Sounding Off — Construction Professionals Talk Emerging Technologies
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a significant boom in the amount of technologies construction companies are deploying to streamline workflows, improve productivity, expand the scope of projects, expand access to data, enhance collaboration and generate stronger profit margins. As contractors race to modernize their own operations to stay competitive, they’re becoming more confident in — and excited about — new technologies.
We decided to survey clients on our Viewpoint Network on their thoughts as to what new technology developments and concepts have them exited, why moving to the cloud is important for contractors continued success and how to best address resistance to technology changes in construction organizations.
Here are three of those clients’ answers:
With technology booming in the construction industry, what are some of the newer technologies that have you most excited moving forward into 2019?
Tina Frazier, Account Manager, Coburn Contractors: The use of drones to be able to see projects develop in real time as well as the ability to take aerial shots of the project. Drones can also be used to survey the area to help identify possible issues that might arise. I am also excited to see the emerging technology of better safety equipment. This will not only help keep our workers safe, but it can also help reduce work comp rates with helping to prevent accidents. The newer technologies for 2019 have us looking forward to being able to compete at the level of a larger company without breaking the budget.
Andy Gagliardi, Systems Specialist and Staff Accountant, Rummel Construction: There are many new technologies in the pipeline or already out. Augmented reality and virtual reality are huge right now. These afford the users the ability to see firsthand what they are doing and how it is to be done. With this greater knowledge and understanding of the process comes a much safer work environment. It was crazy to thank that a few years ago it was not possible for a contractor to operate an entire fleet remotely with GPS telematics. This is where we are today. Allowing technology to run equipment make everything safer as it takes out the human error element. However, as with everything education is the key. The better we are able to educate the end user the greater the impact that individual will have on their jobsite. Knowledge is power and the more people you have on your staff that are knowledgeable about the project the safer and more profitable it will be.
In terms of construction management software, how important is it for contractors to be in the cloud at this point? Will contractors not in the cloud be at a disadvantage competitively in the near future?
Ariel Davis, Project Admin., Building Controls and Services, Inc.: I think it is highly important. Most of the industry is moving toward cloud-based technology. This tech allows companies to better, more easily, collaborate on projects. Warranty work is a great example. Many of our warranty records are only paper copies. By keeping a cloud copy and a paper copy, we’re able to improve our manufacturer warranty relief in the future.
Frazier: Since we are a small company and we have jobs in multiple states it is vital that we be in the cloud for every aspect of a project. Not only it does it streamline our daily work schedule it also reduces the risk of loss information. I feel that contractors not in the cloud will be a disadvantage and they will continue to fall behind the curve when it comes to keeping the owners of the project up to date. The cost for joining the cloud environment will pay for itself in the end.
How much of a problem is resistance to change/embracing new technology in construction, and what ideas do you think would help with this issue?
Gagliardi: Resistance to change and embracing new technology in constructions is a real problem. As the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality is still very much prevalent in the construction industry. As that gap between the old way of doing things and the new way of doing the same thing closes, I feel that many will begin to accept the change and embrace the new technologies currently under development specifically to make these individuals productivity increase and achieve a faster result with less road bumps along the way. Understanding the overall process, and how the individual fits into the puzzle, is key in trying to change the overall culture of these organizations and individuals. It requires a complete restructuring of the thought process on how progress is achieved. As more begin to understand and “buy in” the easier, it is to convert others. The new way of thinking begins to catch like wildfire.
Frazier: Change is usually met with some resistance, but the benefits of embracing that change will definitely pay off in the end. To help with the transition it is vital that the lines of communication is open and transparent. Lay out all of the pros and cons and work to come to a conclusion that will benefit each party. Sometimes it is hard to convince someone that change is good but including them in on the ideas or processes usually helps. It gives them a sense that they matter.
What is the most important feature of modern construction software to you?
Davis: Ease of use and analytics are the most important to me. Ease of use because it’s what gets everyone on board with using technology. In my position, analytics matter because otherwise, I have to do twice the work. Lack of quality analytics forces me to track things in multiple settings, which allows for more discrepancies or errors.
Gagliardi: While I feel there are an infinite amount of important features, ease of use and integration are key. In the technological age we live in today, a single construction company must use many software programs in their day-to-day operations. For me, ease of use and the ability to integrate them all are necessary. They rather go hand in hand — as you continue to integrate; ease of use comes along and makes the software more valuable. Allowing your software to become an essential one-stop shop for all info and analytics required for both operations and oversight creates exponential value. This value drives whether you get your organizations to really buy and go all in with your company. The ability for personal out in the field to log into a single interface and see financials, job progress, labor usage, cost projections, billings, equipment tracking, plans, renderings, drawings, CAD files, etc. is vital to great production.
Frazier: I feel that the most important feature is accessibility. We do not have a large staff at our home office, we all have things we are responsible for that others just don’t have time to pick up the slack if we cannot be in the office. Being able to work for any location at any time is one of the best ways to maintain our work, but also keep down cost.
So, tell us what technologies have you excited for the future and be sure to check out our 8 Construction Trends to Pay Close Attention to in 2019.
Ease of use and accessibility are two of the most sought after features for new construction software.