Apr 25 2014

Fact: Mobile tools increase onsite productivity

Improving accuracy and quality when managing inspections and defects on construction sites presents a unique challenge to contractors. The need to capture images of snags, enter text details about the defect and then share up-to-date status information with the appropriate team members is typically done using a combination of paper checklists, spread sheets and email software.  But for those seeking step change improvements to quality assurance and speed of defect resolution, the benefits of technology, involving mobile devices & dedicated software cannot be beaten by traditional methods.

The AEC industry is adapting to the new technology options

Shard during construction 2

Shard during construction

The use of mobile devices on construction sites involves decisions concerning health and safety, device type and choice of mobile platform.  Setting aside debate about the extent of web access across sites, with or without uninhibited internet access, construction sites can benefit from productivity tools now available with offline modes.  These tools provide quality assurance; improve safety and speed defects identification and resolution.

Mobile apps for productivity gains

Even on sites that are well-connected, the user experience may vary according to location: deep building basements or dense concrete and/or steel structures may hamper connectivity to conventional mobile signals.  Web-browser software tools are great if the user can be sure of good network access anywhere he or she needs to go, but in most project locations this simply cannot be guaranteed. If the user needs to quickly check design layout information for example, a slow or non-existent connection may make the task impossible.  Accurate, contemporaneous data capture on site may also be impractical, leaving the user reliant on written notes that have to be transcribed later back in the office.

With network access not always possible, and site conditions likely to deliver a highly variable experience, the optimum solution would appear to be an installed app. The user installs a solution – a defects management tool for example – on the smartphone or tablet, along with all the associated relevant data. This can then be used in all designated safe areas across a site, regardless of signal presence or strength. New data, complete with recorded details of location, time and date, can then be automatically uploaded to the network – no re-keying – when the user returns to their office or any other area with secure network access.

Designating whole sites rather than just ‘sheep pens’ as technology safe-areas?

Web access enables the sharing of up-to-date data, but even software that provides an offline functionality mode (as conjectMI does), doesn’t overcome the issue that on some construction sites, tablet devices are categorised as inhibitors to safety and therefore controlled.  One easy way to address health and safety concerns about users being distracted by social media websites such as Facebook is to lock down the device and operate in kiosk mode, where only the specified application can be accessed.  When it comes to safety, what is the difference between a clipboard & pen and an iPad?  The automotive, aerospace and other industries adapted to their unique challenges in integrating technology into their workflows, and so will the architecture, engineering and construction industry.

What do you think?  Share your views in the comments.


About the author

Michelle Mason

Michelle Mason leads the UK and MEAP Marketing team, with far too many years in B2B marketing to mention. A CONJECT newbie, Michelle is eagerly climbing a steep learning curve.

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