skill that can be learned.

Here are some tips we have gathered to help.  

Developing a project budget 

Developing a project budget begins with a clear and complete scope of work. You must have a clear picture of what needs to be done and when it needs to be done before you can price the work. Talk to the owner about their project and get as many details as possible about the work and their schedule. 

Using the description gathered from the project owner, develop a breakdown of the work that needs to be completed, also called a work breakdown structure or WBS. A WBS breaks the work down into small, manageable, quantifiable scopes of work. For example, installing drywall. A WBS helps in both budgeting and scheduling work because each task and can be quantified for cost and time. 

Based on your conversations with the project owner, you should be able to establish milestones in the schedule that have to be met. These may include equipment delivery dates or occupancy. Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) that let you know if you are meeting both the owner’s and your own milestones. For example, you may have profit goals or productivity targets that you must meet for the project to be successful. Defining these ahead of time will help you assess the project’s success as it progresses, not just at the end. 

When developing the project schedule and budget, provide an optimistic view, a pessimistic view, and a most likely scenario. Leave some room for changes and added work. By analyzing these three schedules and budgets, you can assess the probability that you will meet your goals ahead of time and start to plan for potential issues before they come up. 

Maintaining the project budget 

A project budget should be a living document that changes as the project progresses. Added work, scope changes, and schedule delays often affect the schedule as a project moves on. Project managers can use several methods to forecast costs to complete the work. They include using a work breakdown structure, using Excel formats, third-party templates, and construction software. 

Some contractors use the list or work breakdown structure method to estimate their projects and forecast future costs. This technique involves listing all the work that needs to be performed and breaking it down into manageable tasks, like WBS. Then each of these tasks is budgeted, scheduled, and tracked throughout the project. While this technique may work for smaller simpler projects, it can easily get unmanageable on larger construction projects. 

The next step up from a written list is using Excel templates to manage costs, schedules, and other information. Excel spreadsheets have been used to track costs, schedules, daily reports, budgets, and much more. If you have not developed your own forms, many are available on the internet. The problem with excel spreadsheets is that they are not connected, and not tailored to construction. 

Some companies rely on templates and use them to track all correspondence and data for their projects. These templates are created by third-party companies and not customized for a specific project or scope. Again, they are not connected, and the data is not centrally located. 

The most modern way to track and maintain a project budget is using construction software. Today’s software is available in ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and all-in-one solutions that combine project management, actual costs, commitments, unanticipated costs, budgets, and communication together, where everything is in one place. They tie together estimating, job costing, timekeeping, communication, and financials. Using this information, project managers can more effectively forecast productivity and costs, providing a more accurate picture of where they will finish on the job and ensuring they are not caught with any surprises. They can review historical information and easily dive into the month-to-month variances to better understand the current budget and estimate at completion. 

Keys to better forecasting

  1. Get real-time data

When project managers try to forecast monthly, they often make mistakes if the accounting and job costing is not integrated into one software solution. Working with multiple software applications makes it difficult to compile the data taking several days or even weeks, leaving the Project Manager no choice but to base their forecasts on lagging information. Worst of all, they cannot trust the data to make accurate and informed decisions.  

Today’s financial construction software offers real-time data that automatically calculates the estimate at completion. This way you can easily compare your original estimate, current estimate, and estimate at completion. Software solutions offer great lock features allowing you to freeze the original estimate and forecasting period, forcing your team to properly enter any change orders in the correct period to record any movement on the job. This way, each month you can easily review the variances and see why the budget has moved.  

  1. Communicate

There is no substitute for continuous communication between contractors, owners, and design team members. When everyone is on the same page there are fewer hidden costs. Software solutions offer simple, integrated ways for team members to communicate in real-time about issues, change orders, and any concerns. With software introducing new and faster ways to approve and electronically sign off on commitments, ap invoices, and change orders, it ensures the estimate at completion is up to date and accurate. Members can easily approve, mark-up, decline, or reject key documents instantly. The ability to see what is outstanding and ensure you have your internal processes optimized to provide open, instant feedback, makes forecasting much simpler and more accurate. 

  1. Integrate systems

It’s time to say goodbye to disconnected excel spreadsheets. With real-time data, it makes it easy for a project manager to easily adjust the EAC using anticipated costs and make more informed decisions as to where the budget will end up. 

When systems are separated from each other due to the lack of software integration, time can be lost spent pulling information from multiple sources and compiling it into comprehensive reports. Teams need integrated data at their fingertips so they can act proactively view actual costs, commitments, change orders, pending items, etc. Using an ERP or all-in-one software financial construction solution provides project managers a macro and micro-overview of the budget as they can easily drill down into all the details waiting for other departments to provide information or for spreadsheets to be updated. 

  1. Automate

Saving time saves money. The more teams can automate daily data-entry tasks, the more time they can spend actively managing the work and proactively reviewing the high-risk itemsSo much time is being wasted on chasing down subcontractors, manually approving AP invoices, trying to collect signatures, and rekeying data from emails. An inefficient system makes it difficult for PMs to find the time to properly forecast. With proper construction financial software, the most time-consuming and complex tasks can be automated to save you valuable time and ensure you can scale the business without having to add more overhead. Best of all, you can start trusting your data and gain better financial control of your jobs and business.  

If you are ready to step up your forecasting game, look no further than Premier Construction Software. We have an easy-to-use financial construction software solution that will help manage your project from beginning to completion.  Get in touch with our team to schedule a demo 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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Industry Insight Tips & Advice Uncategorized

5 Ways To Improve Mental Health in the Construction Industry

Mental health awareness has skyrocketed in recent years. With celebrities, athletes, and public figures bringing this once-hushed topic into our daily lives, many industries are having long-overdue conversations. The construction industry needs to be one of them.

More so than almost any other type of business, the people who make up the construction industry are dangerously susceptible to poor mental health. In fact, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center places construction as the industry with the second-highest rate of suicide, behind only the mining, quarrying, and gas extraction industry. That’s a statistic that shouldn’t be overlooked.

The issue is this: overall mental health in the construction industry can’t improve if the tough conversations don’t come up and leadership doesn’t take action. Let’s take a deeper dive into mental health awareness in the construction industry and what we can do to improve it.

What is mental health?

While it’s one of the most affected industries, construction as a whole doesn’t talk much about mental health—in fact, the topic is often looked down upon. For that reason, folks who spent their whole lives building things might not be overly aware of what mental health truly is.

According to the CDC, mental health is “our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.”

And, here’s a critical distinction: mental health and mental illness are not the same things. These terms are not interchangeable, and someone experiencing poor mental health is not necessarily suffering from a mental illness. This is an aspect of mental health that the construction industry needs to recognize.

Why is mental health in the construction industry so poor?

Before we can take steps to improve the mental health of the people that make up the construction industry, we have to identify what the issues are.

First, understand that stress is a major factor affecting the mental health of the construction industry. Long workdays, delays, employment uncertainty, contract disputes, and the generally physically taxing nature of the industry all wear people down. When you also consider the amount of money on the line for many contracts, the stakes are incredibly high for the industry. 

Employees are often afraid to take a sick day or leave early for fear of it affecting their jobs, as well. Rather than stay home when sick, hurt, or suffering from mental health challenges, they come to work out of fear they’ll be fired, scolded, or berated. 

We also need to look at the demographics of the industry. Construction is—and has thus far been—male-dominated, with men making up approximately 90 percent of the workforce. As a whole, males are less likely to discuss mental health than women for fear of being seen as weak or unable to cope with their challenges. As a result, they never reach out for mental health guidance, which is evident in the construction industry.

This is also an issue perpetuated through generations. The older generations never discussed mental health or even recognized that it could be an issue. By handing down trade secrets, techniques, and wisdom to the newer generations, they’ve unknowingly transferred this closed-off mindset toward mental health.

With this closed-off mindset comes the inability to recognize the signs of mental health distress or find healthy ways to improve it. Instead, depression, diminished physical health, high blood pressure, substance abuse, and other “accepted” issues plague the industry, many stemming from the taboo surrounding mental health. 

5 Ways To Improve Mental Health in the Construction Industry

Thus far, it’s been a very bleak outlook for the construction industry’s mental health. But, it doesn’t have to be that way forever. With a bit of awareness and encouragement, construction doesn’t have to suffer as it always has.

1. Improve Company Culture

Company culture has a lot to do with the stress that its employees feel. A rush-rush, hectic company that ignores accomplishments and harps on mistakes is not a great place for anyone to work, and it will take its toll on mental health.

Instead of that volatile environment, strive to improve company culture:

  • Recognize employees for their hard work
  • Throw events to show your crew you appreciate them
  • Have quarterly seminars with guest speakers and free lunches
  • Encourage employees to sign up for training
  • Allow employees to use their PTO time responsibly
  • Encourage breaks during the day

There are more approaches to take as well. While none of them improve mental health directly, they do create an atmosphere where employees feel valued.

2. Educate Employees

Many of the most affected employees don’t recognize the signs of poor mental health. For that reason, education is critical.

There is employee well-being training that will come to a workplace and educate the employees about mental health. This will inevitably be met with groans and eye-rolling, but with the right trainer, a lot of good things can happen. Holding regularly scheduled training keeps the conversation rolling, and as employees find benefits or takeaways, those training will begin to pay dividends.

3. Give Your Employees the Opportunity for Help

Even when someone recognizes that they aren’t feeling like themselves, they might not know where to turn. An Employee Assistance Program (or EAP for short) gives them that first step. These programs help with not only mental health at work but also the effects everyday life can have on a person. 

Also, provide your employees with contact information for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and other similar programs.

4. Make Mental Health Awareness Part of the New Generation

One way to improve your company’s approach to mental health awareness is to sow the seeds early with the new generation. Whenever onboarding a new employee, be sure to discuss your training, sick day policies, and EAP so they know that their well-being matters. Just make certain that you hold up your end of the deal.

While this is certainly a “long game” approach, it’s much like farming for a healthier company. Planting the seeds with this generation will help remove the stigma over time and create a healthier, more accepting work environment where conversations about mental health are more normalized and less taboo.

5. Make Awareness Start at the Top

Construction is a taxing and tolling business, and successful business owners, project managers, foremen, and supervisors have all taken their share of blows. It’s important to understand that for mental health awareness to truly take hold, it needs to start with these leaders.

First, business owners need to believe in something if they expect their employees to follow suit. Attending their own training, reaching out for assistance when their backs are against the wall, and having these difficult conversations are all critical. Only then can the belief trickle down to the managers and supervisors. With management on board, the boots on the ground will have the support they need to take care of themselves and their mental health.

It Takes Awareness

Improving the mental health of the construction industry as a whole requires awareness. Once we’re able to remove the stigma surrounding asking for help, we might be able to lower the rate of suicides, depression, and health conditions while also improving productivity and safety. With the tips outlined in this article, change is within the industry’s reach. 

Premier Construction Software is a true cloud, all-in-one accounting, job cost, project, document, and drawing management solution designed to meet the needs of GCs, Developers, Design-Build, and Homebuilders. Trusted by thousands of companies, Premier partners with forward-thinking, progressive construction companies to provide a fully integrated solution for office and field staff operating on Mac, PC, and any mobile device. Premier operates in North America as well as Australia, providing a true cloud solution that meets the needs of both markets today.

Check out Premier Construction to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals. See how we can help your construction company to work smarter. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.Author Biography:

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. 

 

 

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Industry Insight Tips & Advice

Building Green: Top Trends

Green building has been around for several decades now, and the technology that goes with it continues to grow. Many new inventions, and some repurposed older ones, are helping building owners and homeowners meet their commitments to a better environment, both inside and out. We’ve come up with a list of six green building technology trends that are shaping the future of green construction. Some have been around for a while, and some are fairly new.

Smart glass

Windows aren’t just for looking at anymore, they can help heat or cool your home or building. Smart glass protects buildings from solar heat gain during the summer months. Solar heat gain is caused by radiation from the sun. Windows are rated on a scale of 0 to 1 showing how much energy passes through the window. Smart glass uses a small electric charge to control both the tinting and solar heat gain, reducing the temperature inside. And the glass is well insulated to protect from cold weather during the winter.

The smartglass allows building owners to have control and flexibility when it comes to how much heat gain they want at any particular time. Reports say smart glass can save up to 25% on HVAC costs.

Smart appliances

Today’s appliances connect to the internet and to each other to allow you more control. For example, washers and dryers tie into your home’s smart meter, so they can run when electricity is the cheapest. And the refrigerator comes with a touch screen so you can connect to the internet and watch TV or videos demoing a new recipe. It can also check your shopping needs, as well as your current food inventory. And all this information is available on your phone, too, allowing you to control your lights and appliances even away from home.

Smart appliances can also tie into a home management system like Alexa. These management systems allow you to control your lights, heating and cooling, and other appliances from a central hub or app on your phone.

Biodegradable materials

Landfills are quickly filling up with building materials, either from building scraps or demolition debris. Many of these materials will have a long life sitting in the landfill before they break down. One trend that seeks to reduce the amount of trash in our landfills is biodegradable materials. Selecting natural materials like bamboo, timber, and linoleum, which all break down easily, helps reduce the amount of trash sitting in landfills. Other options include organic paint and insulation made from recycled denim and newspaper, instead of fiberglass.

Low emitting materials

Many building materials off-gas dangerous chemicals into the air during installation and after they are installed. This off-gassing of chemicals results in what most call the “new building” smell. Many materials are now available in low or no emitting versions. This makes it safer for those installing the materials, as well as people living and working in the building after it’s installed. Products available in low emitting versions include adhesives and glues, paints and coatings, composite wood, and flooring.

Net-zero energy

The goal of many building owners is to be net-zero energy. This means their building produces as much energy as it uses. Achieving this goal requires a combination of energy efficiency measures and renewable power. Efficiency measures often include additional insulation in walls, insulated windows, point-of-use water heating, and efficient HVAC equipment. Electrical power can be generated by solar or wind energy, depending on which is most prevalent. To store power until it is needed, the building can use battery storage or be connected to the grid. If it’s connected to the grid, it sells power back to the utility when it creates too much and takes power from the grid when it’s needed.

Net-zero energy is a lofty goal for any building or home. Owners can use alternatives, like purchasing renewable energy from their utility, to help offset the lack of renewable energy on-site. Or they may develop a renewable energy plant on a separate piece of land if that makes sense financially.

Carbon neutral

This trend is on the cutting edge as many building teams are working to design ways to reduce the amount of carbon needed to build and operate a building. Current trends include planting trees, using materials that trap carbon throughout their life, like carbon-eating concrete, providing the most efficient HVAC equipment to help reduce the need for power, and using renewable power sources, thus reducing emissions. Building owners can purchase carbon offsets to reduce their footprint. These offsets help support carbon sinks, like forests and the ocean.

Conclusion

The popularity of green construction continues to grow, and with it so does the technology. The goal of any green building technology is to make our buildings healthier and improve our natural environment. Inventions such as smart glass and smart appliances also make our lives easier and more comfortable. While biodegradable and low emitting materials make our inner and outer environments healthier. And net zero and carbon neutral are goals that many building owners are making a reality with their commitment to a better environment.

Premier Construction Software is a true cloud, all-in-one accounting, job cost, project, document, and drawing management solution designed to meet the needs of GCs, Developers, Design-Build, and Homebuilders. Trusted by thousands of companies, Premier partners with forward-thinking, progressive construction companies to provide a fully integrated solution for office and field staff operating on Mac, PC, and any mobile device. Premier operates in North America as well as Australia, providing a true cloud solution that meets the needs of both markets today.

Check out Premier Construction Software system to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals. Schedule a demo by contacting 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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Tips & Advice Trends & Technology

How COVID Changed Construction

There’s no doubt that the Coronavirus has changed everyone’s life. Those who had it will never be the same, and those who haven’t still live in fear. The construction industry is not immune to these changes. From a drastic material shortage to new ways to collaborate, the industry will never be the same.

Here are five ways the construction industry has been impacted by COVID.

1. Materials shortage

There isn’t a trade that hasn’t been impacted by the materials shortage in some way. It started with factory shutdowns due to stay-at-home orders and was followed by a trucking and shipping labor shortage. Now we have hundreds of cargo ships stranded outside ports waiting to be offloaded.

The materials shortage started with lumber, then moved quickly to steel and other building materials. Now there isn’t anything that hasn’t been affected. Approximately 68% of contractors surveyed said they were experiencing material delays in the 2nd quarter of 2021. The shortage has delayed projects and caused prices to skyrocket. At one time lumber was up over 300% from the previous year! And now we have additional supply chain issues to deal with in the coming months. There doesn’t seem to be a quick answer to this one.

2. Health becomes a priority

Gone are the days of going to work when you are sick. Since almost any symptom could be a sign of the COVID virus, everyone with cold or flu-like symptoms was sent home. Workers were told not to come in if they felt sick. Then, once tests were available, we went to testing everyone and quarantining those who tested positive. Whole crews or job sites could be knocked out and the project placed on hold due to contact tracing and the required quarantining.

Now we are dealing with vaccines, mandates, and whether to mask or not. What started as a health issue has become a political hot potato. It’s left companies in employees wondering “what next?” Things won’t go back to normal anytime soon. Contractors developed new ways to track symptoms and contact traces using construction software packages.

3. New ways to collaborate

When the stay-at-home orders first came out, design teams could no longer travel or meet on job sites. Everyone that could work from home did, which made collaboration much more difficult. But teams rose to the occasion and found new tools they could use to work together. Tools like drawing collaboration were used to keep everyone informed of design changes. And Zoom calls became the norm as teams worked together to make it work.

Even building inspectors started doing inspections using photographs and video conferencing. This sped up the inspection process for all involved.

Cloud computing and web-based SaaS software have changed the ways teams collaborate. Since most were working from home and travel was restricted, being able to access documents and information from anywhere became a necessity, not a luxury. Cloud-based technology and construction

management software, like Premier, helped contractors stay connected, scale their operations without having to rely on human resources, make investments in their companies that eliminated time-consuming processes, and identify cash flow issues and problem projects early. Without such flexibility, many companies found it hard to operate in the new environment.

4. E-Signing became more popular

One thing that couldn’t stop was payments, and to keep the documents flowing many companies had to rely on electronic signatures. Although they’ve been legal for years, they gained in popularity during the pandemic. Some states, like Oregon, started accepting remote notaries, while others had been for years. A remote notary session involves the notary and signer getting together on a conference call to witness the signature. This makes it easier for lien waivers and other documents to be notarized so they don’t hold up payments.

The more electronic signatures were collected, the more document management became a necessity. Companies had to track lien waivers, subcontracts, contracts, change orders, and purchase orders and know when each had been signed. Construction management software, like Premier, allows contractors to keep these documents organized and know exactly who’s missing. You can seamlessly connect your e-signature software with Premier software to collect the signatures you need quickly and easily.

5. Materials cost increases force price increases

It started with lumber, rocketing 300 percent from its starting price, then other materials started raising their prices. Now gas prices are rising, along with other supplies for construction projects. As prices rose, contractors started to pass on those costs to their customers. The cost to frame a house more than doubled during the height of the lumber price spike.

Some customers delayed projects to try to avoid high material costs, while others just paid the price. Many contractors started adding price escalation clauses to their contracts to protect them in this volatile market.

Conclusion

We can only hope that someday we’ll be able to put this pandemic behind us and return to life as we knew it. Some of the changes to the construction industry caused by COVID are for the better, like making health a priority and the rise of collaboration. Other changes, however, like price increases and material shortages, are best left in the rearview mirror.

 

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.