Driving Performance and Profitability with an
Enterprise-wide Solution for Mobile Data Capture and Analysis
August 9, 2016
By Paul McKeon - CEO, B2W Software
Software and mobile technology are creating breakthrough opportunities for construction companies to leverage one of their most underutilized assets – enterprise data – to improve operational performance and profitability.
There is no shortage of applications available for capturing and communicating data for specific, niche purposes. As the list of solutions grows, so does the challenge of integrating and coordinating them. A comprehensive, enterprise-wide system, however, can create competitive advantages by bringing improved structure and quality to the data itself; enhanced efficiency and access to the data-collection process; and expanded scope, automation and immediacy to the data mining and reporting capabilities.
Optimizing an Underutilized Asset
Multiple disconnected tools and processes for capturing information – many of them paper based – are the norm for most construction companies, resulting in inefficiency, redundancy and delays. With these fragmented approaches, the data that is collected typically remains unstructured and “siloed” within specific departments and workflows. Accessing and aggregating it is extremely challenging and labor intensive.
Now, three converging and enabling factors are driving construction companies break down these barriers and unlock the power and potential of their data.
The first is demand. As margin and competitive pressures intensify, companies are stepping up efforts to optimize every asset, including data. They recognize that collecting more and better data and adding efficiencies in the processes related to forms and data collection can pay big dividends. They also appreciate that getting essential information to employees at the right time empowers them to make better decisions.
Advances in mobile technology are also playing a key role. Tablets, smart phones and the cloud have opened up opportunities to capture and communicate information with levels of efficiency, immediacy and ease that were impossible just a few years ago.
Likewise, software technology for mining and analyzing that data have advanced considerably, driving dramatically improved reporting capabilities.
The Next Challenge: Disparate Data
Purpose-built applications for mobile data capture and communication have become mainstream in construction. They routinely deliver important advantages at specific steps in the workflow. Time cards, field logs and scheduling of equipment are just a few examples. The next challenge for most companies is how to capture all of the other disparate data that is available and how to combine and convert all of their electronic data in a more comprehensive manner.
An effective, enterprise-wide approach begins with a central, standardized tool to create electronic forms. A modern application makes it fast and easy to create customized forms and capture rich data like photos and videos, e-signatures, time stamps and GPS coordinates. When this solution is cloud-based with browser access, publishing and managing forms is streamlined. Processes built around paper forms can be redesigned. Employees can access, complete and submit the right forms with far more efficiency, and they can do it anywhere, anytime and with any device.
Turning Data into Intelligence
These improvement to forms and forms-related processes are important, but the bigger value for a construction company is in converting data into intelligence that employees can use to improve performance, quality and safety. For companies that rely on paper forms and electronic processes that are fragmented and disconnected, compiling and analyzing data is a labor-intensive manual effort. Reporting tends to be limited, and lag times are inevitable.
A more effective software-based solution brings structure and consistency to their data. This allows them to aggregate and convert it into reports, dashboards and real-time alerts automatically.
When an injury is reported on an electronic form on a job site, that form can trigger an immediate e-mail or text alert to the safety director or to foremen on other sites to warn them and potentially avoid a similar injury. Similarly, executives can compile reports with data from all safety and injury forms over a given period of time, allowing them to identify trends and take preventive actions.
These are just two examples related to safety. With enhanced mobile data capture and analysis, companies can achieve similar advantages in other processes and across workflows. More importantly, a centralized system can improve the quality of the data they collect, streamline and standardize the processes they use to collect it, and substantially enhance their ability to turn that data into actionable intelligence that drives improved performance and profitability.
Paul McKeon is the founder and CEO of B2W Software. The company’s ONE Platform includes unified applications for heavy civil construction estimating and bidding, field tracking and analysis, resource planning and scheduling, equipment maintenance and repair and data capture and analysis. This article is based on a presentation he made with Brian Cooney of Barriere Construction at the 2016 CFMA Annual Conference and Exhibition in June.
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