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How Construction Is Moving Toward an Automated World

Experts have long criticized the construction industry’s unwillingness to get with the times. As one of the oldest industries in the world, it would rather stick to the status quo than try new things. That is until recently when some of the largest construction companies in the world started to recognize the benefits that technology and automation have to offer. And the reason for this change makes a lot of sense.

Construction has some of the tightest profit margins of any industry. Not only that, inefficiencies and errors shrink those margins even more. Automation aims to fix that by taking mundane, error-prone tasks and utilizing a system to handle them. The result is more efficient processes and fewer mistakes. Let’s take a look at a few ways construction is moving toward this automated world.

Automation in Construction

Construction automation conjures thoughts of robots and machines erecting buildings. While there are some machines that can lay bricks or pour concrete, construction automation is more about the processes behind the scenes, as a contract, documents, and invoice management. These processes take up a lot of time inputting data, double-checking documents, checking for compliance, and finding (and fixing) errors.

Smart Contracts

Many construction companies are moving toward smart contracts to help streamline and automate certain processes. These contracts work by utilizing “if/then” scenarios, recognizing that once one action takes place, another action needs to occur. 

For instance, some smart contracts will recognize that once a certain stage of a project is complete (say, the contractor gets paid) that more materials will be necessary. The program can then trigger an order to a supplier, making sure there is enough material to continue the job.

This type of automation keeps the construction vehicle rolling, minimizing downtime and maximizing efficiency.

Compliance Automation

Manual compliance management and tracking take a lot of time. Someone needs to check to ensure that each contractor is meeting the requirements set forth but the contract. This could be keeping licenses on file, meeting bond requirements, updating insurance information, sending lien waivers, or many other scenarios. And, should some of those compliances expire, someone needs to know—this sounds like a job for automation.

Automated compliance tracking and management is a significant help to construction companies. Not only will the system track and log compliances as they come in, but it will also notify the project management team if any are missing. They can also prevent expired compliances from going unnoticed by automatically sending a warning to the team.

Document Management

As much as the industry relies on raw materials to build structures, it also relies on documents (and lots of them) to keep the job on track. Between drawings, contracts, compliances, change orders, RFIs, and other construction documents, physically sorting and storing them all is mundane and time-consuming. Manual entry might reduce storage, but it’s also time heavy and prone to mistakes. Automated document management has the answer.

Some document management programs allow a user to upload a document into the system. The system then automatically reviews the document, pulls the important data, and stores it in such a way that’s easy to find and accessible for the whole team.

Automated Payments

Payment problems are always an issue in the construction industry, but automation can help. By giving subcontractors and suppliers an automated system to upload invoices and compliances, you reduce the time it takes for them to get paid. You also limit your risk of multiple payments or paying more than the budget allows.

Invoice Management

Beyond automated payment management, automated invoice management simplifies the entire process. Automated invoice systems will scan an invoice, pull the important data, cross-reference it with other documents, and assess the validity of the invoice. It will also recognize who sent the invoice, which job it’s attached to, and which contract it falls under. 

Automated invoice management can go quite a bit further, as well. The more invoices these systems see, the more proficient they become at recognizing job numbers, vendor codes, cost types, and more, pulling these values and ID numbers straight from the page. 

Possibly most important of all, automated invoice management systems reduce errors and oversights. The system will automatically check to ensure the amount is correct, as well as check that the document in question isn’t a duplicate or fraudulent invoice. This reduces lost money due to errors and mistakes, allowing automated invoice management to pay for itself.

Premier partnered with Smart Ui to offer services just like these. This system offers automated invoice management that only gets smarter the more you use it, helping you improve your company’s efficiency and accounts payable and receivable processes.

Automation Is the Future

Clearly, automation will play a big role in the construction industry’s future. From bots and machines to the way the industry handles data entry tasks, automating tasks allows for growth, increased profits, and better project management.

Check out Premier Construction Software’s automated systems to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals. 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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Why is Drawing Management Important?

Today’s construction industry is finally starting to embrace technology. From project management programs to accounting software designed specifically for the industry, improved workflows and team-wide access are increasing efficiency. Drawing management is one of the areas most affected by new technology, and the results are tremendous.

But what is drawing management, and why is it important? And what can it offer the construction industry and your company? Keep reading to find out.

What is construction drawing management?

In today’s world of information at our fingertips, people outside of the construction industry might be shocked if they saw the stacks of paper plans still plaguing some projects. Sure, the architect or designer has these docs on their computer and local server, but everyone else might be working from a set of paper drawings. And, as revisions come in, those paper drawings don’t update themselves.

That’s the issue that construction drawing management aims to solve. Drawing management, when done correctly, is a central database of drawings that everyone involved in the process can access. They’re most effective when cloud-based, allowing anyone in the field or office to access the latest drawing at a moment’s notice.

Why is drawing management important?

Having instantaneous access to project drawings is obviously a benefit, as anyone can look at the same drawing, regardless of their role and location. However, there is more to it than that.

Drawing management offers clarity

Imagine a scenario where a question pops up on the job site. Maybe it’s an issue with a material, or the scope of work doesn’t jive perfectly with the conditions at the site. In the past, the designer would have to go to the site or wait for the PM to upload tons of pictures to an email. With a drawing management system, the process is streamlined.

Now, the PM can access the drawings from the tablet while the designer pulls them up on their computer screen. While on the phone, the two can look at the same drawing, manipulate, and make notes, mark-ups, or revisions in real-time.

Drawing management offers real-time revisions

Too often have site personnel worked off an older version of the drawings only to find out things changed and their work was incorrect. This causes delays and waste, both of which are the enemies of progress and profits. Sure, you can blame the crew or the management team, but that doesn’t change the problem at hand.

Project drawing management alleviates this issue by allowing for real-time revisions and updates. As the team on-site accesses the drawings, they’ll have the most updated version at their fingertips.

Drawing management centralizes storage

Document storage can be a hassle. Between storing drawings on different drives, sending revisions through email, and granting access to everyone who needs it, finding a document at the moment you need it isn’t easy.

With a drawing management system, you can store those documents in one place. And with automation, a drawing management system will ensure these documents are sorted properly and easy to find. Maybe even best of all, some drawing management systems offer unlimited storage, preventing your company from running out of the ever-more-expensive digital space.

Drawing management integrates with other processes

Once you have an established drawing management system, it should integrate with the other processes your company uses. For example, an RFI can be accompanied by a tag that takes the team directly to the drawing in question. Also, the team can tag change orders to drawings, allowing anyone reviewing the change a better overview.

Integrating drawing a management system with these processes offers a clearer scope, streamlines approvals, and allows the team to stay on the same page. 

Drawing management can be critical to your business’s growth

“Streamline,” “automate,” and “centralize” tend to be buzzwords circling around drawing management, but they truly are keys to your business’s growth. By implementing a drawing management system, you’re enabling your team to work faster and smarter while also focusing on the most important tasks.

Change the game with drawing management systems

Moving to a drawing management system is obviously critical to growing and getting a leg up on the competition. But not all systems are the same; some have more to offer than others.

Look for a drawing management system that offers unlimited storage and operates on a reliable cloud. Also, be sure it has all the features you need from a system in order to integrate with your chosen construction management software. Or, better yet, choose a system that rolls everything into one easy-to-use application, like Premier Construction Software.

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’s drawing management system to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals. 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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5 AI Solutions Construction Can Implement Today

Is the future of the construction industry already here?! With continued growth in technology and artificial intelligence (AI) in other industries, why hasn’t construction followed suit? The industry continues to lag behind many others in the adoption of new tech, including AI, robotics, and machine learning.

In 2018 McKinsey posited five then-current technologies related to AI that construction could implement from other industries. Three years later, most of these are still science-fiction more than reality, but for how long?

1. Optimize project planning

Existing technology in the logistics industry allows delivery drivers to optimize their route planning to account for both distance and traffic. AI analyzes for the shortest route with the least amount of traffic to cut delivery times. The technology continues to learn through reinforcement learning, commonly called trial and error, the best way to go the shortest distance.

In construction, this technology could be used to analyze and assess project schedules to optimize them for the shortest time and best use of resources. By running thousands of alternatives, the technology could provide options that humans hadn’t thought of to perform the work most efficiently. AI could learn from past project data and over time correct itself with the best resource combinations and alternatives to speed up project planning.

2. Forecast risks and constructability of design

Pharmaceutical research firms are using AI to reduce R&D costs by predicting medical trial outcomes. The software uses predictive AI solutions to improve products without the additional cost of intermittent testing.

In construction, this technology could be used to forecast risks, predict constructability, and the structural stability of technical solutions during the planning stage. By testing for structural stability and constructability ahead of time, in the virtual world, it’s possible to save big bucks during the construction process. The technology can also be used to test various materials, limiting downtime during inspections.

3. Supply chain coordination

AI can currently be used to reduce downtime and oversupply of shipments in a supply chain. It also can be used to increase the predictability of shipments. This reduces costs, logistical burdens, and supply variability. We certainly could have used this technology during the recent construction material shortages.

As modular and prefabricated construction gain popularity, there will be an increased need for enhanced supply chain coordination. These types of construction rely on just-in-time deliveries, which can be more easily achieved using AI. The technology will also help control costs and overall cash flow.

4. Robots and 3D printing

Robots and 3D printing are already making waves in construction. They are being used by a few teams to provide affordable housing and reduce costs and project schedules. From this knowledge, researchers have trained robots to learn from simulations and used machine learning to replace software programming.

Robots are being used to construct panelized buildings and components for prefabricated and modular projects. The ability to use machine learning could shorten the timeframe even further and allow robots to quickly move from one task to another without lengthy programming.

5. Quality control

In healthcare, machine learning is creating opportunities to diagnose illnesses earlier through image recognition. The technology detects known markers for certain conditions to provide early diagnosis.

Using drone imagery and 3D models, the same technology could detect potential defects and help with quality control. It could notice anything from potential catastrophic failures to finish blemishes and alert the team in real-time.

Conclusion

While no one knows what the next technological breakthrough in construction will be, it’s safe to say it may come from one of these five technologies. All are using technology, machine learning, and AI to predict the future or inspect current work for future problems. By engaging technology early in the design and construction process, teams are saving time and money, as well as assuring the safety of building occupants.

Interested to hear more on AI? Jonas Premier can assist you with more information on how AI can empower your business to work smarter.

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

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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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.