By Peter Gibbons, regional technology manager at Finning Canada
There’s a reason the adoption of construction technology is gaining momentum.
Its potential to improve jobsite operations gives companies a significant competitive advantage by connecting worksites, monitoring equipment, managing equipment costs and increasing productivity — even addressing challenges like remote site management.
COVID-19 has impacted how we work. In the last year, technology has emerged as the real hero, mitigating the negative implications on the construction industry while reducing costs, keeping project schedules on track and increasing jobsite security and safety.
It has also shined a light on a big opportunity for construction companies to see technology as a way to transform business operations.
Adapting to a new world
When COVID hit, companies and dealers had to quickly change their business practices to keep workers and customers safe, while continuing to meet needs and expectations.
Almost overnight, construction industry best practices became insufficient. Many jobsites started closing down, site visits were cancelled and face-to-face interactions were put on hold. Instead of a handshake, equipment sales and contracts were sealed via text message or virtual meetings.
For those in the industry used to doing business in a more traditional way, this was a huge change, but necessity drives innovation and very quickly everyone started to adapt.
Technology provided the ability for many construction companies to reduce the number of staff on-site, allowing for social distancing and complying with health and safety regulations.
As more COVID protocols were implemented there was an increased need to maximize project productivity, doubling down on not just health and safety, but scheduling and resourcing.
Tools to stay connected
Construction technology is not new, but there is now an increased focus on even greater connectivity. Advancements are happening fast, and companies are demanding more technology, better telematics and even more data.
From products to people to asset management and virtual meetings, technology is allowing businesses to operate safely. In turn, this lowers costs associated with maintaining effective relationships with teams and customers.
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Remote monitoring is a big asset in supporting jobsites, by remotely providing quick, reliable and data-based technical troubleshooting. Digital status checks can give site managers insights into the right level of service through prioritization of critical repairs and the ability to review the assets’ overall health to determine which non-essential repairs can be delayed.
Adoption of cloud-based project management tools is giving operators immediate remote access to machines and the ability to identify issues quickly, saving money and keeping workers socially distanced. Almost every decision on a jobsite can now be made using a phone or tablet.
Virtual training tools, videos and YouTube are also helping new operators get up to speed quickly, reducing training time and on-site visits from equipment dealers. Other digital tools are helping to track and monitor equipment, check the status of ordered parts and, as a result, streamline the business process.
Collaboration is key
COVID has shown how the success of a project depends on effective collaboration at every level of the business, from operators on-site to those working remotely or in the office and even the dealer monitoring equipment performance. Technology has emerged as the solution to many issues — ensuring information, processes, software systems and equipment are all connected and working together to provide a real-time view of what is happening on the jobsite.
With changing restrictions and increasingly complex logistics, everyone is demanding more information.
Technology is not only providing real-time intel into the status of the job, but also allowing teams to manage finances, sign invoices and request easier ways of payment. For contractors who only get paid on progress, this type of technology is imperative to ensure project profitability.
When telematics is enabled, the back-office can pull data from the machines for bidding and billing purposes. The accuracy of this type of accounting can be even further enhanced through the use of drones and grade control technology, which can provide real-time intel into how much material needs to be moved and then track the progress and timing.
A positive outlook
Although the industry has weathered the storm to this point, there is still some uncertainty about the future. COVID has forced many construction companies to embrace technology, both in the short-term and as a part of a long-term strategy. Companies adopting the technology understand how data, analytics and project management tools can help them get the job done faster, eliminating time-consuming and outdated manual processes.
The silver lining of 2020 is that it has provided a better understanding of the value of technology and the systems and processes that create safer, more profitable and productive jobsites