Construction Executive Magazine: The Connected Heavy Civil Job Site

Read the article in Construction Executive - August 27, 2018

The Connected Heavy Civil Job Site

 

 

The construction industry is in a unique position when it comes to information technology. Few other industries involve workers with so many different skill sets, engaged in such long and complicated projects, and split between so many different locations—the office, the field and the shop. 

What's more, most heavy civil construction companies have a work environment that's constantly in flux as equipment and employees move around, creating and requiring a multitude of vital data. Key workflows among the office, field and shop include:

  • estimating and bidding;
  • scheduling crews, equipment and materials;
  • dispatching;
  • project management in the field;
  • safety;
  • equipment repair and maintenance; and
  • finance, billing and accounting.

The complexities attached to each of these interrelated workflows demand modern solutions that ensure a company can keep pace with industry demands. Adopting a digital platform to streamline operations and keep workflows connected is critical, and to do so successfully, it’s important to understand why this connectivity needs to be established.

THE ROLES OF A MODERN CONSTRUCTION WORKFORCE

Each site of a heavy civil construction operation performs varied and critical roles, with different responsibilities and day-to-day concerns. 

The Office: 

  • estimators need standardized costs and insight from the performance of previous jobs to build accurate bids quickly and efficiently;
  • executives and managers require regular reports to understand progress on current projects, how it compares to estimates and how they need to adjust operations in the field;
  • finance workers need up-to-date information from the field to manage payroll, budgets, cash flow, accounts payable/receivable and other accounting- or ERP-related issues; and
  • schedulers and dispatchers must know project status and any issues right away to optimize labor, equipment and materials over time and across jobsites.

The Field:

  • foremen and operations managers need to report accurate information daily about project progress and need updates on the expectations and production targets so they can manage operations in order to meet them; and
  • equipment and vehicle operators need to be aware of their schedules and duties in advance and need to complete inspections and communicate with supervisors, the maintenance team and dispatchers to coordinate and expedite maintenance and repairs.

The Shop:

  • equipment managers must be aware of equipment status and location to effectively direct maintenance operations, create and sustain preventive maintenance schedules, schedule repairs and manage inventory; and
  • mechanics require a clear understanding of equipment needs and locations to maximize their time in the shop or out in the field. They also benefit from mobile technology, including access to schedules, work orders, equipment history and documentation when they are in the field.

It’s clear that both connectivity and instant insight into projects, people and equipment are critical to keeping projects moving forward on time and within budget. Employees in the field, shop and office rely on each other to provide valuable information to help them make smart decisions. 

ADVANCING THE HEAVY CIVIL CONSTRUCTION WORKFORCE THROUGH A DIGITAL PLATFORM

With so many roles and workflows always in play, successful construction companies must understand how to create connectivity among them. Far from being isolated processes, each workflow is delicately interconnected with the next.

A heavy civil construction site likely involves many workers in the field, shop and office, who all have different concerns and objectives for their day-to-day operations. 

A digital platform empowered by mobile phones and tablets allows employees immediate access to critical information about equipment and projects that is all too often hung up by inefficient paper processes.

Mobile technology is on the rise among consumers—who now access more websites with mobile devices than with computers—and more and more businesses in the construction industry are taking notice. According to JB Knowledge’s 2016 Construction Technology Report, the number of construction companies saying that mobile capabilities were "important" or "very important" leapt from 59 percent in 2012 to 79 percent in 2016.

Of course, the benefits of mobile devices aren't limited just to their accessibility and user-friendliness. Shifting to a mobile approach solves exactly the problems that construction companies are facing today:

  • Mobile users have access to up-to-the-minute information about job and project progress, including personnel schedules and critical equipment information like status and location. Employees can create, read, edit and share documents from anywhere at any time, eliminating data input errors and costly time delays often caused by slow paper-based processes.
  • Mobile devices make data collection easier. Employees can record critical project, workforce and equipment information. Specialized applications and standardized electronic forms can be used to streamline data capture and analysis.
  • Mobile apps can make reports and dashboards accessible whenever needed. Gain instant insight into how project progress compares to estimates and view long-term trends around equipment and personnel for better decision-making to increase productivity and keep projects on time and within budget. 

If a heavy civil construction company is using paper-based processes, it likely feels the pinch of a lack of connectivity among the field, shop and office. A digital solution solves that problem, and empowers not only the business, but also employees, as operations move more smoothly and jobs can be done completed efficiently and profitably. 

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