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Why Go Digital? The Future of Construction Management

The construction industry has traditionally been slow to adopt the technology. Many of its work processes are legacy solutions from decades ago, like spreadsheets and yellow notepads. Today’s workers are stuck in the process of trying to digitize an industry that has been stuck in the analog world for many generations.

However, contractors are beginning to realize that they no longer have a choice when it comes to embracing technology. Now it’s a race to decide who will be the first adopters to bring the industry into the future.

We’ve put together five reasons why construction companies need to go digital today.

Why go digital?

Save time and money

Many contractors run several software systems simultaneously – one for estimating, one for project management, and one for accounting. These systems often don’t talk to each other, and each system becomes its own information silo, creating obstructions to the flow of information. Each software system provides information, but it’s difficult or impossible to share that information with the other systems.

Companies soon develop workarounds like entering data by hand from one system to another or using spreadsheets to provide the information everyone needs. Some software systems allow data sharing through import/export, but it still takes time to capture the data, download it, then upload it to another system.

When workers have to manually enter data, there’s an increasing chance that mistakes will be made. Inaccurate information can lead teams to make wrong decisions that can have a profound effect on the financial success of projects over time.

All-in-one software packages create workflows that allow project teams to share data between departments without resorting to workarounds that can cause errors and lost productivity.

Attract a younger workforce

In order to attract younger workers contractors need to upgrade their tools to the latest technology has to offer. You don’t have to be on the cutting edge, but there’s a lot of tried-and-true technology that construction has been hesitant to implement. Companies need to adopt tech more readily to match the skill sets, education, and training future workers are receiving.

Construction management students are learning project management and documentation using the software. These packages make tracking correspondence, submittals, and RFIs much easier than using Excel and other legacy software. If contractors don’t adopt these tools, they could be losing the opportunity to work with some of the best and brightest in new talent.

Integration is key when it comes to estimating and material takeoffs. Too many companies rely on outdated software or manual methods to create estimates and perform takeoffs. That data then has to be entered into another software system once the project is approved. Younger workers don’t understand why these systems are separated when there are so many options for integrating them.

Harness the power of new technology

New tech, like AI, machine learning, and automation are changing the landscape. Artificial intelligence (AI) is more than robots and droids. It describes how machines are able to mimic human thinking, like problem-solving, pattern recognition, and learning.

AI is being used to create predictive models based on past project data. These models analyze projects for cost overages, schedule delays, and other potential issues. The software looks for similarities between past projects and current work, and from there it can predict potential problems and bring them to the contractor’s attention.

Machine learning is a subset of AI and uses statistical techniques and calculations to understand project data and gain insights. As more data is added to the machine learning model, the software is able to assimilate the information and refine its predictions in current situations. Contractors are using both machine learning and predictive analysis to assess projects before they start so they know the risks and can proactively manage them from the beginning of the project.

Automation, or the use of technology to perform tasks, is also gaining in popularity in construction. Construction management and accounting software systems use automation to speed up data entry tasks and help prevent errors. For example, automated invoice entry in accounts payable allows workers to pull amounts and codes from commitment records and get notified when budget line items are over their limits. This automation helps ensure data is accurate and cost overruns are detected and managed.

Streamline your operations

With business growth responsibilities and processes are often developed organically. Employees do the best they can, but without a big picture view, they often create processes without knowing why. These processes certainly get the work done, but it doesn’t mean they’re the best way to do something.

The software can provide the overall structure needed to streamline processes that have grown cumbersome over time. With software as your guide, roles and responsibilities can be reorganized based on the most efficient way to perform a process.

Using an all-in-one system also simplifies record-keeping and data retrieval processes. Project records can be stored in the cloud, so now there’s only one place to look for information. Teams don’t have to search in multiple folders and software applications to find the information they need. It’s at the tip of their fingers 24/7.

Manage/control risk

Construction management software can help teams mitigate many of the risks found on a project. Although it can’t address all potential risks, it can speed communication and document what’s being done to proactively address issues.

Project management software allows teams to see and address overdue tasks and documents that may delay the project. Teams can run reports that show outstanding items as well as who is responsible for those items. The software can also track health checks and other safety-related inspections that are required in today’s world. This daily reporting allows team members to see the status of various items and predict potential problems.

Having a central hub where documents are stored is a must, given the number that is created and distributed during a project. Document storage, version control, and distribution are easily managed by project management software, ensuring everyone is working from the latest documents and has access to them from wherever they are. The same is true for project correspondence. Team members have only one place to look when it comes to searching for an email or notice. All communication is tracked and documented within the system, and specific items can easily be recalled in minutes.

Having an integrated system where costs are instantly updated in the field allows teams to respond to potential budget issues quickly. Project managers can manage the project budget and costs from the site, without having to request information from the office.

Digital is changing the construction world

While the outside world and other industries transitioned from analog to digital several years ago, construction has always been behind the times. It’s only now that the industry has begun harnessing the power that has been available for decades. Tomorrow’s workers are better prepared for this change and are sure to lead the effort. See how smoothly Jonas Premier can assist you and your team in the process of going digital. Visit our website or schedule a call with our team of professionals at Jonas Premier today for a complimentary walk-through of our simple and easy-to-use software.

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

A Way of Attracting Younger Construction Workers? Technology.

Many construction industry companies are looking for ways to attract the younger generations to work with them so their businesses can continue on into the future. But with a labor shortage throughout the country, and particularly in construction, companies have to work harder to attract younger workers.

The answer to the question of how to reach younger workers and encourage them to join the industry is technology. By updating systems and software, using the latest in tech gear, and focusing on recruiting young workers, construction companies can make the industry attractive again.

An aging workforce

Workers younger than 25 make up only 9% of the total construction industry workforce. Roughly 40% of workers in the industry are 45–64. And according to data from the Center for Construction Research and Training, workers aged 55 and over increased from 17% in 2011 to 22% in 2018.

Add to that the fact that the industry has struggled to attract younger workers and it’s a recipe for a shortage in the near future. High school students are encouraged to go to college and choose a career path from there. The trades and other construction-related occupations are not given as much fanfare.

Contractors are complaining about the lack of skilled workers available, but the truth is the industry doesn’t do a good enough job attracting potential workers. The younger generations have grown up with technology by their side and have come to rely on it for every aspect of their lives. However, construction has been slow to adopt new technology, and many workers still rely on outdated resources to perform their work.

If contractors and other construction companies want to attract younger workers, they’ve got to adopt the latest in technology. This will allow them to take advantage of the benefits of younger workers’ skills. Students in construction management programs are getting trained on the use of scheduling software, project management software, estimating software, and electronic material takeoff. Administrative and accounting professionals are being trained using new software with new functionalities. Asking highly trained workers to use outdated programs discounts the education they worked so hard to get.

By asking workers to use systems they are not familiar with also slows down the training time and increases costs. Companies that still do manual takeoffs will struggle to teach a Millenial worker about scales and manual calculations. This leads to a longer onboarding process, costing companies more money while they wait for a new worker to become productive.

Upgrade your tools

Companies that want to attract younger workers need to upgrade their tools to the latest technology can offer. You don’t have to be on the bleeding edge, but there’s a lot of researched and tried-and-true technology that construction has been hesitant to implement. Companies need to adopt tech to help match the skill sets, education, and training those future workers are receiving.

Accounting

In accounting education students are quickly trained on the debits and credits, then they are moved to software. While most construction companies use accounting software, not many use software specifically designed for the industry. QuickBooks and other general-purpose accounting software can be useful when a company is starting out, but as they grow and want to attract a higher level of talent, industry-specific software becomes a necessity.

Since construction accounting is so different than any other industry, using industry-specific software becomes even more important. Trying to show someone the intricacies of construction accounting using software that isn’t built for those intricacies can lead to a lot of confusion. New workers need a straightforward process that often isn’t available when using generic software.

Project management

Students in construction management programs are learning project management and documentation by using software packages. These packages make tracking correspondence, submittals, and RFIs much easier than using an Excel spreadsheet. If companies aren’t using these tools, they could be losing the opportunity to work with some of the best and brightest.

Estimating and takeoff

When it comes to estimating and material takeoffs, integration is the key. Too many companies rely on outdated software or manual methods to create project estimates and do material takeoffs. Those amounts then need to be entered into another software system once the project is approved. By integrating and automating the estimating takeoff process, companies can improve speed and accuracy. Both of these lead to more work and higher profits.

Scheduling

Scheduling software allows project managers to build dependencies and relationships between tasks on a project. This makes updating the schedule a lot easier because tasks automatically move depending on their predecessors. Having to spend hours manually updating a schedule can be costly.

In addition, some schedules can be imported into the project management system, allowing the team to view the day’s activities and adjust the schedule as needed.

Update your software with Premier

By implementing the latest in technology and bringing processes into the 21st century, construction companies can attract younger, skilled workers. Companies that do not upgrade will continue to struggle to recruit new workers and attract the best and brightest.

If your company is ready to upgrade your accounting and project management software, contact us to see a demo of Premier Construction Software.

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 Resources Tips & Advice

Automate & Standardize Construction Compliances

Contractors know the value of staying in compliance with their contracts and their customers – it can make or break the relationship. Keeping up with compliance requirements and ensuring that customers have all the information they need can leave those contractors without an organized process scrambling.

Developing a process, standardizing it, and using automation to carry out routine tasks improves efficiency and saves money. But you may wonder, how do you do this?

So, what is contract compliance?

Let’s start by getting clear on what contract compliance means in the construction industry. Contracts require certain documents and information from contractors so that project owners know that they are operating within the terms of the agreement.

There’s an almost endless list of items that could be requested in a project contract, and each contract is different. Contractors have to provide the requested information and documentation to ensure the owner that they are meeting the requirements, not only at the beginning of the project but throughout its life.

Here’s just a shortlist of information that may need to be communicated to a project owner to ensure compliance:

  • Licensing
  • Insurance
  • Bonding
  • Credit information
  • Background check
  • Union agreement
  • Lien requirements and notices
  • Safety and health information

Ensuring that these documents are received by the owner, meet the contract requirements, and remain up to date with all your clients can be difficult if you aren’t tracking them in an organized fashion.

Here are some suggestions to get started on standardizng and automating your contract compliance process.

1. Create a process

The first step to automating and standardizing your contract compliance process is to create one if you don’t have one already. If you already have a process, document it so everyone knows what it is.

The steps in a contract process may include:

  1. Contract intake and review
  2. List items that need to be sent for compliance
  3. Review list for any items you don’t already have
  4. Obtain/collect compliance documents
  5. Sign contract
  6. Return contract to client
  7. Review requirements regularly for ongoing compliance

Depending on the specific compliance requirements, more steps may be needed. Make the process as simple as possible but recognize that it needs to be flexible as well.

2. Define roles

Now that you have the process written down, you’ll need to define who is responsible for taking care of each part. Steps can be assigned to departments or specific employees, depending on the size of your company.

For each step in the process, define what needs to be done, who is going to do it, and when it will be completed. It’s important to set deadlines for the completion of tasks, as contracts are often time-driven, and you need to ensure that you’ll meet the deadlines listed.

Be sure to include a way to deal with new documents or new requirements that you haven’t come across before. As situations and conditions change, contract requirements will as well. Assign someone to research the new requirements, as well as assign the task to the appropriate department or employee.

Once the process has been written up and all the steps assigned, distribute the information to everyone involved in contract management. Everyone needs to know who will be performing each role and how long they have to perform it, so they can keep each other accountable.

3. Automate as much as possible

Once you’ve created a standardized process for contract compliance, automation is the next logical step. Instead of wasting time finding and collecting paper documents, use technology to expedite the process. Automation helps streamline processes, which will save your team time and improve efficiency. And the chance for human error is reduced when compliance tasks are automated.

Construction management software can help automate your compliance processes. Online document storage and notifications can help ensure that you stay in compliance with your customers.

4. Periodically review and audit the system

On a periodic basis, you should review the system and audit the results to ensure that you are maintaining compliance with your customers. Talk to the employees involved in the process and look for gaps or areas that continually get bogged down. You’ll also want to review the current status of compliance over all your contracts to ensure that the system is working effectively.

Once you’ve completed the review and audit, assess the overall system to see if it is working and if it’s effective. If there are changes that need to be made, implement them, and then review the process again after a while. Continual improvement will help ensure that the process remains effective.

5. Remain flexible

COVID has taught us that we have to remain flexible and ready to pivot at any time. Contract requirements can be changed in an instant, and new requirements are added all the time. Meet with your compliance team regularly to ensure that the current processes are meeting the needs of the contracts and make changes, as necessary.

Start the process today!

The first step to standardizing and automating your contract compliance process is to write it down. Then assess it to see if it’s effective. Assign roles and responsibilities so each step is covered. Then, find out how technology can improve your efficiency by automating as much of the process as possible. Software, like Premier Construction Software, can track expiration dates and prompt you to request new documents as needed, and provide online file storage so your whole team has access to compliance documents from anywhere. Reviewing and improving your compliance processes ensures that your company is always running at the peak of efficiency.

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

5 Trends to Watch for in the Construction Industry in 2021

In an earlier blog, we covered the top construction industry trends in 2020 and discussed why trend monitoring is critical in competitive markets. This week, we’re going to look ahead and provide our predictions for five construction industry trends to watch in 2021. 

As a result of the unprecedented global pandemic, the construction industry has been hit with a torrent of unexpected challenges which has led to shifts in the way everyday business is done. With looming uncertainty about if and when a vaccine will become available, we expect many of this year’s trends to carry into next year, especially as it relates to safety and adopting practices that enable projects to be completed with low worker density.  

Below are our predictions for five of the top construction industry trends to watch in 2021: 

Safety

Field workers wear protective face masks for safety on a construction project

Let’s begin with the obvious. Worker safety has always been a priority in construction, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought it to the top of the list by creating the need for new requirements and protocols in order to allow work to continue while mitigating the risk of spreading the disease.   

Unlike other industries that could largely shift to work-from-home models, the construction industry is highly collaborative and requires laborers to be physically present on the job site. Currently, there is not a vaccine available to cure or curtail the coronavirus, so we expect social distancing, sanitization and PPE requirements to carry into the new year.

Prefabrication & Modular Construction

Mounting a house wall on a prefabricated house

Already on the rise in 2020, the modular construction market is poised for continued growth in 2021 and is projected to reach as high as $157 billion by 2023. This anticipated market growth can be attributed to several key factors, including its suitability for the times in the post-pandemic era. 

Manufactured buildings are typically built in a way that requires low worker density, and in large buildings that make social distancing easier. Additionally, the equipment used for these processes—for example, conveyors, lifts and cranes—is already designed to allow fewer workers to get the job done in order to save on labor costs, which also happens to be beneficial in times when social distancing is required.

Green Construction & Sustainability

Every year, the shift toward green construction and sustainability practices continues to grow as businesses and clients alike are recognizing the long-term benefits. Sustainability and low-impact processes form the foundation of green construction, in addition to the wise use of materials at every stage to reduce waste. 

While these practices are important to preserving the environment and its limited resources, saving the planet isn’t the only motivating factor for businesses to get on-board with the green building trend. It’s becoming more common for clients to request sustainability specifications in order to reach eco-friendly designations (like LEED certification) or to receive tax credits. Additionally, the durability, longevity and efficiency of eco-friendly building materials like timbercrete, hempcrete and bamboo are other compelling reasons companies are adopting more environmentally-friendly practices. 

3D Printing

The coronavirus outbreak has unlocked a huge potential growth opportunity in the 3D printing technology market, with some estimates predicting the global market will reach $0.12 billion in 2023 at CAGR of 147.79%. Given its ability to build complex structures within a set timeframe, and at a reasonable cost, 3D printing in construction is becoming more and more attractive as it’s also one of the most efficient ways to reduce worker density. 

3D printing’s ability to produce parts on-demand, as well as its inherent cost savings and flexibility, are unleashing creative new solutions that will drive construction technology forward and toward greater sustainability practices.

Design Technology

Male and Female Architects Work with Holographic Augmented Reality 3D City Model. Technologically Advanced Office Professional People Use Virtual Reality Modeling Software Application.

Building Information Technology (BIM) has already transformed the construction industry by changing the way design, construction and project management is handled—and it’s predicted to continue doing so as the technology becomes more advanced and new opportunities are created. A recent study predicts the global BIM market will reach $10 billion this year, and then grow at 13% CAGR over the next four years.  

BIM has been instrumental in the digital transformation of the sector, and it’s become even more widely adopted this year following lockdown protocols because of its ability to allow projects to proceed in the digital space when project members were unable to meet in person. As BIM technology continues to advance so, too, will the industry’s reliance upon it in the coming year.

Final Thoughts

While no one can predict the future with certainty, we can look to history to make educated guesses. Based on what we’ve seen so far this year, we expect the trends outlined above to continue to drive change within the construction industry into next year, as well as the foreseeable future. 

For more construction industry insights and resources, click here.

 

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

Technology That Is Changing The World Of Construction

Over the centuries, humans have developed new ways to build taller, stronger and more beautiful creations with game-changing materials – but what does the future hold for construction technology? In today’s world of rapidly advancing technology, many amazing new innovations come to mind that we believe will have a great impact on the future of construction.

We have compiled a short list of three of the most exciting innovations. Some are even in use today.

  1. Drones
    – Drones, often considered to be no more than a toy for children of all ages, represent one of biggest potential disruptors of the construction industry. Equipped with a camera drones can be used for everything from providing onsite tours for investors to exploring hazardous situations before sending members of your crew in. Drones will not only reduce or eliminate the need to risk the wellbeing of your employees in unstable conditions such as potential gas leaks or potential collapse or cave in but they will also act as an extension to every worker, allowing access to smaller and higher spaces and providing simple and fast Solutions to age old problems. (Drone bridge clip).
  2.  Virtual Reality – With the recent release of the Oculus Rift, and the inevitability of virtual reality becoming mainstream, it will not be    long before these head sets are a common sight in the construction industry. Designers can create a 1 to 1 model of buildings that will allow both clients and contractors to view and interact with seemingly life size mock ups. This will allow for vital changes and redesigns to be made before construction begins, saving not only money but time as well. In addition to this, trade schools will likely adopt VR for training and simulation processes allowing young tradesmen to apply knowledge in a challenging but completely safe testing environment.
  3. Augmented Reality – The younger and more jobsite applicable brother to VR, Augmented Reality is already deployed in the field. These headsets (Like Google glass) overlay data, live video links, and environmental readings overtop of the surrounding environment. This becomes incredibly useful for when technicians are repairing or installing complicated equipment, or when working in extreme or dangerous environments. One really great example of this tech is the DAQRI Headset, which takes the form of a futuristic hard hat, a technological gem that was recently adopted by Elon Musk on his Hyperloop.