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The success of a project depends on the effective allocation of limited resources, especially time. Because of the scope of many construction projects, construction businesses need to juggle the schedules of suppliers, subcontractors, and employees to ensure that a project proceeds without any significant delay. Time is money and the longer a project runs beyond schedule, the higher the cost of materials and labor will climb.
Construction businesses need to be proactive in finding opportunities to save time on construction sites. Unfortunately, this tends to be easier said than done. According to research from McKinsey, over 98% of construction projects face cost overruns and delays. Because of the industry’s poor record in completion of projects on time and within budget, construction works usually suffer a slippage of 20 months behind schedule and expends 80% more of the project’s original value.
The consequences of these delays are apparent in the contractors’ bottom line. By extending beyond the original schedule allotted for their projects, they incur additional material and labor expenses as well as the opportunity cost of their inability to attend to other projects.
Why are some projects not completed on time?
There are several reasons why almost all construction projects extend beyond the time allotted for them. For one, a lot of construction processes take time compared to other industries. From site inspections to ensure the safety of workers to the actual construction, a project involves plenty of moving parts that are subject to multiple external and internal factors that may cause delays.
Another reason is the sheer scope of a single construction project. One construction project can have multiple stakeholders and participants, which makes coordination and collaboration difficult without the proper tools and practices. It can be quite common to see project participants struggle with project management issues such as lack of proper communication, inadequate risk analysis, and poor organization, which inevitably lead to project delays. External factors such as changes in building regulations as well as environmental issues also affect productivity on the construction site.
How can technology save time on construction sites?
Looking for opportunities to reduce and even eliminate project delays is one of the primary goals of construction project management. Luckily, there are several tech solutions that can help project managers and business owners fulfill this goal. Here are some of the ways technology saves time on construction sites.
1. Track employee hours accurately using digital time tracking
Punch cards and paper timesheets have always been the traditional methods employed by many construction firms to track employee hours. However, the shortcomings of such methods are apparent in the wake of other industries employing digital time tracking technologies.
These traditional methods are actually prone to human errors and time-consuming for human resources personnel to collate, and do not stop employees from committing time theft. Even the paper used for these time tracking methods can pile up and incur additional costs for firms. In addition, manual time tracking is even more challenging for firms that handle multiple projects. It is difficult to ensure the accuracy of hours logged by employees if they are scattered across multiple construction sites.
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Using digital time tracking through cloud technology can easily address the issues that come from the use of punch cards and paper timesheets. Whether employees are working on the construction site, on location in a meeting with clients, or even working remotely from home, HR managers can easily collect employee hours accurately and in real-time. These time tracking applications can even be equipped with GPS technology and geofencing to further enhance time tracking.
2. Conduct site inspections using drone technology
One particularly important aspect of the pre-construction phase is the inspection of the construction site. Conducting site inspections before the actual construction takes place will ensure the safety of construction personnel. The primary aim of construction site inspections is to identify the safety hazards present on the site and address them before contractors bring in their heavy equipment and materials to start the work.
However, this means that human site inspectors will be subject to the same safety hazards that they aim to address. The lack of protective measures in place makes the site dangerous to navigate. Some structures can be in danger of collapsing while some places around the site are impossible to access.
The rise of drone technology is a godsend to the construction industry. What was once used for military applications can now be used to safely conduct construction site inspections. Unlike conventional, human-led site inspections, drone inspections can be easily done in just a short time. A small team can safely conduct the inspection off-site as they control drones that can navigate hard to reach areas. With additional technology such as 3D mapping software and heat sensors, inspectors can collect crucial data that can drastically hasten the modeling and planning phase.
3. Protect payments using receivables and lien management software
Late payments have long plagued the industry, with some even considering them to be the norm rather than the exception. Because of this, construction business owners need to be proactive in protecting payments before delays affect the bottom line. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. The nature of the construction industry itself makes it susceptible to payment delays and even nonpayment. It takes months or even years before a single construction project is finished. The long duration of projects can affect the billing process. If there are any payment delays, it will severely hamper a construction firm’s ability to fulfill financial obligations and fund growth.
One way to optimize the accounts receivable management process is to use dedicated receivables and lien management software. Using your accounting data, this software can identify possible delinquencies in client accounts. You can even automate the sending of project invoices and pre-lien notices in accordance with the requirements of the law.
The construction industry has been slow to adopt new technology. However, there’s no doubt that these new innovations will change the construction landscape. Stay ahead of the competition by incorporating these technologies into your operations.
About the Author:
Patrick Hogan is the CEO of Handle.com, where they build software that helps contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers with late payments. Handle.com also provides funding for construction businesses in the form of invoice factoring, material supply trade credit, and mechanics lien purchasing.