Using Construction Administration Software with Field Tools to Maximize Productivity
Typically, these organizations have the greatest efficiency gains when they pair their construction administration software with an integrated tool for mobile field capture. According to the latest issue of The Civil Quarterly, ruggedized tablet use is a leading category in industry tech adoption, with 46% usage amongst surveyed contractors in 2022.
The ability to access project files and record data directly from the field helps reduce travel expenses, add time savings, and improve the overall accuracy of project data. In this article, we’ll review a few examples of local agencies and engineering consultants that leveraged a mix of construction administration software and mobile field tools to maximize productivity.
Reducing travel expenses
Organizations that aren’t employing tools for digital project delivery often have a particular routine for their inspectors. Without access to real-time data, inspectors will travel from job site to job site, recording their daily diaries in static spreadsheets or worse, fieldbooks. At certain intervals ranging from once a week to once a month, inspectors will return to the home office to record project data.
On the project management side of things, construction PMs deal with their own travel headaches, often having to travel out to the job site to check progress when they don’t have access to the latest data.
C&S Companies, a national engineering consulting firm, dealt with significant travel expenses on their highway bridge projects due to the large quantity of projects they were handling.
“A lot of our highway/bridge projects were one-person shows. And if you have 20 of those projects, how do you make sure things were done correctly?” said Greg Fehrman, Principal Engineer at C&S Companies. In part motivated by a desire to reduce travel expenses, Fehrman and his team introduced a cloud-based construction administration solution, paired with mobile inspection software.
Since the software tools send data in real-time from the field to the field office, the inspectors at C+S Companies do not need to physically enter the field office to enter reports, nor do project managers need to travel to the job site to check reports. The estimated savings are vast.
“If we use an example of one person traveling to 20 projects to check reports, we’re probably saving close to $100,000 a month in travel expenses,” said Fehrman.
Adding time savings
The old saying, “time is money,” exists for a reason, as the two usually go hand in hand. This dynamic is especially true on construction projects. More time in the day often translates to more tasks that can be accomplished by a construction project management team. So, organizations cutting down on travel with real-time data sharing aren’t just reducing costs - they’re adding the world’s most valuable resource, time in the day.
Smith Seckman Reid, Inc. used a similar combination of construction administration software and mobile field tools to eliminate their use of field books and spreadsheets. The engineering firm recently used this combination on a new road construction project that involved a mix of federal and local funding.
SSR’s inspectors were able to use the technology at their disposal to capture daily report information directly in the field and tie specific items back to funding sources. The process added significant time savings for the inspection team.
“The iPad allowed the field staff to enter daily work reports in the field which saved valuable time that it would have taken them to come into the office to enter their reports,” said Nick Taylor, Project Manager for the firm.
Douglas Cade, the County Engineer for Hancock County, Ohio, reported similar time savings. He spoke about how, over the course of his 20+ year career, there were times when he wouldn’t see his inspectors for a week because they were so busy capturing data from multiple projects. Now, Hancock doesn’t have to worry about seeing his inspectors, because he can access that data as it’s being captured at the job site.
“Instead of inspectors having to handwrite on a piece of paper, come back to the office, type it up, print it, and then hand it to me at the end of the week, we use [our software] for real-time access that is a huge time-saver,” said Cade.
Improving data accuracy
In some ways, a construction job site is like a minefield of things that can go wrong, exacerbated by constant sources of distraction like the weather or public traffic coordination. Even the most diligent inspectors can make errors when making handwritten calculations in a fieldbook. Other factors can interfere with the accuracy of the data - the rain may smudge an inspector’s handwriting, or the handwriting may be hard to decipher to begin with. Capturing the data digitally, in real-time, with automatic calculations built into the software, is a surefire way to prevent errors from finding their way into the final report.
Having accurate data can go a long way in expediting audit processes or resolving contractor disputes. When construction project management teams use mobile field tools for daily reporting, they’re able to capture the data with consistency - one aspect that helps organizational data hold up to the highest scrutiny. Greg Fehrman of C&S Companies hasn’t undergone any audits since he started using cloud-based construction administration software and mobile field tools on his projects, but he’s not worried about them if they arise.
“We have the structure to get the same results, so if we ever get to the point of an audit, the consistency is there. I don’t know of anything else out there that is as consistent for a site/civil application than [the software we’re using],” he said.
Is your organization looking for ways to empower your field personnel with mobile reporting tech?
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