Everywhere around us, construction technology is exploding. Drone usage surged 239% in just one year. Modular and prefab construction could be a $135 billion industry by 2023. There are now a staggering 378 different construction software options in our directory, as of September 2019.
As the construction labor shortage continues to vex the industry, construction managers are turning to technology to get things done in the absence of experienced workers, as well as to gain an edge on their competitors.
But technology can be intimidating. If you’re used to the old-fashioned ways of construction and you wonder if adding a drone to your operation is really going to make your crew more efficient or just cause you headaches, you may balk at totally changing the way you’ve done things.
It’s not unreasonable to be wary—some technology may not be right for your job site. But these tips from successful construction managers will help if you’re interested in introducing new tech at your next project.
1. Do your research before you commit
9 construction trends to watch in 2019 (Source)
Ron Humes, vice president of operations for the southeast region for Post Modern Marketing, said there’s no substitute for doing the legwork to research a type of tech and how it would fit into your project before committing to it or even starting a pilot program.
“Focus on what you will use and what will expand your services or make your tasks easier,” Humes says.
His company does interior and exterior construction and remodeling of residential and commercial properties, which includes providing design concepts, project specifications, work estimates, cost tracking, and accounting. As a result, he has very specific needs when it comes to technology.
His company likes to use drones to help with performing assessments and creating progress reports. By doing research before he acquired the technology, Humes could be confident that it wouldn’t be a big waste of time and money.
“Read reviews from similar businesses and see if there is a way to test the product or service before you invest your hard-earned dollars. If the technology is too complicated, too time-consuming, or does not add services or value, it will be a waste of precious company capital,” he says.
2. Don’t force it
Alex Berezowski, owner and general manager of The Foundation Experts Inc., says that you shouldn’t try to force a square peg into a round hole when it comes to technology.
Berezowski’s company focuses on foundation repair and home waterproofing, and he finds that he often doesn’t need the latest gadgets. Spending a lot of money on expensive technology for simple projects doesn’t make sense for him.
The number one tip he has for construction managers is to only use technology when and where it’s needed.
“If things are running smoothly just fine without it, don’t over complicate things by bringing in the latest tech product,” Berzowski says. “If you find something is slowing you and your team down, and someone’s recommended a tech product that might help with it—that’s when it’s time to try it out.”
3. Look for software that helps with the details
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Software is an important tool because it helps a construction manager more efficiently run a project, as well as gather vital data that can help with future projects. Humes advises construction managers to look for software where you can really track the details of a project, such as equipment usage or man-hours spent on specific tasks.
“Software allows us to more quickly and accurately sketch prospective projects,” Hume says. “These software applications are much simpler and less costly than previous options. They can quickly perform accurate area calculations and critical construction detail.”
“Photographs and videos collected at the job site can be shared quickly and easily with entire project teams using folders in cloud storage platforms,” he adds. “These pictures and videos are used to assist in bidding projects and monitoring progress. These cloud folders can also be used to share subcontractor and vendor project estimates.”
4. Try out simple tech tools first
You don’t have to turn your construction project into a hyper-futuristic site patrolled by robots and drones. Just try a few of the simple, straightforward tools that have been maturing for years.
“We utilize technology in many different ways on our job site, but primarily with GPS-enabled laser, real-time vehicle tracking, drone surveillance, and wireless security video monitoring,” Berezowski says. “All these tools help provide us with security and efficiency of the overall scheme of things.”
Another good place to start is with construction software that helps you organize meetings and payments.
“This type of technology will go a long way to helping your business run a lot more smoothly,” Berezowski says. “Some CRMs [customer relationship management software] out there are great for sending automated replies to clients or estimating project costs. This saves us a lot of time and money as well.”
5. Give drones a try
Using drones as a cost and time-saving tool on construction job sites(Source)
Drones are far from a futuristic concept that’s out of reach for small businesses. They are a very mature technology that can help you with time-consuming tasks right now.
For example, drones are capable of conducting surveys from the air, which not only keeps your workers out of unsafe situations but also gives you much more accurate measurements and can be done more cheaply. You can also use them to improve security at your construction site and prevent theft.
“Drones are particularly helpful on today’s job sites,” Humes says. “They can quickly gain a perspective previously unavailable to a contractor without substantial funds, equipment, time, and risk. These devices can be used to perform assessments, show progress, and even to advertise capabilities.”
Take steps now to implement technology
It’s time to take one small step toward technology and one giant leap for your firm. There’s no need to overhaul your operations overnight. Start a pilot program with a relatively simple technology that could improve your business immediately.
- ✔ Call a meeting with your key stakeholders to talk about a simple improvement you can make with technology. Equipment tracking software would be a good place to start if you don’t currently use it.
- ✔ Design a three-month pilot program with key milestones and goals. Put someone in charge of monitoring it (it can be you).
- ✔ Get together with your team after the pilot program is over and discuss if you should implement it company-wide. Then talk about the next piece of technology you can implement.