The Lien & Credit Journal periodically invites forward-thinking construction technology companies contribute to the publication with articles about technology in the construction industry and how the landscape is changing. This article is one in a series of contributions from FieldLens, a friend of The Lien & Credit Journal and one of the most promising young construction tech companies.
When I was working as a construction project manager on projects as small as local municipal pools to sites as large as the New York Times Building and 4 World Trade Center, I began to realize something important about how construction professionals were communicating. Similar to social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, construction workers were also sharing information within their own job-based networks. But it wasn’t happening in the most efficient way possible. In fact, jobsite communication was generally pretty frustrating because you never knew where it was coming from and it was tough to keep everything organized. Add that to the fact that most construction professionals are usually working on multiple jobsites at once and you’ve got a big mess on your hands.
Information on the jobsite needs to be communicated among the network of people working on the job, such as the GC project manager, the electrical foreman, the drywall installer, the plumbing project manager and so on. Only thing is, information isn’t typically shared using a smartphone or an online platform that everyone has instant access to — it generally happens via phone, email, in-person conversations, and handwritten notes. Considering all these disparate forms of communication, it’s tough to keep track and mistakes happen often, causing delays and wasted resources.
Working in construction is tough. One of the biggest reasons most construction professionals get into the field is because they appreciate how their hard labor translates into a brand new building. But along the way, that labor includes a whole lot of stress, long hours, budget pressures and about a hundred unexpected events that occur just about every day. These hard working men and women deserve technology tools that will make their jobs easier.
So how do we make the existing process of communication more productive? How do we make it easier? Something technology developers can do to make working in construction a little easier is to understand the innate social networks that exist on the jobsite and use them to help construction professionals communicate more efficiently. With a better communication process those in the industry can focus on doing what they really want to do – build.
Strong communication is crucial to the success of any project, no matter what the size. The solution is to transition the real-world workflows of a construction jobsite to processes similar to those of popular social networking sites. When you consider how many people use social media, it seems clear that using it at the enterprise level holds a lot of potential. The average person spends about 40 minutes a day on social media and 60% of those users are using mobile devices. Construction workers today are increasingly expecting to be able to use mobile technology to do their jobs more effectively. We see the proliferation of smartphones and tablets more and more as we visit jobsites throughout the country. As recently as 3 years ago, those smartphones and tablets were mostly simple flip phones and clipboards. Now construction professionals expect more, and it’s important that the industry listen and provide what their workers want and need to bring a higher level of efficiency to the construction industry.
Construction is the only non-farm industry in the United States to have experienced a reduction in overall productivity over the last 50 years. In addition to that, the industry averages about $250 billion worth of mistakes made in the field annually. Taking these statistics into consideration, it’s clear this sector has a lot to gain from technological innovation. Using a process that applies the simple framework of social media technologies, but brings it to the enterprise level, answers the communication needs of general contractors, subcontractors, designers and owners and is the key to bringing a greater level of efficiency to the construction industry.