Productivity in construction has been a hot topic since long before the adoption of technology. As a construction professional, or someone familiar with the field, you’ve probably heard a great deal about productivity, especially on finding ways to improve it. Unfortunately, up until recently, the ability for contractors and supervisors to measure, let alone improve their field team’s productivity, has remained relatively stagnant.
Oftentimes contractors are in a constant struggle with having to deal with labour shortages and at the same time ensuring that their supervisors find ways to get the most productivity out of their field teams. Unfortunately, prioritizing the improvement of productivity gets diluted since they also have to consider safety, budget tracking, procurement, and other daily tasks that eat up valuable time.
If you think that sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. Correctly managing a field team of any size requires a lot of overhead. Toolbox meetings, safety discussions, equipment inspections, employee scheduling, planning work-flows, managing time cards, RFI’s, document management, as-builts, material management, time & material tracking, progress reporting, and labour forecasting, all just represent a portion of the responsibilities that a supervisor must oversee to ensure the project runs smoothly. While it is clear that the construction industry has suffered in the past two decades when it comes to productivity, we are fortunate that the industry has now started to shift to a more positive outlook.
Over the past few years, I’ve been able to witness firsthand improved productivity in construction. This change into a new era has predominantly been driven by innovative companies who have clear digital strategies in transforming outdated construction processes into streamlined digital products. Integrated field management software helps construction companies deal with operational challenges, even the new ones that arose from the pandemic; ultimately improving the way they operate in all aspects.
What are the common operational challenges faced by supervisors?
1. Staying under project budgets & estimates
From scheduling tasks for crew members, managing supplies, maintaining documentation, and tracking labour costs, supervisors have to deal with a vast range of operational challenges. As a result, they might not follow the recommended practices to help them stay organized and efficient.
This ultimately results in construction projects going over budget. In some cases this can be as high as 80%....yikes!
With the industry typically struggling to increase productivity, keeping projects under budget through the use of job costing and having access to real-time project information is essential for contractors to maintain profits.
2. Bad communication between the office and field teams
One of the major challenges faced by supervisors and management professionals is the lack of an organized and unified communication platform. Between emails, text messages, and other internal chat platforms such as Skype, supervisors struggle to keep an organized history of past communication.
As a result, far too often important information may take hours to recover, and in some cases is lost forever. This can lead to increased costs due to re-work, higher occurrence of human error, and even a lack of trust between the office and field teams.
3. Managing schedules and overlapping tasks
As you may know, the construction industry is faced with the challenge of a shrinking workforce due to a lack of skilled labour. That, combined with the frequently changing manpower requirements, means that supervisors and other workers are often responsible for multiple jobs and tasks.
This makes their jobs even harder to manage, resulting in even more disorganization and inefficiency. This is why having the correct systems and tools in place is crucial to mitigate any issues that could have been avoided.
How can an integrated field management software help?
1. Unify all your project data into one platform
Projects in construction rely heavily on a vast array of data and documentation to ensure everything and everyone are compliant, safe, and productive. Toolbox meetings, risk assessments, QA/QC checklists, time sheets, RFI’s, text messages, and emails are all usually collected and organized on different platforms. This makes it extremely difficult for supervisors to find and extract any information in an easy and prompt manner.
Operating like this often leads to information silos, which are the leading cause of project re-work. Workers simply won’t have the ability to access all the correct information in a timely manner and this can lead to devastating impacts on both project schedule and productivity.
With the use of an integrated project management software solution, it is easy to keep all this information in one place. This is done by combining the following:
Digital forms and documents that are accessible across your company. With an app like OnTraccr, these forms can be automated so that supervisors don’t need to remind or chase down any employees to ensure they are compliant. They simply set it and forget it, allowing them to focus on more important tasks.
A communications system that allows employees to send and receive messages, photos, progress updates, and RFI’s. This allows all project information and chats to be saved and automatically be organized by project.
Unified document storage - oftentimes important documentation and project drawings need to be made available to the field crew immediately. With Ontraccr, supervisors have the ability to view a version history of all project documents, allowing them to easily view who made a change and what the previous version looked like. Not only that, users can be automatically notified when any updates are made without having to type any extra emails.
2. View real-time project data to make smarter decisions
By using software-based solutions like Ontraccr, supervisors can ensure that all information is collected and analyzed in real-time. This allows supervisors to identify and resolve potential safety or operational issues quickly, such as potential labour over-run.
Ontraccr can also help supervisors identify points of inefficiency before they eat away at the project budget, as well as automate a lot of the manual work required to maintain productivity.
3. Normalize collaboration across company divisions & teams
In many instances, collaboration across different project teams, or divisions is few and far between. This is likely due to the environment created by existing communication processes that narrow the view of each employee.
Ideally supervisors and project managers from all divisions or projects should be working together and helping each other with any new things that are learned. The saying goes, two minds are better than one, and this especially holds true in construction.
There is so much knowledge that can be shared throughout your company to maximize productivity. Integrated field management softwares such as Ontraccr, help bridge this gap by allowing team members to gain an open view on what is happening within projects and divisions. Communication is encouraged through the easy to use chat system, where workers can easily direct messages to any employee.
Further, reports and forms that are found useful on one project, can quickly be standardized throughout the company to help ensure everyone has access to the latest and greatest methods and systems. This allows employees to share and collaborate on a variety of things which enables increased productivity throughout your company.
As seen in other industries, the digitalization of existing workflows has the potential to transform construction businesses into lean mean productivity machines. This happens by improving operational efficiency, reducing human error and bad practices, as well as generating increased profits through reduced overhead costs and a conservation or resources.
An integrated field management software like Ontraccr has unlocked an unprecedented level of operational cohesiveness for construction businesses — and every stakeholder can benefit from it.
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