Ten years ago, construction companies fought technology.
Now they’re embracing it faster than ever.
It’s true. In the construction industry of today, technology is exponentiating.
And we’re seeing a wide swing in a short amount of time. We’re seeing technologies just on the cusp of coming onto the market, and we are seeing older technologies either keeping up or falling by the wayside.
And it’s happening because construction margins vary from non-existent to thin. Small incremental changes in productivity levels, efficiency of process (like bidding) and cost savings when purchasing materials can make a big difference in your bottom line – and can give you a competitive edge.
The World, and Construction, Is Changing Due to Shifts in Technology
The world is undergoing an explosion in automation.
McKinsey (One of the largest management consulting firms in the world) did a study in 2014 looking forward to the future workforce of the United States. Their prediction was that in most fields, automation would drive costs down across the board – including labor – but the Construction industry would not see massive shifts in automation by 2035, and worker salaries would remain high.
The reason, they reckoned, is because you can’t get a robot to think their way through a construction site, find it’s work and start working. And if the task involves troubleshooting, it makes it increasingly more impossible for a robot to do.
But even though the room was filled with very intelligent consultants from the best Ivy league schools, it’s hard to predict the future. Especially a future that involves humans collaborating with the machines.
But that is exactly what is happening. I’ve currently got my eye on a robotic company customizing site equipment to be run from a remote location.
Think of that!
Soon, there will come a day when you don’t hire a heavy equipment operator to come out and move and grade earth. The equipment will be delivered, and a heavy equipment operator will connect into the equipment across the Internet and perform the work virtually from a type of virtual glass cockpit in an air-conditioned office building somewhere.
Think of that. The heavy equipment operator would have one heck of a great selling proposition. You rent the equipment, they do the work and charge by the hour. But they don’t have to drive from project to project, they can actually be on two, three or more projects each day.
That means more projects and billable time for them, and they are literally able to be on site today. Which means your work can be completed faster – and as we all know, time is money.
Construction Robots in The News
I just read about a construction company who were building a bridge in Pennsylvania and decided to use a robot on the mind-numbing, but very important task of tying rebar.
When the project was complete, they attributed a 15% savings in labor costs to using the robots.
Now you may think, “that’s putting people out of work.” But that’s not what happened.
In fact, they didn’t lay one single person off.
They reassigned the people to setting up and supplying the robot. And because the robot was so fast and efficient, those workers were busy keeping up with the machine.
And that led to the project finishing early and 15% under budget. 15%!
Would you like your projects to be 15% under budget? I think you would.
What Can Construction Technology Do to Help the Workers?
Utilizing construction technology is going to be important for every construction company because as companies leverage technology, it is going to make them more competitive.
And what happens when your competition becomes more competitive? You need to be more competitive.
One of the ways you can be more competitive, save time, reduce costs and be more efficient is through field payroll.
So, let me ask you, “how are you doing field payroll?”
Often, I get the answer, “Oh, yeah, the guys write it down on a sheet and fax it in.”
“OK, so how many workers do you have?”
“Well, I have 200.”
“OK, well, somebody’s got to take that data. Be able to decipher that scribble, and then figure out all the mistakes. And then someone has to manually enter that into the system so the workers can get paid, or they have to call the payroll company with that info. …
How many days is that taking your people to do?”
“Let me guess, you are always up against the payroll deadline, am I right?”
And with a sigh, they admit, “Yes!”
Here’s the problem with this process:
Let’s say your payroll is on Friday, and you have to have it transmitted to the payroll company by Wednesday or Thursday at the latest. Then, by Monday, maybe you’ll have reports out to your project managers and your executive team so they can see how the job’s doing.
Well, let me ask you, because maybe I’m missing something, but isn’t that a little bit late?
Especially since with technology, you can have this data input and transmitted in real time and know exactly what is going on with your project right this minute.
Plus, you don’t have to input or prepare anything and compiling it and transmitting it is push button simple.
What Construction Technology Looks Like in Action
So, if we make field data electronic, you can give each person a phone and each foreman a tablet and they can enter the time and cost codes for each of the jobs. This gives the project managers real time data for their projects.
What that is going to do is let you know if a job is going south. You can watch your project’s labor component more easily, and then transfer labor off the site onto another site, or vice-versa, depending upon what’s needed.
A lot of times, if you have a good lead person, giving them that real time information gives them another vantage point and allows them to identify better ways to manage their job.
Typically, the first thing they realize is how many hours they are putting on a job.
But they also realize how to save 5 to 20 minutes a day per worker on a variety of different tasks. When you multiply those 5 – 20 minute time savings per day by 40 or 50 workers, there is a massive time savings and potential productivity boost.
This is why if you want to be more competitive and gain the competitive edge, you need to embrace technology.
It’s not going away. In fact, it’s becoming more and more prevalent.
So your only option is to adopt it and learn how to leverage it for greater competitive advantage, decreased costs, increased productivity and real time insight into your projects.
If you would like help with this, consider requesting a construction technology audit and we will discuss your options.