With the increase in technology adoption driven by digital transformation, some sectors, such as manufacturing and retail, are seeing productivity grow as high as 1500%. Much of this is due to the introduction of innovative technology solutions to improve workflows and efficiencies. However, as productivity rates rise in many industries, research has shown that productivity in construction has barely increased at all.
The introduction of integrated mobile technologies will have a significant effect on the productivity of construction organisations, with over 82.7% of respondents from a 2017 JBKnowledge ConTech report categorising mobile capabilities as either “important” or “very important”.
Challenging the traditional ways of working by integrating technology with onsite processes can lead to increased real-time visibility, reporting and predictive decision making, with organisations in the construction sector expected to see productivity gains of up to 15% if they invest in the right technology for their business.
Here, we take a look at the key reasons for adopting mobile working in the construction sector and why it could be right for your business, as well as the main considerations when implementing the technology.
Key to improving productivity rates is collaboration. Increased collaboration through mobile working solutions enables teams to work together in real-time, removing any physical barriers between sites, employees or departments that previously caused inefficiencies.
Fully integrated mobile working solutions have the ability to increase cross-business transparency, giving increased visibility for each project team, site and department on build details, status and progress, as well as total access to the vital build information needed for completion. Increased transparency enables teams to work better together throughout the project life-cycle.
Greater accessibility and transparency reduces silos so issues can be captured and resolved sooner. Teams are therefore more productive and better placed to meet and exceed targets against delivery schedules.
Automating key processes with mobile solutions enables construction organisations to significantly reduce time taken to complete tasks. By replacing manual, paper-based processes, mobile devices streamline operations, improving workflows and reducing time taken on repetitive tasks from hours to minutes.
As an example, the process of reporting from the construction site can be completed in real-time, with project managers and office staff being kept up to date with site activity, issues, requests for information and project milestones, even when not on site. With most mobile devices carrying rich media functions, site workers also have the ability to upload photos, videos and supporting documentation to applications, enabling rich auditing and powering inventive processes, such as image based machine learning techniques.
As with most solutions that digitise and automate processes, mobile solutions help to mitigate risk. Mobile working solutions eliminate manual error and lost documents, such as site workers losing paper documentation in transit to the office or data being mis-keyed across multiple business systems.
With the use of mobile, there is also greater accessibility to data and documents on site. This can help to reduce higher level risks in aspects such as health and safety and the misuse of protocol, as the relevant, accurate and up-to-date documentation is at the fingertips of your employees where and when they need it most.
With limited ability to audit paper-based processes, mobile solutions also offer a digital trail that enables any verifications or deviations from the scope of work, schedule or cost to be tracked throughout each stage of development, giving greater visibility across projects.
The need for integration
With over 48% of respondents to the 2017 JBKnowledge ConTech report acknowledging shortcomings in integration, resulting in the requirement of manual re-keying of information, and it’s associated risks, organisations need to consider integration as a core factor of technology implementation.
Mobile solutions need to connect seamlessly with the relevant business systems in order to provide transparent flows of information and to see real productivity gains. Mobile solutions offer a great means of collecting valuable information, however, the key to success is how this information is passed to key business systems.
When looking to integrate business systems, it’s critical that you identify and research all available application programming interfaces (APIs), and look to test these interfaces through proof of concepts to ensure that they support your requirements and behave as anticipated.
With the advancement of hardware solutions, such as ‘tough tablets’, that are built to resist construction hazards, mobile working is becoming more accessible than ever.
Mobile hardware is now being developed to cope with construction site conditions, including factors such as heavy dust, rain, humidity, rain and large drops (e.g. on cement and steel floors); as well as having light adjusting screens to suit environments and ‘glove touch’ functions to name a few.
These developments now make advanced technologies accessible to those that will benefit the most in their day to day activities, greatly reducing repetitive, manual tasks for site workers and significantly improving business efficiencies for the organisation.
As technologies develop and become more accessible for everyday organisations, advanced mobile technologies such as VR and AR are within reach. We recently discussed 'The Future of VR in Property' for the use in viewings and product selection processes, and due to factors such as advances in processing power and customers being more technology focused, these technologies are starting to see more widespread adoption.
Although new technologies are becoming more accessible, businesses need to focus initially on streamlining back-end, paper intensive processes that are barriers to productivity, efficiency and performance. Without optimised back-end systems that provide greater visibility and accessibility, advanced technologies (such as VR and AR) merely act as standalone tools that are unable to integrate back into core production, commercial and sales systems and are therefore prevented from achieving their full commercial potential.
Whether you are ready to start a project or just want to know more about how mobile solutions can improve operations, get in touch. We have experience building and integrating business-critical systems across the construction sector, including mobile working solutions, ERP integration projects (e.g. COINS, Salesforce, Sage, SAP etc.) and applications to manage and increase visibility across construction sites.