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Technology Evolving the Construction Site
By Cecilia Padilla, CEO, On Center
The use of electronic plans is now widely acceptable in the construction industry. These documents and images are easily loaded into the software—therefore dramatically reducing printing costs. Another benefit of electronic plans is the ease of storage - the plans reside on a server or computer hard drive for years without any deterioration in quality eliminating the need for storage fees. Along with the cost saving that comes with switching to electronic plans, there are many other benefits that the contractors enjoy by using automation. All contractors are interested in reducing costs, saving time and eliminating material waste and punch work items. Takeoff, estimating, and project management automation result in these very benefits. Technology eliminates paper plans, paper faxing or mailing, and shows the exact work that should be done—when, where, and how much material is needed.
There are many benefits to technology beyond automatic loading of plans. There is stiff competition when bidding for jobs in the construction market, and often what sets one company apart is the accuracy and timeliness of their estimate submittal. As companies are adjusting to working with smaller estimating departments they are looking for automation solutions that will make life easier for the estimators allowing them to increase their bid/win ratio. Changes are inevitable in any construction project’s life cycle, in many instances change orders are issued with minor warnings. With the right automation solution, estimators can easily let the software identify changes and addendums to the plans in a matter of minutes without having to spend countless hours looking over the paper plans.
Technology enables companies to build green. Building green is more than just eliminating paper though. It also means finding ways to reduce material waste, create a better delivery process for materials, and a more accurate oversight of the crew. Construction technology and automation enables project managers to line out the men, knowing how much material will be needed and how long the work should take. Up-to-date stocking reports minimize the chance that excessive materials are ordered and/ or delivered to the wrong area or floor.
Contractors are looking for software solutions and technologies that take them to the next level by making the job site run efficiently. The introduction of tablet technology in the mid-2000s, is transforming field project management. The project manager and foreman are no longer stuck copying and sending papers back and forth regarding the project process or to clarify an aspect of the plans. Plans, change orders, RFIs, etc. are all sent electronically from the tablet in the field to the project manager’s laptop, wherever he might be. In addition, with automation in the hands of the foreman, at the job site location, when an issue arises there are fewer delays and improved steps to resolution.
This gradual shift toward accessing information wherever the contractor is located, whether in the office or the field, or somewhere in between has resulted in an increased use of tablet technology at the jobsite. The use of tablet technology on the site saves time and improves communications. For example, a foreman or the project manager at the job site now has ready access to the latest set of plans, revisions, and change orders. Likewise, cameras in tablets allow a foreman to easily document safety concerns or other issues that can hinder the job from getting completed on time. Such daily logs help contractors stay on budget or monitor and rectify obstacles that can cause lag time in a project.
Contractors also are using tablets in the field to digitally sign contracts, enter payroll hours, fill out progress reports, capture and organize photos of the project, and line-out the crew while identifying the daily scope of work. Software solutions allow the foreman/ project manager to assign tasks to one or many crew members at the start of each day using the estimated production rate. Thanks to automation, guessing the amount of scope the crew should accomplish on any given day is no longer necessary. Using automation wisely, the project manager can avoid overruns by looking at actual labor worked and materials installed.
Cost overruns are a major headache, because they affect the bottom line and often go undetected till the end of the job. Effective project management software can alleviate this headache by monitoring the labor production output and instantly spotting any production lags. Successful project management packages illustrate when the project is over, under, or right at budget.
No software program can guarantee a company will win every contract, but a quality program helps contractors manage day - to- day functions, increase productivity and raise profit margins. In the end, it comes down to getting the right information in the right hands, promptly.