The Future of Construction Management Technology
By Sergey Sundukovskiy, Construction Executive
The construction industry faces tough competitive constraints every day — from labor shortages to complex project requirements. Project owners continue to struggle to stay within budget or meet deadlines.
In its 2017 Global Construction Survey of project owners, KPMG sums up a major contributing factor — old-fashioned management tools that are no longer adequate for the job: “For most owners and contractors, project governance, risk and controls remain static, manual and paper-based activities that do not report events in real time. And over time, these controls have become ever more complex and lengthy, to the extent that they bombard users with too much information and too many tasks, so that project managers struggle to make sense of the data to make meaningful decisions.”
Traditionally conservative construction companies no longer have a choice. In order to stay competitive, they must move away from legacy pen-and-paper management models in favor of increasingly easy-to-use construction management software and hardware.
PROJECT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE
Although many companies still rely on spreadsheets or even more old-fashioned pen-and-paper techniques, project management software platforms allow construction companies to better coordinate their workflow and improve efficiency. Managers can also use Building Information Modeling (BIM) to guide physical construction through the use of real-life data.
Technology is focusing on improving field productivity though easy-to-use cloud-based apps. Construction monitoring software, designed to be easily accessible through the ubiquitous smartphones and other mobile devices, can give construction superintendents the ability to file reports from the field.
Normal pen-and-paper reporting methods can eat up hours each week, as managers are forced to compile data from scribbled notebooks or individual spreadsheets. The data collected is highly vulnerable to loss or human error.
By relieving construction superintendents of the burdensome necessity to manually collate documentation, substantial time can be saved each month. Automating the reporting and documentation process can substantially improve the quality of the data collected, allowing it to be easily retrieved, summarized and put to use. Storing data in a centralized database in the cloud allows all data generated during a project — photographs, reports, safety incidents and documentation of weather conditions — to be put to use almost instantaneously.
BETTER TIME TRACKING
Technology can also be used to target other inefficient workflows in the construction field management space, such as tracking time, attendance and labor costs. By moving the ability to complete the task out of the desktop computer in a trailer and onto a mobile phone app, hours can be input from the field, saving time and allowing the data to be analyzed immediately. Hours can be tracked and assigned to the proper cost codes from the field, improving accuracy and streamlining an unwieldy but critical construction workflow.
Any technology that can facilitate better communication will help managers minimize costs and keep construction projects on schedule. Software that allows real-time notifications means swifter response to safety incidents or logistical problems. Some applications can give team members easy and convenient means to share safety information, messages and updates in real time, accessible from mobile devices, laptops and desktop computers. Automated compliance reminders will further help keep the project on track.
COMPUTER IMAGING TOOLS
Humans remain visual creatures. Photographs and videos of construction site conditions can be valuable management tools, documenting problems and sharing progress. Visual documentation technology continues to advance — with options ranging from aerial drones to live internet feeds from jobsite cameras.
In addition, augmented and virtual reality applications are finding their niche in the construction industry. VR has great potential as a training tool. AR is being used to give project managers a tool to better visualize construction project progress. Some applications give users the ability to visualize renderings and plans superimposed over the jobsite while the project is underway.
SUMMING IT UP
According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, “Reinventing Construction Through a Productivity Revolution,” just a 1.8 percent increase in overall construction sector productivity through the adoption of new technology could increase its market value by $1.6 trillion.
Construction companies do not have to seek out the most advanced technology to benefit from productivity growth. Technological solutions that can streamline administration and reduce the time burden of everyday management tasks can pay off in surprisingly robust ways.