How To Grow Your Construction Firm With Connected Construction
Imagine a sales team that is unable to connect with customers while away from the office, or an architect who is forced to print out blueprints before visiting a job site. Or—if you’re a construction business leader who is struggling to get the best return on your technology investment—a construction team that doesn’t know how many required materials are available for a construction project or when a dependent task will be completed.
Connected construction—which describes the network of people, equipment, and other construction resources connected by wireless technology—is the solution to these issues.
Yet our 2021 Top Technology Trends survey (methodology below) of small construction firms revealed that less than 80% of these firms felt that technology was either very important or extremely important to their success. But we feel strongly that this number should be 100%, and that having the right technology in place is of the utmost importance to the success of all construction firms.
In fact, if you’re not getting the return you were hoping for out of your digital technology, you should be investing more time and resources into that technology rather than backing off. In this article, we’ll look at some steps you can take to improve safety, communication, and accuracy by bolstering your connected construction technology.
New to connected construction and want to get up to speed? Check out our article, What is Connected Construction, and Why Is It Important? here.
1. Start with improved communication and transparency
The term “connected construction” might evoke images of drones delivering construction materials and augmented reality enhanced job sites, but you don’t need such futuristic applications to see big results. In fact, the most effective way to see big gains through connected construction is to make sure that everyone and everything in your firm is on the same digital page and using integrated apps.
The vast majority of construction workers are already equipped with smartphones, so your teams are already leading the way to this digital transformation. Your challenge is in making sure that your project team is using this capability to communicate and share data as effectively as possible.
This can be done by selecting a mobile-friendly construction management system and making sure that all of your teams are using it to communicate with each other and update project budgets, timelines, and other data as a company-wide source of truth.
Once this is in order, ensure that all of your vehicles and equipment are tagged and visible through the fleet management system in your construction software. This will allow managers to always be aware of where vehicles and equipment are, what they’re doing, and even what condition they’re in.
If you’re not sure where to start with launching a mobile device program, here’s an eight step guide from Samsung with tips on setting goals, identifying stakeholders, and selecting the right vendors.
2. Next, grow with connected technology that improves safety and efficiency
Once your teams and equipment are connected and communicating on the same network, you should prioritize using this new connectivity to improve overall safety and efficiency.
According to the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration statistics, construction fall protection, ladders, and scaffolding violations were all among the top 10 most frequently-cited OSHA violations in 2020.
So how can connected construction improve safety in these areas and save lives in the construction industry?
Here are a few examples:
Digital safety manuals and training procedures. When your workers are all equipped with smart devices and mobile-friendly EHS software, safety instructions are at their fingertips when they’re about to perform a potentially dangerous task such as working on an elevated platform at a construction site.
Wearable technology. Connected construction allows contractors and other team members to wear smart hardhats that can be equipped with GPS for real-time location sharing and contact tracing, cameras that allow safety managers to keep an eye on what workers are doing from afar, and even impact sensors to speed up emergency response in the event of an accident.
Augmented and virtual reality training. A worker could read a safety manual 10 times without truly grasping the potential hazards of a certain job. But experiencing a hazardous material leak or explosion, or falling five stories from a scaffolding in virtual reality will undoubtedly leave an impression they’ll remember when they’re on the actual jobsite.
Check out this video from Digital Engineering and Magic to see what VR construction safety training looks like in action:
Work at Height VR Safety Training (Source)
3. Commit resources to culture change
You can have the most advanced tools and systems in place, but if your team isn’t using them properly, these purchases will just be an expensive waste of time and resources. And this can cause difficulty when making the case to invest more in connected construction technology. That’s why developing a plan to roll out your connected construction technology and train your teams on how to use it is so important.
How can you do this? Use connected construction to implement connected construction. That may be a bit of a mouthful, but by doing it this way, your team can learn how to use the new technology by actually using it instead of reading about in a manual or watching a video.
Here’s a five-step process for ensuring that your connected construction technology rollout is as successful as possible.
Identify staff and resources that will boost connected construction tech adoption. Establish connected construction culture champs on different teams to lead the way.
Conduct a tech audit to find out where you stand. What percentage of your team is already equipped with smartphones? Is your construction software mobile-ready? Are all of your vehicles and equipment equipped with sensors that work with your software?
Increase tech budget as needed. Don’t starve your connected construction tech program to death by failing to fund it. Make sure to budget for new mobile friendly software, GPS-enabled sensors and tags for equipment, cameras, and smartphones for workers who need them, for example.
Ask employees for their pain points on using connected construction technology. Do they need training? Are their devices capable of working with your construction software? Do you have a BYOD (bring your own device) policy in place to ensure that everyone’s device is secure and capable?
Prioritize a wishlist of resources needed to reach your connected construction technology goals. Present this wishlist to leadership, and then implement new technology and tweak from step one as needed.
Here are a few more examples of how you can use connected construction to implement a culture of connected construction:
Distribute digital training materials via personal mobile devices.
Train employees on connected vehicles and equipment and show them how the sensors interact with central tracking systems.
Employ virtual reality for safety training.
Ready to learn more about how technology can help your construction firm?
As we’ve seen in this article, the term “connected construction” refers to a wide range of capabilities and technology in the construction industry. And any modern construction firm should be taking advantage of this connected construction technology to minimize risk, improve efficiency, and ensure project success. By following the tips in this article to make the most out of your connected construction technology, confusion around resource availability and timelines can be avoided.
Getting fully up to speed with connected construction won’t be easy, but it is worth the effort, and we’re here to help.
Our construction software directory can help you browse the most advanced construction software available to construction companies and learn more about connected construction features such as takeoff and project scheduling. If you’d like a little more hands-on guidance, our experienced advisors are standing by to help.
Gartner’s 2021 Top Technology Trends Survey
This study was conducted to better understand the technology usage, needs, challenges, and trends for small businesses. The research was conducted between August and October 2021 among 548 U.S. respondents from the education, financial services, healthcare, IT, manufacturing, media, natural resources, retail, and telecommunications industries.
Respondents were screened for the job categories of President, CEO, Owner or Sole Proprietor, General Manager, C-Level Executive, Business Unit Manager, Vice President, Director, Functional Lead (Manager & Above), and Office Manager, and had to have some level of influence on software and technology decisions. Additionally, participants’ companies had to have been in business for 12 months or longer, have between two and 500 employees, and earn between $5 to $250 million in revenue.
The study was developed collaboratively by Gartner Analysts and the Primary Research Team.
Disclaimer: Results of this study do not represent global findings or the market as a whole but reflect sentiment of the respondents and companies surveyed.