4 Key Benefits of Mobile Construction Technologies and 12 Ways they Improve Field Functionality

April 17, 2019 Andy Holtmann

Construction has always been a mobile industry. Projects aren’t built in the office, they’re done in the field, often in remote locations. Because of this, communication with the home office, offsite project managers, architects and owners, and other team members has always been a challenge. So too has been collecting and analyzing the volumes of data that accompanies each project.

As technology has advanced over the years, the construction industry was among the first to implement push-to-talk solutions to increase communication and collaboration. Today, as the cloud, mobile computing technologies and mobile applications are becoming the preferred way for most businesses to operate, contractors are implementing these technologies into their own operations.

According to a 2018 JB Knowledge/Con Tech Survey, 90 percent of respondents said there must be a mobile plan or app in place to help with their current processes. Additionally, a survey performed during a recent Viewpoint webinar indicated that close to 100 percent of a construction organization’s employees have smartphones.

Field employees can use the mobile or web-based applications to improve collaboration, simplify work access important project information and enter vital data from the jobsite to update back office systems and reports — all in real time. And, most mobile apps allow you to continue working even if you’re offline.

For instance, if work is being performed in a basement, tunnel or a place where mobile access is limited, a message can be written, photos can be captured, notes or data can be collected and entered. Later, the information can instantly sync with back-office systems and communications can be sent when mobile access is regained. This allows information to be captured without being forgotten.

 

4 Key Benefits of Mobile Construction

Here are the top four key benefits for contractors that deploy cloud-based and mobile construction management solutions to the jobsite.

  1. Streamlined workflows that keep projects on schedule: Thanks to intuitive interfaces, built-in data collection functionality and automated workflows, mobile apps are significantly simplifying the workloads of field crews. They can collect data with ease and report data to the back office instantly thanks to the real-time cloud capabilities they utilize. Field professionals can also access data they need when they need it, rather than waiting for emails or phone calls between themselves and the back office.

 

  1. Replaces manual processes and prevents errors: The automated processes and functionality noted above means that reliance on things like pen and paper, spreadsheets or disconnected software programs that don’t integrate well with back-office programs is dramatically reduced. These manual processes meant costly hours of paperwork and headaches for field crews and back office professionals alike. And it means less information gets lost in the shuffle, which can lead to costly delays or mistakes on the jobsite. Additionally, if a problem arises or conflicting information exists about something, employees won’t have to follow a paper trail or chase people down for answers. They can search digital documents or pull the data they need much more quickly.

 

  1. Improves communication and collaboration: One of the biggest challenges in construction has been keeping everyone involved on a project on the same page at all times. Thanks to collaborative project and document management solutions connected directly to construction ERP software, everyone can see the latest, accurate data in real time. The office no longer has to wait for reports to arrive from the field by email or on paper. As soon as information is entered via mobile apps, it automatically updates data across all relevant departments and functions. The opposite is also true as field teams can see information updated in the back office as soon as it’s posted. Plus, cloud and mobile technologies alert project owners, subcontractors, architects and others when new information relevant to them is entered.

 

  1. Boosts efficiency and productivity: By cutting out paper, reducing manual processes, improving data capture and making information accessible at people’s fingertips, mobile technology helps increase efficiency for everyone, which, in turn, makes projects more productive — and more profitable. That’s a win anyone in your organization will get behind. The construction industry faces thin margins, and mobile technology can play an important role in reducing costs associated with drawn-out processes and wasted time.

 

12 Ways Mobile is Enhancing Field Functionality

For a real-world technology example, here are a dozen things that field professionals can do much easier with the integrated mobile functionality between Viewpoint’s Vista ERP, its Viewpoint Team project and document management platform and Viewpoint Field Management, an online solution that extends the power of Vista to the field:

  • Safety bulletins and updates: See the latest safety notes and warnings, ensure certifications are in place and pull your teams together for important safety briefings (and collect data shared on safety incidents or topics).

  • Project contacts: Quickly look up information like phone numbers, email addresses or other contact information on a host of contacts for your projects, with intuitive search functionality.

  • Recent items and daily logs: See recent items you accessed or worked with, including daily logs to quickly get information you need or continue collecting information.

  • Check the weather: Get live weather updates from the weather service to best judge when and where work should be done. Or, enter your own notes and observations about the weather and how it is affecting work.

  • View submittals: See submittals directly in the field including updates, product information, specs and much more. Or connect to the browser and access Vista to change a submittal or create a new one.

  • Create and view RFIs: Access existing RFIs to see information or address questions or issues. RFIs can also be created and shared using the mobile app.

  • Manage issues from the field: Keep track of project risks and issues in real time, with a simple-to-use issues log. Create early warning notices for issues identified, communicate with the entire project team and track resolution to completion.

  • View up-to-date documents and drawings: Documents and drawings can be viewed by date, ensuring you’re always looking at the latest version. Zoom into and rotate the drawings for more specific information if needed.

  • Viewing and Entering Labor, Equipment and Production Information: Serving as an extension of Vista, Field Management lets a project manager or foreman enter labor, equipment time and production rates. Track in real time whether or not your project production is going up or down in relation to estimated production and number of hours and units per day on a project. If information is needed on an employee basis, hours per employee is available. You can approve production and labor reports and capture electronic signatures from the field.

  • Manage Equipment: By accessing Vista’s equipment functionality in the field, you can manage equipment right from the jobsite. View, track and assign equipment from job to job, track hours of use, meters and maintenance tasks, or input equipment issues or repairs using simple voice commands.

  • View and Create Daily Huddles: With safety a key concern among contractors, daily huddles and continuing training is vital. From Field Management, daily huddles can be created and updated. You can access training materials, links to OHSA quick cards on particular topics. Those quick cards include main bullet points for an easy, fast training reference. The exercises can be audited in the application – you can see who has completed the training on a specific topic and when. Create huddle dashboards and audit reports to see which workers have been trained on which topics and which jobs are in compliance and which need attention.

  • Real-Time Purchase Orders: Employees can also create purchase orders in the field. If an item needs to be purchased, a picture can be taken of the receipt. The receipt and item description can be sent directly to Vista. A project accountant can see the receipt and finish coding that job.

 

Putting the Best Mobile Construction Plan in Place

The benefits of mobile solutions in construction are clear, but many contractors still haven’t implemented sound strategies because they don’t know where to start. Or, they’ve embraced mobile tech, just not in a uniform fashion, with no strategy to standardize the technology employees use and how they use it.

As a first step, assess how employees already use mobile. Do they use personal phones? Company laptops? Which apps do they use, and are those apps standard across the company? If many of your employees use their own devices for work, you may want to consult this recent Viewpoint blog post, “The ABCs of BYOD in Construction.”

Next, do some research. See which mobile apps could help your organization the most and research how well they would fit in with or replace current processes. For the most bang for your mobile solution buck, consider completely integrated, cloud-based construction management solutions like ViewpointOne™ which offer flexibility for contractors to choose the functionality they need and scale their overall software use and growth.

For more on ViewpointOne™, or to learn how the right mobile solutions can improve your projects, connect with Viewpoint today.

About the Author

Andy Holtmann

Andy Holtmann is Marketing Content & PR Manager at Viewpoint. He has worked in the construction software arena since 2011. Previously he served as a multi-award-winning newspaper and trade media editor.

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