Streamlining and Saving

Many industries are eyeing mobile apps for their potential to streamline processes and save costs, and the construction industry is no different. Mobile apps are especially appealing to the construction industry because of the sheer number of moving parts in a project – from materials to labor – and the high costs associated with delays. Mobile app uses in the construction industry can be grouped into the following categories: 

1)Project management – This includes tasks such as materials ordering, time tracking, document management, change orders, expense reporting and data collection in the field. Foremen can carry a small tablet that allows them to track the job throughout the day. In addition, apps can tap into the native functions of a smartphone or tablet. For example, a camera can be used to provide precise measurements, or to overlay a current photo of a work site with a rendering of the finished project. 

2)Equipment management – Construction is an equipment-heavy industry and mobile apps can help simplify and reduce the paperwork that’s required to track and manage expensive equipment and supplies. For example, vehicle inspection checks can be performed on a smartphone or tablet, and can include video or photos of the equipment. Mobile apps can track the maintenance needs for equipment, help pinpoint and troubleshoot malfunctions via a mobile dashboard, and provide an electronic operation manual. 

3)Safety compliance – Mobile apps can play an important role in documenting and reporting incidents, and in safety training. Safety incident reports can be captured via a mobile app, which can use the device’s camera to document the scene for reporting and legal purposes. Job sites can be monitored with motion-triggered camera systems that provide real-time notifications and video via smartphones to foremen regardless of their location or the time of day. Finally, tablets can play an important role in training apprentices and new workers.

4)Real-time construction – Mobile apps can help by tracking the delivery of equipment and building products and notifying foremen when a delivery is imminent so it can be guided to the right place for unloading. Mobile apps also can facilitate the ordering of supplies by taking a picture of a barcode, eliminating the need to type in orders.

Which App is Right for You?

Now that you have an idea of how mobile apps can be used in construction, how do you go about determining which app will provide the most business value? A global provider of products to the construction equipment market identified eight apps that together would provide a return of up to $323 million the first year and a billion dollars over the course of three years. They arrived at this number using six easy steps:

1)Outline the opportunity – Start by white-boarding your business strategies and goals for the year. Your goals might be to reduce cost overruns or to better manage labor.

2)Identify how you will get there – Each goal will have one or more workflows. If your strategy is to reduce cost overruns by 10 percent this year, think about all the workflows you need to use to make this happen.

3)Know the roadblocks – Identify all the issues that get in the way of these workflows functioning optimally. These roadblocks typically include things that take up unnecessary time and resources. 

4)Apply mobile apps – Envision ways you can apply mobile apps to alleviate issues. For example, a searchable catalog on an iPad may reduce the time needed to write orders.

5)Score the apps – Once app concepts are developed, you can begin scoring them to determine the value they will bring to your organization in terms of time saved or revenue potential. I call this Return on App (ROA). For example, saving 10 percent of time on a task that costs the company $1 million annually delivers a cost savings of $100,000 a year.

6)Assess other criteria – In addition to revenue potential and cost savings, look at other criteria that can affect the success of an app. These criteria are specific to each company, but often include things like the cost to implement an app and how excited users will be to adopt the app.

Alex Bratton is CEO at Lextech (www.lextech.com), a mobile app development company. Email him at bratton@lextech.com.

 

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