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Making Mobile work for the Construction industry

Posted by G Satish on September 30, 2017

Daily Reporting, crew management and material tracking for construction companies and contractors.

What happens when new technology meets an old – make that very old – industry? Quite a lot, actually.

Pyramids to Skyscrapers

The construction industry has been around for thousands of years and continues to have an outsize impact in our lives and the economy. While the tools and materials have changed, the industry model has stayed constant: deployment of manpower and material across multiple sites.

Also constant have been daily site reports: progress updates, end-of-day reports, time-sheets and more – phone calls, spread-sheets, printed forms dutifully completed by the field crew and verified by visiting supervisors. This data then drives payments to workers and invoices to customers. Large businesses have back-office systems to process data while smaller ones manage with smaller systems or spread-sheets.

And all of them, no matter their size, still grapple with the essentially manual process of reporting from the field.

Making it easy with tech – People, material, time and tasks

Cloud and mobile computing is changing much of this.

First, cloud eliminates the need for buying and installing hardware or software, and the related IT overheads. Deployment is immediate, not years.

Next, the (non-tech-savvy) field user needs an intuitive mobile app configured with their forms – not some canned one-size-fits-all template. Connixt’s cloud-mobile suite, for instance, configures user forms in the cloud, deploys within hours and runs on standard smartphones and tablets using familiar features (e.g. speech-to-text, navigation).

Once they download the mobile app, a Work Queue lists their jobs for the day, each linked to the relevant reports they need to submit. Every submission is automatically geo-tagged and time-stamped and can have photos attached - verification is therefore largely automated, reducing site visits to a random few.

The app can also track equipment and material movement from warehouse(s) to site(s), receipt and consumption at site, monitor stock and re-order across sites.

And meanwhile back at the office

Data received from the field can now be used for progress tracking, customer invoicing and for payments – either managed in the cloud or fed automatically to an available back-end system.  Reports of any kind - standard, exception, management - can now be generated with a single click.

And what about mandatory reporting requirements set by the end-customer – a Government agency or a large corporation?  One Connixt customer, for example, needed to submit end-of-day personnel, equipment and material reports.  In the past this meant filling up paper forms, collecting signatures and faxing (yes, faxing!) to their customer every day.  And how would their customer approve all the submissions?  Site visits, of course!

Mobile apps do the heavy lifting at site

Now with Connixt iMarq, the crew member fills up the form on their phone and signs off – an actual physical signature captured on the screen – and taps the submit button.  They can even do this offline, if data connectivity is limited.  Data received at the back-office is also simultaneously delivered to the end-customer in the format they specify – geo-tagged, time-stamped and with photographs.  A repeatable and reliable process that is easy to implement.

Where else can construction companies use cloud and mobile?  Inspections, condition assessments, estimates, service requests (submitted by customers) and incident reporting are just some examples.

And one more thing…

Scalability.  Business growth need no longer be burdened by the scarcity of reliable supervisors, increased travel, slower invoicing and more.

And, lest we forget – your millennial employees don’t want to play with spread-sheets, let alone actually write on a printed form that they then need to fax ( “what is a fax machine?”).

The clichés of old and slow to change don’t apply to this industry – construction and allied industries have been aggressive adopters of technology since forever.  Louis Sullivan says in his 1896 work, The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered, that skyscrapers are testaments to human pride, glory, and simply, because we could.   And this is time to adopt new technology because we should.

Topics: Business Apps, Construction, mobile, daily reports, Industry, time-sheets

Written by G Satish