How to Use Construction Technology the Right Way

We all know that the construction industry is slow to adopt construction technology. Although the rumor is that we are ‘slow to adopt’, we see the growth with new technologies that are using AI, VR, and the cloud for the construction industry every day. But, even though more and more construction job sites are using construction technology in many different ways, some companies still don’t know how to use construction technology the right way.

The breadth and depth of the different construction technologies is tremendous already. For instance, you can find many different solutions to help manage every aspect of a construction project. From preconstruction to scheduling, from project management and field reporting to managing your back office, there’s a software solution out there to help streamline your processes and improve productivity. But not every solution one will be the right solution for each and every jobsite.

How do you figure out this dilemma? It isn’t practical to change to a new software each time you start a new job. That would be costly and time consuming. This is why it’s smart to understand the different areas construction technology can enhance your jobsite before you invest money into a platform.

Areas to Use Construction Technology the Right Way

Labor. Finding skilled labor in the construction industry hasn’t been an easy task since the Great Depression and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects construction employment growth to be 11% from 2016 through 2026. So, what’s the answer? Hiring younger workers who might not have the experience of working on a jobsite but will have technology experience and expertise. There will be less training involved and your company will save money by negating technology training with only onsite training. Also, with the use of drones, robots, and autonomous heavy equipment you will need to hire less laborers on your sites, and the younger workers you have hired will already have an understanding and be able to run these technologies as if they have been doing it all along.

Collaboration. The construction industry is highly fragmented. In other words, a jobsite will have workers, engineers, and equipment, plus offsite stakeholders, including project managers and the customer. This means it can be hard to get everyone on the same page when a decision needs to be made. The use of mobile apps has made communication and collaboration on projects easier. Mobile technology can help facilitate a meeting of the minds that will lead to definitive conclusions without interrupting the day’s work, which saves time and money. Also, being able to communicate in real time ensures that issues on the jobsite are resolved quickly with every stakeholder having a say. With the use of integrated solutions that sync in real-time, different stakeholders can make changes, add notes or respond to RFIs instantly and that information can be shared with every person involved with the project at the same time.

Safety. According to OSHA, approximately 1 in 10 construction workers will experience a jobsite injury. This is a problem that general contractors worry about from the first time they step onto a new jobsite until that job has wrapped up. Construction technology can alleviate some of that worry and keep workers safe on jobsites with the use of wearables that track and respond to slip, trip and fall incidents, virtual reality that reduces the need for boots on the ground, augmented reality that tags hazards before they become accidents, and the use of predictive analytics to identify likely hazards before they even occur.

Owner Expectations and Tight Margins. Owners usually understand they need a foundation under their building, but they still expect tight margins. Typical margins for construction companies range between 2 and 8 percent and continue to shrink as owner expectations increase. By implementing cloud-based document management systems that improve workforce efficiency, better coordinate materials and prefabrication deliveries, tag issues before they become problems, enable faster and better collaboration, reduce administrative burden, and improve outcomes all saves time and money. Cloud-based construction document management also gives owners visibility that can make it easy for them to understand the project and justify the budget.

Construction firms are starting to come around on construction technology and more and more companies are researching and implementing technology that are bringing about increased productivity and better collaboration while completing projects on time and under budget, which results in higher profit margins. Construction companies that aren’t investing in new construction technology and solutions can’t stay as competitive as those that are strategically adopting and implementing tech solutions.

What construction technology solutions has your company invested in and how have you seen a difference on the jobsite?

Manage and Secure the Best Construction Bids on Your Next Project

Construction bids vary from contractor to contractor and when your next big project is ready to send to bid, you will certainly get plenty of bids that will be all over the place. Getting the best bids doesn’t always mean the lowest bids. The bid process is more than just the bottom-line dollar amount for the job. You need to look at the bids closely, from finding missing information to possibly reworking line items for easier leveling to untangling miscommunications that are going to pop up. The goal is to manage and get the best construction bids each and every time, and oftentimes that starts and stops with you.

How to Manage and Secure the Best Construction Bids for Your Next Project

All of you who are reading this already know that construction bids are more than just a single cost, and that those costs, both the dollars and cents as well as scope and deadlines, need to be managed. The best way to do that is to be proactive in eliminating confusion, misunderstanding, and inconsistency from the get-go.

  1. The RFP (Request for Proposal) needs to be clearly outlined with exactly what you need priced for the job, how and when you need it delivered by, how you want the bids formatted and submitted, and when the construction bids are due.
  2. Include a list of names, email addresses, and phone numbers of every person who is currently working on the project. This includes architects, engineers, project managers, and the core team. This is your ‘helpdesk’ or ‘chatbot’ that can answer any and all questions those that are bidding may have. Giving them access to the key players will eliminate confusion and missing items from the bids.
  3. We all know that construction projects are a current work in progress with document changes all the time. Make sure your construction bids are coming from the most recent RFP. If your company is working with construction management software, it will be easy to access the most recent RFP because it will be stored in a construction cloud solution. Be sure the most recent RFP is named, time stamped, dated, and has a version number so everyone can easily follow along and find the most current document. It might even be wise to assign a project manager who is responsible for sending out the most RFP’s to the bidders, so they are always up to date on what information they are pricing out.
  4. Creating a bid form requires a delicate balance. You don’t want to give the subs too much information, which leads to confusion, or too little information, which leads to bids that won’t qualify. Create separate RFP’s for each project in bite sized pieces.
  5. Minutia is the name of the game when it comes to construction bids. Be sure to you CSI codes, which will help you get more consistent bids on each line item from each vendor.
  6. Communication is key in the bidding process. It would be great if the bids came in and you could just choose but look for those subs that ask thoughtful questions because they are more likely to submit more accurate bids.
  7. We talked about having your RFP’s in one place and organized. Similar to that, have a centralized communication center. Because you might have an employee leave, get sick, or any other mishaps, it’s far better to to have the project communications in one central location so you don’t run the risk of data loss, and everyone is always on the same page.
  8. Software matters, and it’s important that you are using software that is made for the construction industry. For instance, our software offers a bidding process, as well as a project management tool. Put these two together and you have a powerhouse solution that will avoid costly mistakes by awarding the jobs to the wrong contractors.
  9. Before you make a decision, be sure to have all your supporting information. This can include background checks, prequalification forms, license details and work histories, and be sure that your vendors that are bidding are eligible to work with you on your project, and that they meet all the rules and regulations of your government and state.
  10. History matters when it comes to construction bids. Looking at references from past jobs they have worked on to looking back over past bids from each vendor will give you a history that will tell you if this will be a successful vendor for your project.

The bottom line is that the construction bids are important to the success of your project. Bids that aren’t complete or detailed can lead to longer build time and costly mistakes.

Construction Document Management Will Save Time and Money

Construction document management on a project is not a trivial thing. In fact, contracts, drawings and specs, and compliance documentation play a fundamental role in construction. On average, a large project might have upwards of hundreds and possibly thousands of project documents. That doesn’t even take into account the number of revisions to drawings. In the good old days, plans were stored in a giant stack in the job trailer, and before you got to work, you would need to sort through the stack, which was time consuming and often frustrating, and important changes were often missed. That is not the best way to implement effective construction document management.

Construction document management can be a real challenge; from training your team to learn the latest digital technologies, communications, and the actual sharing of construction project documents with the subcontractors, contractors, and consultants.  The mistakes can be costly for capital project owners and construction project managers. If you implement proper construction document management from the outset, it can save time and money.

Why Improper Construction Document Management Wastes Time and Money

The cost of printing and mailing paper documents to external project team members can add up quickly. Plans from the corporate office can change daily and these need to be shared. They will need to be mailed or couriered to the job site, and the project manager will find themselves in a state of constant organizing documents and attaching changes to the right plans instead of overseeing the job site.

Now, let’s say that you have a work flow in place that manages sorting all these documents in the job trailer, resorting to a naming convention to track iterations can be confusing and lead to errors, and operating without a historical record of changes can be just as big of a problem. The accessibility and distributing of up-to-date construction documents and plans are imperative to the success of any project throughout all phases, from bidding through construction, and even during occupation.

More importantly, working off the wrong plan’s costs time and money. In fact, I bet you can’t find a single contractor who has never had to fix a costly mistake because someone on the job site was working off the wrong set of plans. If contractors, subcontractors and consultants can’t locate the most up-to-date information as decisions are being made, the project can suffer from unnecessary change orders and delays, both of which negatively impact the budget.

On every job site there are issues. Whether it’s an unexpected obstacle to construction, a discrepancy between the plan and reality or a conflict between one aspect of the design and another, issues are a part of the package. In the old days, issues had to be written up manually, delivered to the job trailer, then delivered to the designers and the owner, who were responsible for making decisions, then communicating the solution back to the contractor, to communicate it back to the field.  At any point in this process, a missed communication can lead to problems, delays, and cost money.

Nothing will cost a construction company more in time and money than miscommunication. Communication ensures that the project is done on time, on budget, and to the required standards. With contracts, plans, regulations, permits, building codes, and other documentation subject to change at a moment’s notice, it is vital that everyone involved has access to the latest, most accurate information at all times. A construction job is only going to be as successful as the plan behind it. If the people on the ground don’t have the right plans, contracts, or other documents then the work doesn’t get done right, which leads to expensive delays and may even open the door to contract violations or other legal difficulties. When everybody is working from the same blueprint, that’s when things get done right—and the first time.

Proper Construction Document Management

What’s the answer? Using proper construction document management software, and there are lots of different software solutions on the market, but they all require an outlay of financial resources to use. Of course, when you measure the initial cost to the very costly mistakes of missed communications and working off outdated documents, the cost effectiveness is well worth the investment.

When choosing construction document management software, there are several factors to consider. Training, ease of use, whether it is cloud based, and does it offer everything you need. Some companies use more than one platform to meet all their needs.  Collaboration software for the construction industry enables construction companies to improve project organization and streamline communications across every aspect of a job.

StratusVue offers the perfect solution for construction document management. PlansandSpecs improves project management by facilitating collaboration, providing better organization and streamlining workflows for the documents and files that are crucial to project success. We help you keep your communications flowing, your documents organized and up to date, and help your projects run faster.

How to Use a Construction Cloud Solution on a Job Site

The construction cloud solution is the foundation of the construction industry’s digital revolution. Some of the most powerful software solutions rely on the cloud, which enables the industry to take advantage of the latest tech. A 2017 survey performed by Associated General Contractors of America showed that 85% of contractors had already implemented or were planning on implementing construction cloud solutions. I can accurately guess that number has risen since then. Why? The main reason is improved communication and greater efficiency on the job site. And, then there is also the fact that many construction companies are confronting aging hardware and must decide between investing heavily in upgrades or taking the often less costly route of transitioning to cloud-hosted systems.

The Advantages of the Cloud to a Construction Job Site

We’ve already mentioned improved communication and greater efficiency, but how does a construction cloud solution provide that?

A construction cloud solution allows for the sharing of drawings and documents. This is vitally important to a job site because outdated documents cause costly mistakes. If the architect makes changes to a document or drawing, that information is sent to the cloud and then everyone who is on that server has access to all the changes, providing everyone with the same construction documents, reducing risk and exposure.

Being able to share these documents from anywhere in the world leads to greater efficiency. There is now no wait time for the correct plans to be seen, which leads to less down time and no hand to hand delivery to account for. Being able to access real-time data from any location by using any number of devices not only promotes greater efficiency in the field, it also allows for tighter integrations with other software your contractors might be using.

When a job site is connected to the corporate office and all other shareholders in a multimillion-dollar construction project, everyone will always be on the same page as to the progress taking place.  A construction cloud solution can connect the job site so anyone, anywhere in the world can see the progress in real time.  This means the project managers can track job site activity while also sending work-in-progress information and other reporting details directly into their on-site systems, where it’s automatically distributed to the relevant departments.

The file sizes on a construction project can easily be over 10 GB, and if you are capturing images from the air and storing them, the storage you need increases exponentially. With a construction cloud solution, you can have as much or as little storage space as you need, but you will never run out of space for all your important documents.

On the analytics side, the cloud makes it easier and cheaper for contractors to take the vast stores of data company-wide and convert it into actionable insights using tools like KPIs and dashboards, which are becoming more accessible from mobile devices, ensuring that data is always readily available to everyone who needs it, whether in the office or the field. Add to that the advantage of Edge Computing, which creates a locally based mini-cloud that can analyze data in real time directly from the source, rather than processing it in the cloud itself or using far-away data centers. This frees up bandwidth, speeds up applications, removes risks, keeps everyone on the same page, and cuts down on the time needed for data processing and analytics.

When you are working on a job site, it’s important that everyone involved, from the Project Manager to the Subcontractors all feel like they are stakeholders in the project. Cloud projects create a sense of a team among everyone involved.  A construction cloud solution enables everyone to go to the same place for all the project documents and reports, which naturally brings about collaboration and a team environment.

What About the Downside of A Construction Cloud Solution?

With everything, there is an upside and a downside, and with the cloud this is no different. For instance, cloud solutions still cost money. But, in the long run they will still save you money, not only in your IT department, but with the lack of equipment you will have to invest in. Also, with the cloud, there is the possibility of sharing IT costs between your contractors and subcontractors, making sure everyone is always on the same page and using the software you prefer to run your projects while saving you money.

We know that data, such as financials, might cause concern for many construction companies when it comes to the cloud, after all, it is like relinquishing control to the great unknown in the sky. But, with the option of a private cloud or even a hybrid cloud solution, which encompasses both public and private clouds, this might be the answer to your worries over security.

What happens if the server goes down? Even the best construction cloud solutions run the risk of going down from time to time. Another important thing to remember is that routine maintenance will have to take place, as well as upgrades to the server.  The good news is outages are rare, temporary, and fixed rather quickly. Also, upgrades and maintenance take place when most job sites aren’t running at maximum capacity, in the middle of the night.

The biggest issue would be lack of an internet connection, because you need to be able to access the documents on the cloud. But, with WiFi available on mobile devices that now offer unlimited data plans, the issue of no internet access can easily be avoided. Also, most software allows the user to download the documents needed to work from, and then they can be uploaded back to the cloud as soon as internet or WiFi is within range.

A construction cloud solution is not just taking your old paper workflow and imaging or duplication of your paper forms and sharing them with the entire team.  It is also not just a remote solution managed by other technology, but a way to truly leverage what just a couple of people working on a project used to know and make that information accessible and transparent to everyone on a project, including the owners.

Have you moved to a construction cloud solution for your job sites?

9 Things Every Construction Company Looks for When Choosing Project Management Software

There is nothing more exciting than when a shiny new platform or project management software is launched into the marketplace. You quickly hit that website and find out that it has every service you could ever need or want. You know that if you purchase it for your company, it will solve every single operational issue—including world peace—your company has ever experienced. As you read about all the great and wonderful things it can do, you buy it for your construction company, and before you can even get your employees on board, it is one big massive fail.

Why is it that project management software might work great in one industry, but not for the construction industry? The simple answer is that not all industries are created equal. So, what might work great for one industry, will not necessarily be the best solution for every other industry. In fact, if you have tried different project management platforms for your construction company, it’s important to know that the reasons they aren’t working has nothing to do with the software itself. It just can’t meet the objectives of every industry, or in our case, the construction industry.

How to Choose the Best Project Management Software

There are some tricks to choosing the best project management software for the construction industry. The most obvious is, of course, software companies whose specialty is the construction industry. Let’s take a look at StratusVue and our suite of software products. A SaaS financial firm or a large consulting company wouldn’t find success using our software, but any size construction company would.

If you are looking around at some of the project management software available, there are lots to choose from, and many of them perform similar functions, so how do you choose?

    1. Set out clearly defined goals and objectives. You don’t want to buy what you can’t use and having a bunch of fancy functions you have to pay for, but will never touch, doesn’t do you any good. Also, if you are resolving complex workflows of a multi-location team, how does this software help you achieve that? It’s important to look at the end goal of what you want to achieve and then go for the win with your project management software.
    2. Ask your team for their input. Your team will be the ones using the software. For instance, if you are replacing paper to go paperless, have you discussed this with your teams who have only relied on paper? Their comfort level is key to the success of your new project management software.
    3. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. We all want to sell every feature our platforms do, as well as wanting our platforms to do everything, but sometimes the best course of action is only to use what you need, and then slowly incorporate the other integrations that will improve your operations. This way your team won’t get overwhelmed and you are more likely to get the most out of your purchase.
    4. What is the on-boarding process like? No matter how easy the platform promises the user; they never are. Be sure you’re getting the customer support you need from the very beginning. We have a dedicated customer support specialist for each customer because we want to be sure you understand and are comfortable using what you are spending your hard-earned dollars on.
    5. Updates and new features. What is more annoying waking up to new features you didn’t know were going to be there, and you don’t know how to use. When you are buying project management software, take a look to see how often the updates are coming out and don’t be afraid to ask how you are informed and trained on these updates.
    6. Schedule time with your team to learn the software. Make sure that as your team is on-boarded they have had enough time to use and understand the software. Schedule a webinar with them or a lunch and learn. This will ensure greater success with the software.
    7. Make sure the software matches every end user. The rule of thumb that we use when we design or update our platform is this: It must challenge the 27-year-old, useable enough for the 37-year-old, manageable enough for the 47-year-old and not scary to the 57-year-old.
    8. Familiarity breeds usability. Our industry is old school. We’re resistant to change. So, if you want to implement new software for your team, then check out the forms and see if they look similar to what they are used to. If they see that just because something has changed, there is still some familiarity than the team will have a greater success with the software.
    9. Keep in mind, we are focusing on the Operations. Most of the technology that supports our industry is focused on the accounting side of the business, which is excellent, but where we really need the help is with the operations side. It’s not unusual that each project will have different contractors working them. This makes consistency elusive. The project management software you choose should support the entire team while not weakening the company.

These are just some of the actionable plans you can take to make sure your project management software isn’t failing the construction industry. Although our industry acts as if we are the first industry to go through software changes, we aren’t. In today’s world, we are all moving at the speed of light, but a brief moment of planning and strategy will ensure your next software purchase will be successful. If you are interested to learn more about our suite of products, contact us and we would love to tell you all about them.

All Internet Browsers Are Not Created Equal, And Here’s Why

When it comes to internet browsers, it seems everyone has a favorite. Not only that, depending on the cell phone you use, the computer brand you are on, and personal preferences, will also influence which is your favorite. For instance, if you are a Google user, you would prefer Chrome, Mozilla users are fond of Firefox, Microsoft end users prefer Edge and Internet Explorer, and Apple aficionados want to stick with Safari.  Here’s the thing, they are all similar in that you can browse the internet, but where they are all different is when it comes to running your platforms and business applications. Each has the good, the bad, the ugly, and the why won’t this work on that browser. Today I am going to go over each one in a close to unbiased way as possible.

What is a Browser?

To start at the very beginning, a browser is the Graphical User Interface, or GUI (pronounced GOOEY), that interprets HTML, which is the markup language used on all these websites. After it interprets the HTML, the browser creates a presentation of code for the end user (you), which is also referred to as rendering a web page.

HTML has been evolving over the last decade, and there are many different ways to code an application, but the actual presentation layer, or what we see on our screen when we land on a page on the internet is based on HTML. But, it’s not HTML alone that places those graphics just where we want them, we also throw in some style sheets with CSS, so our pages look pretty and pleasing to the eye and then we sprinkle that with HTML5 so the page is flexible and will have the same look and feel on every device, whether you are on mobile, a tablet, a desktop, or a laptop.

All Internet Browsers Are Not Created Equal

Source: StatCounter Global Stats – Browser Market Share

It’s a fact that all internet browsers are not created equal. The way that I look at it is from a generational and market share viewpoint. Now, bear with me as I go through this and explain.

Google Chrome – Google Chrome is the most used and probably has been the most user-friendly internet browser for most business applications and platforms. I don’t know about you, but I have found that many of the marketing platforms I use, like GoToMeeting or Zoom, only run well on Chrome. Not only that, Chrome owns the largest browser market share and most of those users are under 40.

Chrome come onto the market as an alternative to Internet Explorer. Chrome delivered what IE couldn’t. Speed. This appealed to the Gen X users as it not only renders the pages quicker, it is better for gaming and media presentations. Today, this still might be true, but Firefox is a close second to the speed game.

Firefox – Although there is a wide gap between the percentage of market share that Chrome owns and what Firefox owns, Firefox is the second most used and preferred internet browser. StratusVue has tested all the browsers, and we have found that Firefox does a nice job on the speed front and when you are using our business applications they don’t error out and work as expected.

What I like about Firefox is that it has the flexibility to cater to both Microsoft and Google and it is the only browser that is engineered to utilize multi-core processors. Neither Chrome nor IE do that yet, and I think this plays heavily into which internet browser will continue to outperform when it comes to speed and agility.

Internet Explorer – Internet Explorer, or IE, is Microsoft’s embedded browser. Although I consider it to be more function rich, it is a slower user experience, especially on robust sites when you want the page to load quickly. What I have found is that with the larger database applications, IE has a better success rate than the other internet browsers. The reason is because most business applications are written in .Net or Oracle.

IE is third in the internet browser market share, and I feel that is because there are more configuration capabilities because it is a Microsoft product. I believe that IE will gain more market share because it demands less of your RAM and CPU than equivalent pages would on Chrome or Firefox even though it doesn’t handle add-ons and extensions nearly as well.

Edge – Edge has the least amount of market share, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t on their way to gaining more. I feel they are going to be the next Internet Explorer. Today it doesn’t support enough extensions and it isn’t fully customizable, but it is very quick in rendering speed and it is fully integrated with Cortana AI within Windows.  Although Edge is an up and comer, when it comes to business platforms I don’t recommend Edge for any of our products, which don’t render well on this internet browser.

The Future of Internet Browsers

If I were a betting man, I would predict that Chrome and Edge will battle it out for the top spot with Firefox staying neutral and steady as a safe bet for your business platforms and personal browsing needs. For our applications, we prefer Firefox, but they run well on Chrome and IE. We pride ourselves on being able to satisfy whichever browser you choose to use, because we do know that it’s a personal preference.

We also suggest that if you have heavy internal applications that run through a browser to consider Firefox because it is neck and neck milliseconds to Google Chrome for rendering times, but it is more consistent when serving up database applications. Bottom line? Keep an eye on all of the internet browsers, as they are all changing very quickly right now and are constantly being updated. As they are being softened to look more professional and include more and more web app support and integrations, it is likely that your favorite and mine might just change. Tell me what your favorite internet browser is and why in the comments.