With contributions from Alex Shih

The construction industry is the driving force behind the expansion of America’s hottest cities, creating the skylines of tomorrow from scratch. It’s the very backbone of the U.S. So why is it taking so long for construction companies to embrace the wave of technology that’s been sweeping across the rest of the country?

The recession changed everything.

Commercial construction was one of the hardest hit during the recession (don’t believe me? Here’s a list of construction projects in Las Vegas that were abandoned due to the recession. And if you’ve been to Las Vegas recently, you’ll see the same, unfinished hotels and casinos dot the strip. Just how bad was the construction industry hit? In January of 2010, the unemployment rate for the nation had dropped to 9.7%, while the construction industry actually increased to 24.7% (source). Just now are construction companies starting to feel the recession dissipating. Today’s unemployment numbers show a move in the right direction at 9.4% in April compared to 6.3% nationally in that same month.

If you’re looking at the dropping unemployment rate, you may feel a sense of hope… but the damage inflicted on the construction industry during the recession could potentially last indefinitely, and its reach is not contained within this industry. Construction companies that refused to innovate with technology, that continued working as if under pre-2008 conditions, have died. They are no more, and it’s entirely because the recession ate them up and spat them out, leaving their competitors with only one option…

Adopt Technology Solutions Or Die.

Recently, we here at RAD have been working with several construction companies in the Phoenix area, and we’ve seen a few common opportunities for high return technology implementations. Our research and personal experiences have shown that construction companies that waste time on busy work, administrative tasks, and otherwise automatable processes are losing money at tremendous rates or outright dying off.

Generally speaking, a custom software solution is advised for businesses that are looking to automate a process, create new opportunities for growth, connect with current and prospective customers, and/or gain insight with powerful analytics, amongst other reasons.

When it comes to specifically speaking about the construction industry, below is a list of some areas in which we’ve been able to improve efficiency for some of the biggest construction companies in the Southwest:

  • Time Tracking – There are still construction companies using hand written or machine printed time cards, which take valuable human resources to fill out, pick up, and review. For one company we work with, project managers have to drive out to job sites, some of which are 2-3 hours away, just to pick up these physical remnants from a bygone era. As a solution to this and other problems, we created a custom cross-platform, cross-device, easy to use app that instantly uploads hours worked to a central database which is visible by all of senior management, allowing for a far more detailed picture of who’s working where and for how long. More importantly, a job site’s hours activity can be known instantly, which means a job’s performance can be tracked in real time. If problems arise, solutions can be implemented quicker.
  • Communication – Construction is an elaborate process, with many crews in different locations who need more effective ways to stay in touch. Project managers back in the office can have a very different picture of the jobsite than the foremen who are actually on-site every day. To solve this problem for one particular client, we added project completion updates, allowing project managers to set goals and foremen to provide daily updates regarding exactly which tasks have been completed and which are still ongoing. Management can take one look at the app and have a clear picture of the project’s progress instantly. Instantaneous access to the most updated field data is imperative for any business, but especially those in the construction industry.
  • Administrative tasks and paperwork – Project managers and administrative staff waste valuable hours each day filling out paperwork multiple times and filing them into inefficient systems. We’ve been able to automate these time-consuming, tedious processes for all of our construction clients, freeing up employees to contribute their talents to the tasks that really matter. No more wasting an entire day transferring data from paper to computer.
  • Client engagement – Today’s clients want to be constantly updated on how their projects are developing. One custom software solution we created for a steel erector enables them to communicate with their clients quickly and online instead of on paper, which makes their client’s very happy (and a happy customer is a retained customer). Whether it’s daily, weekly, or monthly, clients will know the exact stage their project is in.
  • Safety – The major selling point for many construction companies is safety, with the successful companies being those with the highest safety standards. We’re helping companies improve those standards across the board through features that push out injury updates to management the instant they happen, and our time tracking app which tells you exactly who is working, and how long they’ve been working. When employees are overworked, you’ll know even before they do, and you’ll be able to pull them out before they potentially commit a costly mistake.

Each construction company has its own unique processes and systems, which is why the existing general-purpose software tailored to the construction industry just doesn’t cut it. We’ve seen companies waste tens of thousands of dollars on these systems, changing the unique methods that make them stand out from the competition before coming to us. We’ve also heard countless horror stories about packaged product technology companies who won’t adapt their product to each company’s specific challenges, meaning that those problems never get solved.

We’ll work closely with you to create a custom software solution that fits your needs and your process – giving you the knowledge of your own company’s interworking and the competitive advantage to stay alive as we struggle to exit the recession. We’ll come to you and use our business and technological expertise to streamline your already-effective processes, and identify further areas that can be improved. You’ll never need to worry about getting a hold of us – we exist to make your life easier. And once the project is done and you’ve got a piece of software you can be proud of, we’ll be there to ensure the implementation is successful and flawless.

Image courtesy of Jakob Montrasio