It’s getting harder and harder to keep up with the latest tech. Seems like a new social media platform debuts every week, virtual reality appears in every commercial break, and a smart belt buckle is now available for purchase (yeah, really).
It’s hard to know which of these gadgets will stand the test of time, and which will suffer the same fate as, say, the LaserDisc. Yet, it’s hard to argue the impact and improvement in a number of industries as technology not only becomes smarter and more user-friendly, but also infiltrates every aspect of our daily lives.
The construction industry, while slower to embrace new advancements when compared with some other fields, has nevertheless greatly benefitted from some new tools. From project management software like Procore (which IEC uses, along with many of our partners) to blueprint apps, technology is beginning to play a big role in every stage of the build.
Of course, technology can only get you so far. My teams on the job site possess years of experience, judgment and creativity that could never be replicated by a gadget thinking in ones and zeros. Yet, like a hammer or a cable puller, technology can also be a tool to help us do our job more efficiently and more safely. Here are three ways tech can help at work:
- Project management software – One of the aspects of Procore we appreciate is the immediacy and communication it enables. If the framing crew needs to make a tweak to a wall, they don’t have to burn a day tracking down the architect and engineer and deal with a change order. Just a quick photo and tap on their tablet and they’re back to work. These new tools (others include WorkflowMax, BuildTools, Co-construct and BuilderTREND) allow contractors to manage multiple projects and monitor progress, while taking advantage of change order systems and drawing management tools.
- Mobile technology – It’s no surprise we all rely much more on our smartphones than ever before. A study from Texas A&M found that 72 percent of construction pros use their smartphones on the job site, 53.9 percent use a laptop, and 50.1 percent use a tablet. The study also reports that more than 50 percent of contractors rely on mobile apps on their devices for field data collection—up 20 percent from the year before.
- Drones – You can now find amateur drones on the shelf at CVS, which should tell you how fast this technology is being integrated into our daily lives. And their use in construction is growing just as quickly: KPMG’s International Global Construction Survey 2016 reports that 42 percent of contractors are using drones to monitor construction status, and I fully expect that number to steadily rise in the coming years. They’re extremely handy at going where human eyes can’t, mapping and surveying, tracking progress and, most important, comparing real-life to plans—pointing out any slight misalignments that might have been missed. And one of my favorite reasons? They can provide an extra level of safety for my workers by accessing and visualizing hard-to-reach or dangerous spots so my guys don’t have to.
As the construction industry continues to grow in this stronger economy, contractors are looking to become even more efficient in their job-site processes. We’re typically a conservative industry, often reluctant to change proven methods, but those willing to make the investment will see it pay off in the years to come.
Geno Armstrong, International Sector Leader at KPMG, discusses the topic with Building Design + Construction:
“Projects are becoming bigger, bolder and more complex—and with complexity comes risk. Innovations like remote monitoring, automation and visualization have enormous potential to speed up project progress, improve accuracy and safety.”
At IEC, we’ve witnessed how technology can enhance the talents of our team, and I’m excited to see what new gadget or app will be the next game-changer in 2017. (I’m going to hold off on that smart belt buckle, though.)