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Mobile Devices Improve Jobsite Efficency


Grainger Editorial Staff

Mobile technology has had a major impact on how the construction industry manages both on- and off-site projects. Here’s how mobile phones, iPads, and other devices are improving construction site efficiency and productivity.

Every year, roughly $10 trillion is spent constructing buildings, infrastructure, and industrial installations. Demand is on the rise, according to McKinsey, with that amount projected to total $14 trillion by 2025.

Unfortunately, the industry’s productivity is lagging behind that of other sectors. For example, labor-productivity growth for the global construction industry averaged 1 percent annually over the past two decades, compared with 2.8 percent for the total world economy and 3.6 percent for manufacturing, McKinsey reports.

Here’s the good news:  Technology is helping construction close that gap and cultivate a more productive, efficient workforce. Mobile technology, in particular, helps improve collaboration and communication while allowing project managers, foremen, and employees work “without wires” in the busy construction field.

“Over the years, technology has improved and functionality has deepened to make many of the administrative and time intensive functions of construction available via mobile apps,” Jenny Clavero writes in Using Mobile Apps to Increase Construction Productivity Rates. “When the employees complete these functions digitally on a mobile device, the productivity of the project team increases considerably.”

Working Without Wires

Whether they are using mobile on the construction jobsite to place orders for the following morning, reviewing construction drawings on their iPads, or using a mobile app to manage their project files, today’s construction professionals are doing their jobs on the go.  

Contractors are seeing returns for their mobile investments. One Dallas-based construction firm told AppleInsider that using iPads on jobsites saves it $1.8 million annually, including an average of $10,000 in printing expenses per project (and close to 55,000 hours of employee time due to employees no longer having to run back to their desks to handle simple tasks).

“The iPads play a role in helping to manage the vast amounts of paperwork involved in a construction project, including keeping all involved working from the same up-to-date version of building plans,” the publication reports. “This ‘One Truth’ method is estimated to save around 7 percent on costs for each project, due to a reduction in mistakes caused by using outdated documents.”

Five Reasons to Put Mobility to Work on the Jobsite

With 40% of construction companies still using paper plans on the job, and just 18% of firms  consistently using mobile apps to access project data and collaborate, the opportunity to improve productivity and efficiency through mobility is at your fingertips. Here are five good reasons to start now:

  • Save time and money. No more running back and forth to the construction trailer to find a document, review your notes, or make a phone call—it’s all right there on your employees’ mobile phones or tablets. They can receive real-time alerts and important updates about the project, and supervisors can follow up with them on to-do items without the need for a face-to-face meeting. On construction sites where every minute counts, these small “wins” can quickly add up to substantial time and cost savings.

  • Improve project management. Using a mobile construction management app, foremen and supervisors can control and optimize their workforces without actually being present at the site. “Activities like time stamping, the delegation of work, and keeping track of the progress can be done by utilizing various built-in tools in mobile phones like fingerprint scanners, cameras, and location services,” Jitendra Bhadke writes in How Construction Management apps can make your business more productive.

  • Avoid delays. Unpredictable weather is one of the main reasons for delays at a construction site. “Though you cannot control it, you can inform your on-ground team to be prepared for it based on the weather forecast feature on the app,” Bhadke writes, noting that resource mismanagement (e.g., the unavailability of labor or materials) can also create bottlenecks on the jobsite. “Through the construction management apps, you can correspond with the suppliers, transporters, and other parties involved to ensure a smooth operation of daily activities.”

  • Make real-time decisions on the fly. When every worker is equipped with a mobile device and the associated apps, they can easily access any information relevant to their responsibilities. They can also receive real-time updates on receiving and planning change orders—or just about any other communications sent out from the office to workers in the field. “This means real-time decisions can be made,” writes John Biggs in How Mobile Phones Have Changed Construction, “and workers can be given new instructions no matter how far they are from the managers.” 

  • Better back-office efficiencies. By going paperless, construction firms can save hundreds of hours spent on data entry, collating information for reporting, or looking for paperwork that has been lost or filed away. “Increasing back-office efficiency allows projects to be run leaner,” Flowfinity notes in 7 Ways Mobile Apps Are Transforming the Construction Industry, “and completed on time and on budget.”

It’s no secret that every construction project requires a great deal of collaboration, teamwork, and coordination. Keeping track of teams, managing schedules, tracking daily progress, and procuring materials (among other activities) are all made easier when mobile technology is used in lieu of age-old paper- and manual-based processes. Isn’t it time you brought your jobsite into the 21st Century with a technology infusion?

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