Construction has been one of the slowest industries to integrate technology into its workflow. Most of the on-site work is still done by hand, understandably, but even services that could be easily performed with the help of technology have been slow in transitioning. However, now that coronavirus has changed the workplace for everyone, construction companies are looking to grow their remote workforce and are seeking technology to help them manage the work.
Moving from on-site management to remote working presents several challenges for construction companies. Companies are scrambling to figure out how to manage remote staff, maintain project productivity, and keep the bottom line intact. Luckily, technology offers several solutions that can help construction companies maintain their productivity without affecting project quality, all while maintaining safety and health requirements.
Project management software
One of the best technologies available today is cloud-based construction project management software. It offers benefits to construction companies of all sizes and trades.
Because the software and its data are stored in the cloud, it’s easy for field staff and remote workers to access the information wherever they are. And since all that is needed for access is an internet connection, team members can review up-to-date project information from their phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. There’s no additional hardware investment for companies to worry about, nor do they have to maintain a server or perform software updates.
Since all the data is updated on the fly, team members have access to real-time information on their projects. Communication is simplified when everyone has access to the same documents, drawings, and other correspondence.
When project management software is integrated with accounting, cost information and budget reports can be made available for immediate access at any time. Team members don’t have to contact the office to get the information they need to make financial decisions about their project.
Construction projects create a lot of paperwork, and that hasn’t slowed down during the pandemic. In fact, if anything, the amount of required documentation has only increased with the addition of safety and health checks. A software package that can keep everything organized is a must-have.
Documents such as submittals and RFIs are usually routed to several people before they are complete. Tracking who is responsible for the next step can be difficult when using a spreadsheet. Project management software can help by automatically routing documents and notifying responders when it’s their turn to review or respond. This helps keep the documents, and the project, moving forward.
With everyone working remotely, signatures are also difficult to get nowadays. Allowing contracts, change orders, and other documents to be signed electronically can improve efficiency and reduce the need for additional paperwork. Management software allows these documents to be completed and signed in minutes instead of days.
Time tracking software
Many companies still rely on paper timecards to track their employees’ work hours and appropriately code their time to the phase of the project. Handling paper timecards can cause delays in payroll processing, especially when working remotely, as well as create the potential for time theft and inaccurate reporting.
Recent technology developments have made time tracking software the most accurate and foolproof way to keep track of employee time and job costing. Wearable technology and cell phones allow employers to track the location of their employees at any time during the workday using GPS. Since the software knows when the employee enters the worksite and when they leave it, it’s much more difficult for employees to steal time. Timekeeping is also more accurate when logged by technology than by human hands.
Once time has been recorded by the software, the timesheets are approved and coded by the employee’s supervisor. This reduces the chance for time stealing as well as inaccurate cost reporting since all time entries are being reviewed before they are entered into the system.
Settings are available to force the cost codes for time entry to match those determined by the job, so only certain codes can have time applied to them. This improves the accuracy of job cost reports and ensures that costs are being categorized correctly.
Cost reports and budget analyses are only as good as the information that they are based on. When accounting information is available and integrated with the project management software, cost reporting is more accurate and up to date.
Changes are often made throughout the project and communicating the information between the field and the office can be difficult. With project management and accounting software integration, changes entered in the field automatically update the accounting system without the need for double entry. This saves time and money on useless repeat work.
If cost information is available to project teams through a cloud-based system, everyone is able to stay informed about the progress on the job from wherever they are. Relying on this information, the team can make project decisions based on real-time information that includes up-to-date costs.
Communication and check-in
When everyone is working remotely and in-person visits are discouraged, it can be difficult to stay in touch and know what everyone is working on. Setting time aside for daily or weekly check-ins with team members via phone or teleconference can help improve morale and offer a sense of connection when many are feeling disconnected.
Use these calls to set goals for the team, assign tasks to members, and report on the status of current items. It’s important to keep in mind that many tasks and duties may take longer due to the communication constraints of working remotely. Employees have a harder time concentrating and have many distractions when they aren’t working at the office. Keeping this in mind will help the team set realistic expectations.
For on-site project progress updates, video and photos can be used to accurately reflect the progress of work. These can be shared with team members, including project owners, who may not be able to visit the site like they are used to. Sharing these updates through a cloud-based system allows everyone access to see the progress, ask questions, and answer them if needed.
Technology improves efficiency and productivity
Transitioning from on-site to remote project management is easier thanks to recent advances in technology, including construction project management software, electronic document control, time tracking, project reporting, and online communication. When companies take advantage of these tools, their projects will become more efficient and productive, saving them time and money.
To learn more about how Premier Construction Software can help your team work more efficiently, get in touch with us today.
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.