Mobile series part 1: The need for mobile in AEC

Mail Manager 04 Aug, 2021

Mobile technology has revolutionised pretty much every aspect of our lives. From social networking to taking photos to checking emails. In AEC, it’s no different. It’s drastically changed the way we communicate and manage information and time on-site. For example, how workers clock hours, or how a site manager pulls, or how a project manager checks things are on time and on budget. 

However, while the benefits of mobility and modern technologies are evident, they are yet to be realised across many firms in the industry. Some, even, are still using archaic paper processes, leaving vast information gaps across the business. In fact, construction is one of the least digitised industries, according to McKinsey. The result is a disconnect between site and office teams, particularly when it comes to information and data.  

Connectivity is a major challenge today with so much data being created. Poor connectivity creates inadequate information visibility, lower levels of productivity due to unnecessary rework, delays and more, and enhanced risk. Not ideal when 80% of construction projects go over budget and typically overrun by 20%. So, with the industry struggling with delays and spiralling costs at the best of times, adapting to the current economical crisis has made the flow of information more important than ever.  

Most firms do recognise that mobile technologies can boost business efficiencies and productivity, but few are ready to embrace it properly and fulfil its potential. Because of that, despite mobile devices being everywhere, there is still a lot of ‘waste’ from admin intensive activities, poor access to information and clunky processes. 

What does a connected industry look like?

A connected industry is one in which on-site information is captured in real-time and shared across multiple teams - sales, marketing, finance, HR, production, the project team, and so on. It’s one in which there is more informed decision-making, so costly mistakes and rework is stopped. It means faster and easier admin tasks to free up fee earner time. And, most importantly, it means being able to better deliver projects on time and on budget. 

Here’s what a connected industry looks like... 

Access and visibility to information in real-time: Mobile technologies enable workers to submit and file information to a central location, on the go. Instantly, the back office will be able to view that information immediately and know what has been agreed, by whom, and what has happened. The result is more informed project managers, with the ability to spot problems before they occur. Additionally, from a worker point of view, they can capture information quicker, rather than waiting to get to a desktop or laptop, saving valuable time and money. Greater information visibility, in real-time, also eliminates the divide between the boardroom and the field.  

Improved productivity: Firstly, workers can use mobile technologies to perform admin intensive tasks much quicker than before. Filing information, correspondence, RFIs and so on, in real-time, means they don’t need to leave the site to find information. Secondly, project teams will have better visibility of what is going on around them, so less time tracking down information and working off old documents and more time being able to see everything relevant. 

Better organisation: Have you ever had to frantically search for a document or email you needed yesterday? Mobile technology helps provide peace of mind as documents and correspondence are filed in an easily searchable location. That saves the hassle of having to re-do work, explain to clients or colleagues you can’t find the information, or wonder which is the most up-to-date version of the document or email you want. 

Greater accountability: Traditionally, the back office has very little insight into what is happening on-site. That can result in a lack of accountability. Capturing real-time data means time can be recorded a lot easier by workers so firms know their true labour costs, as well as the ability to see who agreed to what, who approved a piece of work, who filed particular information and so on. Using mobile technologies means it’s not just the end piece of work filed (such as drawings or contracts), but the context behind it as well (such as email correspondence).  

Accurate and reliable record-keeping: Having to do things manually, or back at the office, results in inaccuracies. If you want detail, activities should be completed as and when they happen, while they are fresh in someone’s mind. Additionally, if you aren’t capturing all information, then when litigation problems or delays arise you could have gaping holes presenting risk. Mobile technologies should result in better record-keeping on a project as data can be collected instantly and transmitted straight to all parties. 

Integration with systems: One of the biggest mobile technology benefits is integrations with other systems. Most mobile applications seamlessly sync with supply chain management, document management, finance and CRM software. That makes the syncing of data to the required systems really easy.

Eliminate pen and paper: Pen and paper processes are a thing of the past. Using mobile, information is instantly logged and filed, removing the need for archaic information compiling and recording, and vastly reducing the risk of miscommunication, errors, and documents being lost. Plus, it saves a massive amount of time and resources from not having to manually record data.  

Addressing the mobile challenge

Ask yourself: 

  • Currently, how connected is your construction firm? 
  • How do you manage information on-site at the moment? 
  • Are you using manual, paper-based processes?  
  • Does your current processes and systems integrate or are information siloes creating a lack of visibility across the business? 
  • Is your workforce already using mobile technology, such as smartphones or tables? 
  • Can your Directors see what is happening on a project at any given time? 

Knowing the answers to these questions is critical to the decision to invest in mobile. The potential for mobile technology is transformational. It presents a solution to costly delays, a remote workforce, rework and risk. And the shift presents a clear benefit to what paper processes or desktop solutions alone can offer. The more mobile technologies are adopted, the faster and more efficient work will be carried out. 

In part two of our mobile series, we’ll explore the disconnect between site teams in more detail. We’ll be covering how site teams have a lack of filing behaviour, how data is stored in most businesses, and how to better connect. 

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