Construction leaders know efficiency is the name of the game in today’s competitive landscape. Now more than ever, with state-of-the-art equipment and modern technology like live field data platforms, contractors have access to a myriad of tools to streamline their business processes.
But what happens if the very tools that are supposed to help you are left to collect dust? It’s easy to notice if a forklift isn't being used, but it can be harder to recognize the untapped value of your more nuanced data. If live field data isn’t being used to your benefit, leaving it untouched is costing you in unrealized ways.
Take the time to reflect on whether your technology solutions are being utilized to their full potential. If not, it’s time to take action — before you end up being last in line. You can start by asking the following four questions.
Am I looking at the right data? Data is all around your job sites. Data tracking solutions allow you to monitor when employees arrive at work, how long projects take to complete, how often certain equipment is used, and whether a team is adhering to the budget. Over time, as data is submitted by workers and construction managers, long-term trends and patterns will begin to emerge. This can help you identify issues before they arise, such as labor shortages and equipment mismanagement. It can help with strategic decision-making when it comes to things like job costing, project bidding and risk mitigation.
If you’re looking at all of this collected data as a whole, it could feel like a tsunami of dates and numbers that still need to be aggregated and compiled. Shift your thinking from “What can I do with all this information?” to “How can I make this data work for me?” What do you need from the data? Do you need to manage equipment usage to prevent breakdowns? Do you need to see where and when a project went over budget? Do you compare project losses from one site to the next? By identifying what you need from the data, you’ll feel more confident about what data needs to be analyzed to best serve your organization.
Am I using this technology to its fullest potential? The opportunities you’ll unlock by drawing on the power of data are incredible. But they hinge on whether your data is being reliably collected. Before computers, data was collected through paper or spreadsheets. The information was often riddled with human errors, and by the time it arrived in the accounting office, it was too much of a hassle to use further. With today's innovative data-collection tools, easy-to-use and accurate live field data opens up far more possibilities as you track numerous facets of each project.
Now, it’s as simple as having your team download an app on their smartphones to clock in and out, log equipment time, report on completed work, add additional tasks, or report injuries. An integrated mobile workforce platform with live field data streamlines workflows by prompting employees to fill in the required field data. When doing this, they’re only presented with options relevant to that project and their job duties. This convenient process ensures app adoption and improves the quality and quantity of the field data collected.
Data is all about precision. In addition to helping make sense of the data you have, the right solution will alert you when something is off, such as when an employee clocks in or out outside of a geofence, or their clock-in photo falls below the biometric match percentage threshold. This will help the management team know what to check on or when to step in to address the concerns.
How can I better prioritize how I use my tech? Rome wasn’t built in a day, and any technology stack worth its salt can’t be purchased and implemented in one go or on demand. Data collection, in particular, is a process that becomes more valuable over time, which is why you should start by building a strong data foundation now. Begin by collecting labor hours, production, and equipment usage. From there, add mobile forms that prompt employees to fill out a safety checklist at clock-in or have a system-generated toolbox talk shared with them. Soon supervisors can provide more in-depth log reports by showing photo or video documentation of daily progress, or details on specific issues they may have encountered on the project. Because risk management is critical to your business, you can alert all of your project supervisors of safety incidents as soon as they're reported, to minimize risk on their respective job sites.
Keep in mind that data collection is meant to go beyond the information you review. Certain data, such as labor hours, can be essential for other departments, including accounting and operations. They often use this information for work-in-progress reports, project forecasts and payroll. Integrating your field data collection system with your back-office systems is critical.
Of course, with so many products on the market, you run the risk of using multiple systems that don’t align. Using different systems across departments, or working with incompatible inputs and outputs between each program, prevents data from flowing seamlessly throughout your company, and quickly creates a mess of uncoordinated information. Having a platform with integration capabilities ensures that data moves smoothly and without human error, as information is synced and transferred. With this added compatibility, an accountant and a project manager can access live field data simultaneously, so you can rest assured that everyone is operating with the same up-to-date information.
What is this data telling me? Collecting data means nothing if you aren’t measuring it and using your lessons to make better decisions. As details in the data emerge, they may reveal new insights into labor productivity, equipment utilization, training efficiency, safety-protocol adherence and much more. The data is there to be collected and used — it just takes a curious and proactive approach to effectively analyze it.
Before looking at the data, contractors should start by asking questions. Which areas of the business need improvement? Have there been any obstacles their crews need to overcome? Have budgets been off-track? From there, they can check whether the data that will help answer these questions is being collected. If it is, they can sort that information by time, date, job sites, job tasks and so on to get the information they need. If they’re missing needed data, they can introduce additional field collection processes through software settings or configuration adjustments. Remember, all data can be valuable, but it might not be equal. By asking the right questions, your data will give you more answers.
Productivity is the focus of the entire construction industry today, which is why your technology needs to be harnessed to its full potential. Live field data gives you 360-degree visibility into your company. And by making the most of the data you have, you’ll be able to increase labor productivity, mitigate risks and protect your bottom line. Start by taking the time to understand where things currently stand, then take steps to ensure that live data collection is your most-leveraged tool.
Mike Merrill is co-founder and chief evangelist of WorkMax.