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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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Tips & Advice Trends & Technology

Inefficiency Costs in Construction

It doesn’t matter which industry you work in, inefficiency is a profit killer. Doing things twice, taking too long to accomplish a goal, or paying too much to get something done are all sure ways to beat up a company’s wallet. For that reason, most companies aim to streamline their processes and improve efficiency. Unfortunately, that’s a tall order for the inefficiency costs in construction. 

What causes inefficiencies in construction?

Inefficiencies typically start with a lack of information, but they can take many forms. The following are some of the largest contributors to inefficiency costs in construction.

Poor Planning

There are many moving parts on a construction project: project owners, general contractors, subs, suppliers, designers, engineers, inspectors, financing lenders, and more. Getting all of those parties to play nicely and on time with each other is truly an art, especially when it comes to scheduling. 

One scheduling snafu can cause massive issues, especially if it involves a materials delivery or a specialty sub that can’t make it back to the site in the near future.

Poor Communication

One of the most significant issues causing inefficiencies in construction is poor communication. Job site confusion, questions about certain aspects of the project, unclear scopes of work, and even changes in designs aren’t always handled quickly and efficiently. Instead, questions compile and delays build, costing the contractor, subs, and project owners precious time and money.

Let’s look at a likely situation: A specified type of flooring isn’t available, and the flooring sub needs to know what to do. Instead of taking the efficient route and sending an RFI to the designer, he tells the GC he needs an answer before ordering. The GC is juggling 15 things at one time and gets distracted by something on the job. He never delivers the message. 

By the time the subcontractor needs to be on-site and laying floors, he’s already behind schedule because he was waiting on an answer and couldn’t order the floor. 

Lack of Skilled Labor and Training 

The construction industry’s need for skilled labor is well documented, but understanding how much this lack costs the industry isn’t so cut and dry. Without a crew of men and women that a company can rely on, projects take longer than necessary. Also, these crews’ inexperience means they might not recognize when they’re working inefficiently.

A lack of training can contribute to the issue. Whether it’s a new system or technique, or even just basic safety, not training staff in how to do a particular aspect of the job will cost a business. In the best case, they learn by trial and error. In the worst cases, injuries can occur. In either case, things are running inefficiently.

And, consider the amount of time and resources it takes to recruit the folks to help run the business as smoothly as possible. What could the company do with those resources, otherwise?

Aversion to Technology

One aspect that separates the construction industry from just about every other business is its unwillingness to adopt new technology. While most industries have moved toward automation and streamlined processes thanks to the latest technology, construction holds fast to its old ways. 

Take drawing management, for example. If a company is still using paper plans, they need to be sure they’re using the latest, most updated set of drawings. Someone needs to print the plans and get them to the job site, costing money in supplies (paper and ink) as well as travel time and vehicle cost (gas, wear and tear).

Instead, a drawing management system allows GCs and project managers to check for the latest plans via a mobile device from the job site. And, anyone else who needs to see those plans will also have instant access, allowing them to make decisions or change course whenever necessary. 

What Inefficiencies Can Cost a Construction Company

When you consider the wide range of inefficiencies that exist and what can cause them, it doesn’t take much to imagine they make a huge impact on the bottom line. 

While some situations are unavoidable, issues caused by poor communication are estimated to cost construction workers almost two full days of work each week. Multiply those two hours by everyone on the project, and it becomes painfully obvious that time is money. 

And, if you consider how much time call-backs cost, as well as time spent on fixing avoidable errors caused by miscommunication, the numbers get worse. It’s estimated that all of these inefficiencies are costing the construction industry around $177 billion each year. 

There is a Solution

Most of the issues that cause inefficiencies are the result of poor communication or missing information. The good news is there is a simple way to improve communication and collect data in one spot—utilizing and ERP-based construction management software.

Automation

ERP software can streamline a business’s day-to-day tasks. By automating some of the more mundane and error-prone manual tasks, the team can focus their attention on creative solutions to unique problems. Whether it be tracking revisions, ensuring everyone’s compliances are up to date or giving everyone on the job an easier way to pay or get paid, automation can be the answer.

Better Decisions

It’s tough to make a good decision without all the information available, and construction management software can help. By centralizing all the data collection with an ERP, decision-makers will have the latest data and information available. This allows them to make smarter, more informed decisions to limit inefficiencies and keep the company and project on track. 

Drawing Management

Drawing management is also critical to ensure everyone is literally on the same page. Revisions and changes are instantly available to everyone on the job. If there are any questions or an RFI is necessary, creating and managing those documents using the ERP software is easy. Automated workflows ensure everyone who needs to receive these documents does, improving communication.

Cloud-based Access

Finally, construction management software can ensure that all of the important data, reports, drawings, invoices, and other documents are available at the users’ fingertips. Cloud-based software allows access from anywhere and on any device with access to the internet. Coupled with real-time updates, cloud storage ensures everyone is working with the same data at all times. 

Better Reporting

Last but not least, ERP-based construction management software helps businesses look at their past practices and forecast their futures. With automatically updated reports like job costing and budgets, and key performance indicators, the company will have an easier time hunting down inefficiencies and improving its practices.

Check out Premier Construction Software to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals.  Our construction management and accounting software provide teams with the tools they need to take advantage of these technologies. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.

We’re more than just construction financial software. We’re built to help your business. 

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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Tips & Advice

Is Manual Data Entry Costing Your Business? Why Automation is the Solution

If you think that investing in software to automate your systems will cost you more money than doing everything manually, you’re not alone. Many businesses operate under the assumption that paying for automation is more expensive than paying people to do things. The truth is there are hidden costs to doing things by hand, and those costs can significantly affect your bottom line.

We’re going to look at the hidden costs you may not realize you’re incurring by doing your data entry manually. The magnitude of some may surprise you.

1. Increased error rate

Workers entering data manually, without verification, can have an error rate as high as 4%. That means for every 50 entries, two are wrong. In an experiment in 2009, it was shown that data entry workers made up to 10.23 errors when entering data from thirty spreadsheets. This is the nature of human data entry.

When errors involve money, the stakes are high. These errors could lead to over-and underpayments, over-and undercharging customers, disruptions to the accounting and auditing processes, and may lead to financial trouble. Data entry errors have cost companies millions of dollars.

2. It takes time

Manual data entry takes time. The average typist can perform 10,000 to 15,000 keystrokes per hour. Depending on the amount of data and its form, it can take even the fastest typist hours to perform data entry. If the data requires comprehension or analysis before entry, this slows down the process even more.

It could take a competent operator between 8 and 10 minutes to enter 400 units of data. This may not seem like much, but if the volume of data is high, it can cost your company valuable time that could be spent on other workflows, like analyzing the data.

3. Can’t focus on important business tasks

With so much time spent ensuring that the data entered is correct and finding and fixing errors, there is no time left to work on the business. Managers spend their time ensuring that the data they’re reporting is accurate and less time actually analyzing that data. A survey found that 37% of manufacturing professionals don’t trust the reliability of manually entered data when making strategic decisions. If you can’t trust the data you’re getting from your team, how can you grow your business or take on additional work?

4. Inhibits business growth

When management receives data, it often makes decisions based on that information, whether it’s correct or not. These decisions may inhibit the growth of the business. For example, a costly mistake can lead managers to believe a project is over budget when it’s not. They then make moves to cut company spending to protect the company, when instead, they should be investing in future growth.

5. Hidden costs

Most companies think automation costs more than entering data by hand. The truth is there are hidden costs to entering data manually. There’s the obvious labor to enter the data, then more labor to check for mistakes, and more labor to fix the mistakes. At each level, it becomes more expensive and time-consuming to detect and correct mistakes.

It has been shown that incorrect data can cost companies up to 30% or more of their revenue. In particular, a 2018 Goldman Sachs report stated that the direct and indirect costs of manual paper invoice processing are $2.7 trillion for businesses around the world. The hidden costs of manual data entry can be enough to make or break your business.

6. It’s boring

Continually spending days or hours doing mindless data entry can lead to employee dissatisfaction and turnover. When workers spend hours keying in the same information, they are bound to lose focus, which increases errors and leads to frustration. Data entry work is repetitive and tedious. 55% of employees in a survey cited the collection, uploading, and synching of data as the least productive part of manual data entry. When employees don’t feel productive, their morale lowers and they are then more prone to make mistakes.

Automation is the solution

How can companies save themselves the time and money that is lost through manual data entry processes? Automating as much as possible is one way to recoup these costs. By using machine learning and automation, the software can automate much of the data entry process, leading to fewer mistakes and speeding up the process.

Premier Software uses AI, machine learning, and automation to speed up invoice entry and other repetitive tasks, so you can spend time working on your business and less time entering data. For a demo of how our automation works to save you time and money, schedule one 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 Resources

Best Practices For Software Implementation

Beginnings are always messy and this is often true in the Construction Industry. Especially at the start of a new project, which can make the entire project messy from day one. Through proper planning, possible pitfalls can most definitely be avoided.

The same can be said for implementing new construction software. Contractors often hesitate investing in a more efficient system – typically not due to the cost, but rather the anticipated stress associated with change management.

By applying your skills and know-how of running a successful and profitable construction project, you can avoid these common missteps when implementing a new construction software. Below are some of the most common roadblocks and related best practices to curb them.

1. Begin with a Plan

When you purchase a new construction software package, approach the implementation process the same way you would approach a new job – with a solid plan. Tap into the resources of your software provider in order to develop a logical and effective implementation strategy in order to be successful. They have helped thousands of clients before you, so with an open mind, allow them to be your trusted partner throughout the process.

2.  Define Success

Success is more than simply having the system up and running. Look deeper into defining what success is. What procedures have you found that haven’t worked with your current software and how can those procedures be improved? Identify these measurements of success at the onset of implementing new software.

3.  Assign a Project Manager Lead

Typically, you wouldn’t begin a new job without a Project Manager, so do not start a software transition without one. Ensure you have a dedicated Project Manager on board from your company and ensure they play a substantial role during the implementation process. Ultimately, the Project Manager will be one of the champions during start to finish of implementation and further on.

4.  Review Old Procedures

The main reason for changing software packages is to increase productivity and profitability. In order to increase this, it is important to review old procedures in order to make the necessary adjustments. Spend the time up front to establish a more standardized structure for all of your jobs and overall operations within your company.

5.  Review Outdated Information

Before switching over to your new software provider, review all of your records. By eliminating duplicate vendors, evaluating outstanding items and updating employee information – you can start with a clean set of data, which will help you when developing new procedures or tweaking existing ones.

6.  Approach Implementation in Phases

Transitioning over to a new software package should be approached in phases, just like a job. Map out each phase along with your software provider and share this with your team leads. By approaching this in phases, it will keep your staff from feeling overwhelmed as you move throughout implementation because you are giving them time to learn the basics before adding more complex functionality.

7.  Stay Positive and take Advantage!

Implementing new software can come with a bag of changing emotions – excitement, dread, frustration and impatience. Change can be difficult but remaining positive and taking advantage of the support your software provider is arming you with, will make all the difference! Keep an open line of communication between yourself and your team, as well as the software provider. Increase your knowledge base and overall efficiency by taking advantage of any additional resources, webinars and much more. Most importantly, take a hands on approach to training in order to utilize the software to is maximum ability.

Change is necessary for growth. Set expectations early on and approach the brand new implementation process with a solid strategy!