When to start using new technology on a job site
By David WardJuly 26, 2022
The construction tech landscape is growing, but also getting harder to navigate. There are now products for almost every aspect of a project, from bidding and estimating, design and BIM, to managing workers, safety, tasks, equipment, and materials. And that’s before adding new categories such as sensors, drones and augmented reality.
Digital transformation is happening and the benefits are many – improved productivity, cost savings and digital documentation to support compliance are just a few. But when is the right time to introduce a new technology, especially on a job site?
For some contractors, there’s an unwarranted belief that you shouldn’t start using a new technology mid-way through a project, the concern being the technology might interrupt existing processes, potentially leading to project delays. Yet every minute technology sits idle is a waste of money that can result in lost productivity, which impacts the quality and timeliness of finishing the project.
An example – consider the many manual processes on job sites that are still done using paper and pencil. There’s the worker sign-in at the start of the day, the attendance sheet at safety talks, and the project manager’s daily log. Let’s assume every day on the job is perfect weather, all signatures are legible, handwritten time stamps follow the honor system, and every detail of the day is accurately recalled on the daily log.
Then, all of those forms eventually make their way back to the office and are input into different systems for payroll, project management, HR and compliance. When you break down daily activities in this way, you quickly see how much time is squandered using outdated processes.
The right time to introduce new technology
Once a new product is selected, contractors need to determine the right time to start using it in the field. Three critical factors to consider are:
- What the technology does
- How the technology impacts workers
- How the technology impacts the project
For example, a simple digital tool to reduce paperwork and admin can be rolled out at any time. While an enterprise project management tool might require
additional planning and training, prompting an incremental rollout over several months until the team is confident they can go live with an active project.
Two best practices are to run a test project with a small group and choose an area that represents as much of your business as possible. A small project with little impact across the company won’t deliver much.
How to inspire your team to use new technology
Getting workers to abandon old processes and replace them with new technology isn’t always simple. It depends on their experience with tech, company culture and willingness to adopt new habits.
On a positive note, a recent survey by the National Association of Women in Technology (NAWIC) found that when it comes to the impact of new technologies designed for the construction industry, 95% report being more productive. Yet in terms of learning new technology at work, 70% of survey respondents are excited, 24% are indifferent and 6% are frustrated.
Investing time upfront to ensure everybody is comfortable using the new technology is the fastest way to make it part of the job site protocol. To do this:
- Start at the top of the company and have leaders validate the importance. This will decrease the lag time in getting started and signal to employees that it will be required without it feeling like a mandate.
- Communicate regularly and forcefully without underplaying the challenges.
- Invest time in training project managers and superintendents so they can quickly master the technology. The easiest technology has features and functions that are often overlooked, but when you have a resident expert onsite to troubleshoot, it quickly gets workers used to using the new technology.
- Ask for feedback after using the technology regularly for at least two weeks. This way, workers will have ironed out any potential issues, will be able to see the benefits and be more objective in their assessment.
Connect digital tools and data for higher ROI
As more technology makes its way into the contractor’s office and job site, it’s important that every digital tool be connected. This way, stakeholders (CEO, project managers, safety officers, CFO, HR) can quickly get the information they need to make decisions without having it siloed in an app or enterprise software solution.
And while many contractors rely on project management platforms such as Procore, CMiC and Autodesk, they don’t always integrate their digital apps, especially those used in the field. This is a missed opportunity for a higher ROI on technology and can delay the company’s digital transformation.
While digital transformation is an iteractive process, it has to start somewhere. The best way to get the process underway is to start small with easy-to-use apps that will deliver quick wins. From there, connect digital information across the company, especially if the contractor has invested in a project management platform. In terms of when to start, there’s no time like the present.
David Brian Ward is the CEO and founder of Safe Site Check In, a paperless screening tool that keeps construction management informed in real time about job site activities. He has more than 30 years of experience as a technology entrepreneur and investor, working with organizations ranging in size from Fortune 500 companies to startups in their infancy stages.