It’s no secret that the pandemic has caused a rapid acceleration of mobile work for the US construction industry.
In the past, back office staff, often working on-site, would be vital in processing physical documents and helping to manage authorizations.
But in the ‘new normal’ world of reduced physical contact and mobile working, teams across multiple trades and services need to ‘self-serve’ administration on projects.
The best way to control potential risk and cost in mobile teams is to implement a management system that generates a ‘single version of the truth’ with maximum data visibility and processes across disparate groups of staff and subcontractors.
By enabling people to input data, you can reduce time and cost, track and mitigate potential problems, create a digital ‘paper trail’ to streamline critical reporting, understand performance, build resilience, and develop actionable insights.
Read this article to learn how to digitalize your construction business and how a data-led approach could be your secret weapon for maximizing performance, productivity, resilience, and profit so you can successfully deliver on your key performance indicators (KPIs).
Why data is so important
In an industry as complex and interconnected as construction, businesses should be cautious about going with a gut feeling and instead look to data to make robust decisions and optimize resilience.
Data-driven organizations are three times more likely to report significant improvements in decision-making than those that rely less on data, according to a survey of more than 1,000 senior executives conducted by PwC.
Harvard Business Review adds that this approach enables you to make more confident decisions, be proactive, and realize cost savings.
In addition, businesses that implement digital practices have seen savings of up to 20%, according to McKinsey.
That’s a statistic to take seriously when the construction industry has long-suffered margins of around 2%, where even small slippages in time or cost can have knock-on effects that determine whether you make or lose money on projects.
With the benefit of insight and digital systems, you’ll be able to spot patterns and trends, helping you to navigate a business landscape and get ahead of the competition as COVID-19 continues to reshape the industry.
Data to collect and distribute
Most construction firms are familiar with Lean working – a way of systematically reducing waste from every stage within a business.
To support this and minimize costs and risk, it’s sensible to collect and manage data relating to the seven main areas of waste: transport, materials, waiting, motion, re-work, overproduction, and over-processing.
You’ll also need to collect and analyze day-to-day data relating to critical aspects around approvals, budget control, and work in progress (WIP), including:
- Health, safety, environment, and quality (HSEQ): Details of accidents and near-misses.
- Actual costs: Estimates against actual cost, details of purchase orders, and evidence of materials delivered to the site.
- Materials and labor: End-to-end paper trail of purchase orders and approvals, hire of plant and subcontractors.
- Task management: Copies of all critical policies and procedures.
- Time: Including timesheets, holidays, and absences.
- HR: Disciplinary records, the HR calendar, and file copies of qualifications and certifications.
- Phasing: Details and completion of specific phases – which impact other teams.
- Management reports: Cover details the management team needs around budgets, project timelines, and KPI tracking.
Being able to distribute that data in real-time will help your firm to track KPIs and identify issues as they arise, rather than discovering problems further down the line – that could harm budgets and timelines.
How technology can help with data collection and distribution
Collecting data via manual processes can result in errors, teams working in silos, and project delays, which can be detrimental to the objective of achieving KPIs.
By using technology, your construction firm can stay on track, and your staff can work more effectively.
Here are a few examples of how technology can help your firm when it comes to data collection and distribution:
- You can view data according to the project, current stage/phase, and type of materials used.
- Supporting technologies such as barcode recognition and mobile apps can be used to manage documents.
- You can generate real-time data on individual equipment hires, labor costs, hours worked, accidents and incidents, compliance status, and projected vs actual costs.
- You can create reports within a few clicks about specific financial workstreams within your business – according to project stage, month, individual, or material type.
- You’ll be able to compare estimated vs actual costs to ensure your business stays on track.
How to help staff adapt to new data collection methods
When adopting new systems and processes, getting your team on board and providing them with the right skills will help. Here are four steps you can take:
From the start, clearly explain what you’re trying to do, and get input from everyone involved to maximize engagement and support for new systems, rules, and processes.
This will save you a lot of effort in the long term.
2. Provide support
People will unlikely master new apps and processes for the first time. Check-in, solve problems and provide refresher training where needed.
3. Keep things flexible
Give people the option to ‘self-serve’ where and when needed. That means offering browser and mobile app versions of any business system, which are operational 24/7 to meet individuals’ needs.
4. Digitalize the distribution of information
Give everyone access to a single business information platform, and you can instantly communicate with staff and contractors.
This removes the need for face-to-face communications or physical newsletters.
There’s no doubt that coronavirus is reshaping the construction industry. While providing challenges, it’s also creating new ways of working – for the better.
Technology can help your firm tackle these challenges head-on – and when it comes to delivering on KPIs, using the proper solutions will allow your staff to collect and distribute critical data effectively.