January 11, 2017 | by Kyle Ruef

E-construction and mobile technology are transforming the way we do business in construction management, and we must embrace this change and recognize the importance of these emerging capabilities. 

Mobility is the number one technology trend that many private, local, regional, and state organizations will be focusing on in the coming years. Three key factors are driving the demand for mobile technology in the workplace: 

  • Executive demand
  • An increasingly mobile workforce
  • The growing need for real-time information

Benefits of E-Construction and Mobile Technology

The benefits of mobile and e-construction technology are already transforming the industry, resulting in fewer errors, more efficiency, and better project control. Field staff no longer need to rely on paper plan sheets, daily reports, specs, and other project documentation. Instead, field personnel use hand-held tablets that are synced with cloud-based technology to provide the most up-to-date project information. Once a revision is issued and uploaded to the project management software, the mobile application updates automatically. 

Real-time information from the field can also be collected easily with tablets and transmitted to other project participants—meaning faster responses to field issues and changes. Photos, video, work item quantities, daily reports, punch lists, and non-compliance notices can all be quickly and easily drafted, formatted, and transmitted to the team. 

Searching project information is easier with metadata (date, time, author, and geographic location), keywords, and descriptions. Staff and clients no longer need to wade through mountains of records to find the one report or photo with the information they want. 

A single project management platform helps all project participants provide quicker reviews and responses to project tasks. Through an online portal, team members view, upload, and respond to project information in real-time. Automated workflows notify and remind the team when tasks are due, and all project information can be summarized and tracked through real-time reports available through the online portal.

Digital recordkeeping has also decreased project closeout time. What once took boxes of paper documentation at project closeout can now be summarized easily on a single jump/thumb drive!

Tips for Introducing New Technology

Along with the many benefits of using e-construction and mobile technology come some challenges. The four biggest hurdles of introducing a new process in the workplace are technology selection, employee on-boarding, training, and institutionalization. 

  1. Selecting the right technology. When selecting the next software or hardware option, remember to consider both functionality and user-friendliness. What are your users’ specific needs? Systems that field personnel use should be intuitive and require limited training. Request a trial period before selecting a system for field use. During this trial, encourage your team to experiment and give feedback before jumping in with both feet.  
  2. Encouraging employee buy-in. Employees need to understand why new technology is important to get on board and use their new tools properly. Successful implementation starts with selecting trained leaders or technology “champions” who will help coach others on how to use the technology. Recognizing that not everyone is tech-savvy and that change is hard, these champions can persuade your team with a compelling vision for what the technology will do for your organization. 
  3. Training options. Employee interest and skill in mobile technology varies widely, and your training should accommodate this reality. Some employees may prefer online training, while others may need more hands-on training or coaching. It is important to respect the new user learning requirements and lead by example. Show that you are investing just as much, if not more, time learning the system as you are requesting of them. The champion or trainer should start by demonstrating what the new system will offer to both the organization and the individual. It is important to help the employee understand what’s in it for them. 
  4. Establishing the new norm. One of the final hurdles to successful implementation is to institutionalize the new technology. The new technology must become the new routine way of doing business. Requiring all deliverables to be processed through the new system is a must. It is also important to not lose sight of goals and achievements. Quick wins and progress updates on the technology’s positive impact to the organization and individuals should be promoted to further build the case for change. Making implementation fun and rewarding may also speed up the adoption process. Consider a prize or contest to reward the fastest adopters.       

The construction management field faces constant challenges and changes, highly fragmented teams, a demand for real-time information, and streamlined processes. E-construction and mobile technology are leading the industry in delivering the biggest and quickest returns to clients.

Kyle Ruef, PE, is a construction manager for EBA Engineering, Inc. If you are interested in learning more about EBA’s e-construction and mobile technology, contact Kyle at 410.504.6115 or kyle.ruef@ebaengineering.com. 

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