Customer Spotlight of the Week: S/L/A/M Construction Services’ Gengras Student Union at the University of Hartford

Uhart GSU Rendering

Here at Raken, we like to feature the interesting projects that our clients are working on! We interviewed Paul Darasz, a superintendent at S/L/A/M Construction Services, who is working on the University of Hartford, Gengras Student Union project.

S/L/A/M Construction Services provides clients with the benefits of integrated design and construction services. Offering a single point of responsibility, SLAM provides clients a better way to build – by streamlining the entire process which results in higher quality, faster completion and reduced cost. Their experienced in-house team ensures continuity between design and construction which improves cost efficiencies, maximizes team effectiveness and ensures successful outcomes.

Raken: What’s unique about your project?
Darasz: SLAM, an integrated design-build firm, was selected to design and construct this $3.8M student center renovation and addition. Set to open this fall, the 3,000-square-foot addition and 8,260-square-foot renovation project includes a much-needed expansion and improvements to the gathering spaces, common areas, office and meeting rooms. SLAM has previously completed four design-build renovation projects on the University of Hartford ca

Raken: What’s your responsibility at your jobsite?
Darasz: I am the on-site superintendent. My role is to manage the progress and quality of the work, coordination of the trade contractors work, jobsite safety and sequencing. I provide the team daily reports on the progress of the work, assist with management and coordination of weekly job meetings.

Raken: What do you like most about being in construction?
Darasz: I enjoy the entire process beginning with the pre-construction effort, assisting with the phasing and logistics and interaction with subcontractors and clients.

Raken: What do you like about using Raken?
Darasz: I like the fact that I can begin to fill out the reports as I walk around the site and not as a single operation at the end of the day. Accessing the device from my phone or tablet makes this possible. I like that the reports show weather conditions and that they look professional and are easy to read.

Raken: How much time do you save a day using Raken?
Darasz: This report allows me to multi-task. Instead of dedicating an hour at the end of the day, it allows me to complete it throughout the day.


You work hard on your projects, and we like to showcase them!
If you’re interested in having your project featured on our social media and blog, please reach out to us at hello@rakenapp.com for more details!

From boots on the ground to boots up with Raken

It could be called the “rule of thirds”. Company leaders should spend 33 percent of their time networking; 33 percent leading their team; and 33 percent of their time doing hands-on work.
Yeah, right. Generally something has to give, and it’s typically networking in favor of work.

That can make it hard to build a business, but the Raken App, the No. 1 daily reporting software in the industry, can streamline the oversight of project owners and superintendents in numerous ways:

Remote monitoring
One of the application’s most noteworthy features is easing time pressures by allowing remote monitoring of job sites and project progress. This cuts down on travel time between sites and the need for superintendents and owners to actually get their boots on the ground. It also negates the need for frequent physical meetings between on-site managers and project superintendents, and eases the paperwork burden. Co-workers in other locations can upload real-time data that is ultimately packaged in a professional project report.

Eyes-on from afar
The Raken App also has photo features and a streaming capability to allow superintendents to actually get visual confirmation of progress or problems at multiple sites simultaneously.

And the application greatly reduces the paperwork burden. Gone are the days (or they should be) of paper reporting or cumbersome Excel sheets turned in at the end of every day – for multiple projects.

Raken’s real-time messaging and email notifications alert project managers of delays, safety violations and missing reports: This means no more excuses if your foreman neglects to turn in routine compliance reports or files reports that are barely decipherable.

And Raken’s utility has been proven in the field, according to superintendents, owners and managers who have used the application.

“We now have 100 percent compliance for daily reporting, and the quality of our daily reports has improved significantly,” notes Ryan Hill, president of Hill Construction.

Raken can automatically shave an hour off a superintendent’s day, and permits owners of construction companies to save vast amounts of travel and meeting times.

So instead of boots-on-the-ground, go boots-up. Raken can win you back time to build your business instead of handling paper compliance reports.

And maybe you can actually follow the rule of thirds.

The Raken App helps construction superintendents put safety first

As the construction industry continues to claw its way out of the lingering effects of the recession that began in 2008, the number of construction-related fatalities spiked 27 percent between 2011 and 2015, according to Fortune magazine.
That increase is in spite of an overall decline in on-the-job deaths between 2006 and 2015, and it highlights the continuing importance and challenges of workplace compliance and safety at construction sites.
The Raken App, the No. 1 daily reporting software in the industry, can help project superintendents manage job sites more safely in several ways:

  • The Raken App’s photo tools helps construction superintendents to instantaneously capture or upload photos documenting issues and violations on the jobsite.  The images can be used to provide graphic reminders of the importance of job-site safety and can serve as a valuable body of evidence when policing or terminating noncompliant  workers. The most common injuries include burns, head injuries, spinal injuries, lacerations and broken bones. Sometimes visuals are the best way to ensure that lessons are learned and remembered.
  • Raken’s Site Safety Observations feature allows superintendents and foremen to note violations, close calls, and whether safety briefings occur. Again, this Raken tool allows project managers, executives and company owners to tabulate infractions and stay on top of recurring issues or crews especially prone to violations.
  • Raken App software also allows superintendents to send and share real-time information about any incidents, risks or pending issues, such as potentially violent weather.
  • Raken allows for automatic time-stamping that reflects specific times, dates and locations; that data can be valuable should OSHA compliance issues ever arise. Safety is important to a company’s bottom line: Between 2005 and 2007, the average worker’s compensation claim for roofers or carpenters injured in falls was $68,000, according to OSHA.

While safety protocols can help protect your bottom line, your human capital deserves protection. It’s the right thing to do, and the Raken App can ensure that everyone involved in your construction projects returns home to their families, safe and sound, at the end of every workday.

Call us at 866.438.0646 or email us to schedule a demo, set up a free trial account, or ask questions.

Don’t go old-school – lose that pen and paper and get the Raken App

Pencils are old-school. We’re talking really old – like 5,000 years, according to www.historyofpencils.com. After images came basic writing tools to communicate, then quills and reeds and the pencils and ink pens we know today.

Don’t be a throwback to the days of papyrus and quills. Lose that pen and paper and get on the cutting edge of construction-project management with the Raken application for tablets, phones and laptops.

Raken developed its No. 1 daily reporting software to reduce inefficiencies and streamline the management of construction projects, from skyscrapers to sidewalks.

Project managers have plenty to contend with: weather; cost overruns; communication glitches; change orders; and leadership challenges. The Raken App can cover each of those potential pitfalls and eliminate reams of paperwork.

Even if you are somewhat technologically challenged, the Raken App is an easy fix for the contractor daily report form paperwork and other data entry that eats up time and money.

And if you are not a fan of the paper trail, you are not alone. “I was a glorified babysitter chasing daily reports before we started using the Raken App,” said Lynette Schillewaert, principal at Midwest Borings.

As a project manager, you’ve got other things to worry about without being glued to a clipboard and transcribing hours of data each week. In fact, it looks like rain, and that subcontractor never showed up. Maybe you should note that on your Raken App. It’s a useful construction manager app!

Three Reasons Superintendents Need the Raken App

Raken is revolutionizing the construction industry with its advanced field-management software application. Here are four ways Raken and its No. 1 daily reporting software can make you a better construction superintendent:

Mobility. Or not.

The Raken App allows superintendents to walk job sites free of the cumbersome clipboard, papers and pencils that have long been standard accessories for tracking progress on projects big and small. Short on wallboard? Note it on your tablet, phone or laptop. Want more collaboration with subcontractors? Do so with our Super Daily!

Project managers also have the ability to monitor and update multiple job sites from their offices – or their homes.

Save time

Time is money, and the Raken App can help you keep more in your pocket.

Superintendents can eliminate an average of an hour a day from their workloads – and avoid the tiresome end-of-day task that paper reporting requires.

“Raken has removed the daily headache of writing everything out and then transferring it to my laptop every evening,” says Mario Rico, superintendent of Streamline Finishes.

So use that free hour however you want: Spend it with your family, spend more time onsite, or catch up on some nagging tasks.

Reduce liability

If a worker drops a load of rebar on his foot, or takes a tumble from a ladder, the incident can instantly be recorded and documented to avoid any workplace compensation issues.

You can also track persistent jobsite infractions that might expose yourself to liability. Record incidents at the drop of a hat with the Raken App.

Using Technology to Ward Off Litigation at the Construction Job Site

Construction companies face the threat of litigation for many reasons – from lawsuits filed by unhappy clients to claims from workers injured on the job. Today’s complex construction projects make disputes between stakeholders, contractors and suppliers almost inevitable. These issues can become costly lawsuits if not resolved.  This leads to the necessity of documenting every issue that could result in construction litigation on the job site.

According to APH Law PLLC, reports from the field are a vital component in defending against litigation:

As a construction contractor, your field documents are vital to protecting you from legal issues. Not only do you need to meticulously maintain all of your field documents, including daily logs, field reports, change order forms, and force accounts, but you also need to constantly ensure that your field documents are consistent with the prime contract you have with the owner of the property.

This leads to a challenge. Few workers given the task of job site documentation have the time to document issues consistently or recognize the details necessary for the report. There is a need for time-efficient and easy ways to record the necessary reports. Raken, named the No. 1 daily reporting software and mobile app at Associated General Contractors National, is designed to do exactly that. It can provide a layer of protection from liability. It simplifies the process of managing your daily reporting and centralizes the data in one easily searchable database. Project managers can view updates from the job site in real-time. It can also provide important safety and delay notifications via text message and email.

Kirk Retz, writing for the Baker, Burton & Lundy blog, said this about the importance of maintaining a proper job file:

This will be the best source of information about what happened on the job as it happened. You will be asked many questions about what you did, why you did it, and why you did not do something else. Most lawsuits are not filed until long after the job is completed. No one can remember all of the details of a job that was completed 100 jobs ago.

It’s easy to say “document everything,” but that’s not possible in the real world. Field personnel should document only the most important data elements. The most innovative construction companies automate the documentation process with mobile technology like Raken.

Raken’s clean, intuitive mobile interface is easy to use from the field. This not only saves time, but it improves accuracy. Waiting to document issues at the end of the workday is a foolproof way for inaccuracies to creep in or incidents to be forgotten. Recording the data as it happens can go a long way to provide the crucial, accurate information to protect you from liability if a dispute ends up in court.

To find out more about our Raken Construction App for iPhones and other mobile phones , visit www.rakenapp.com or call 866-438-0646.

Overcoming Workforce Inertia: Easy-to-Adopt Technology to Help Construction Firms

The bricks-and-mortar world of construction and engineering is surprisingly slow to adopt the technological advances that drive change in other businesses.  When it happens, however, construction technology software can change the future of the industry.

Out of 19 major American industries surveyed, a 2014 Gartner IT Key Metrics Data report showed that the construction industry only spends 1 percent of revenue on information technology – dead last out of the industries. A factor in this lack of investment is workforce inertia: older workers have never used technology to do their jobs, why should they start now? Who likes to be told how to do their jobs?

Ben Bigelow, writing in the Engineering News-Record, recounted a story illustrating this tendency:

An executive at one GC, recently shared the challenges he had in getting older personnel to embrace company-implemented technology. He told us it was cheaper for them to hire one of our students to follow his older guys around and use the technology for them, than to allow the job to be done without it. Think of what it would cost your company to employ an assistant superintendent, project engineer, or assistant PM because a veteran employee won’t learn to use the technology! If it makes sense to hire someone to use the technology, what advantages are possible through its use?

How do effective companies overcome this resistance? They can lower the learning curve with easy-to-use mobile technology synchronized with cloud data storage. Old-fashioned spreadsheets and text documents are no place to store important job information. A purpose-built application can allow data to be organized and indexed and, most importantly, accessed by the leaders managing mission-critical projects.

That’s where Raken comes in. Named the No. 1 daily reporting software and mobile app at Associated General Contractors National, Raken simplifies the process of managing your construction daily report forms. It can save more than an hour daily with its report typing features. Its intuitive mobile interface makes it easy to use – even for the reluctant veterans.

It also lowers another barrier to technology adoption: budget. With slim margins in the construction industry, executives might be reluctant to invest in technology that might take years to pay off, but the simple act of using Raken for daily reporting can save thousands per month.

At a typical construction firm staffed with 12 superintendents making an average salary of $75,000 each, it would cost more than $10,000 per month for those workers to take the time to fill out daily reports in spreadsheets and unstructured media. With the time saved by using Raken, the monthly cost of reporting would fall to $3,130 – a net benefit per month of $7,182. That’s an annualized return on investment of 12,948 percent.

To find out more about Raken, visit www.rakenapp.com or call 866-438-0646.

Keeping the Reins on: Using Raken to Help Manage Subcontractors

Let’s face it. Modern construction projects are increasingly complex. They can require the use of more subcontractors, each of whom has to be managed, in multiple locations. Contractors can lose time explaining and overseeing their subs’ assignments.

If that isn’t headache enough, subcontractors can have their own subs. With all this complexity, a project has the potential to cascade out of control without proper management. So how can a general contractor keep rein on a project?

Raken, named the No. 1 daily reporting software and mobile app at Associated General Contractors National, offers construction management software that eliminates the communication issues with subcontractors that can lead to costly mistakes.

Clear communication is a component of the oversight needed to keep subcontractors on task. In an article published by The Houston Chronicle, Jeremy Bradley writes about the importance of communication and accountability in managing subs:

It is important that you follow-up with subcontractors on a regular basis. Do not simply assume that contractors will do the job you have hired them to do. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t trust your subcontractors; it’s about creating a culture of accountability. Treat your subcontractors like you would full-time or regular employees. Give them autonomy to do their job, but also make sure they are meeting the deadlines and performance goals you have set out.

This can be accomplished painlessly through Raken’s daily reporting app. Project managers can pass along updates, warnings, schedules, and required reporting forms to subs over their smart phones and tablets.

Raken’s Super Daily feature allows foremen and subcontractors to compile real-time information seamlessly into a single report. Project superintendents can get needed data without delay. Once invited by a general contractor, subcontractors can use the feature for free so there is no extra expense to produce the information.

The transparency benefits everyone involved as a little time spent using Raken’s building construction software can save future time resolving costly situations caused by miscommunication. According to the article “Don’t Babysit Subcontractors — Teach Them,” published by the Harvard Business Review:

No PM likes interfering with a sub’s business, and the sub usually likes it even less. But if you can help them monitor their work accurately early on — in a way that makes sense to both parties — you won’t have to intervene nearly as much later to keep things on track.

To find out more about Raken’s subcontractor apps, visit www.rakenapp.com or call 866-438-0646.

No more drowning in information: Raken makes daily reports easy

Having to take notes was hassle enough in high school, but when you’re out on a construction site it can downright be a burden. Daily construction reports have always been necessary but can be time-consuming and tedious.

Raken, named the No. 1 daily reporting software and mobile app at Associated General Contractors National, can simplify the process of managing your daily reporting, though. Raken daily reporting app. allows users to save anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes daily with its report typing features. It’s faster, easier daily reporting that frees up field workers from end-of-the-day drudgery.

With Raken, it’s possible to complete your daily construction reports on the go. Imagine being able to take notes in real-time on the job site. The app’s speech-to-text capability also means no typing for busy foremen. They can speak into their smartphones or tablets. Raken does the rest.

Construction site daily reports are not simply busy work. They create an ongoing synopsis of activities that provide a window into operations which gives project managers valuable information and insight. Advances in technology over the years may have given managers the option of upgrading from paper-and-pen notes to spreadsheets, but a lack of consistency and centralization has meant even more headaches. The old-fashioned style of most reporting means losing information in a jumble of log book, text files, and spreadsheets. Data is useless if you can’t find it.

This all changes with Raken daily report. Gone is the confusing pile of records. The app allows a uniform method of input for each job site that uploads the notes to a single searchable database.

Raken creates professional company-branded daily reports. It even allows access to an executive dashboard where project managers can view updates from the job site in real-time, including safety and delay notifications via text message and email.

Raken’s clean, intuitive mobile interface also makes it easy to use for everyone – even those averse to technology. It’s as easy to use as a tablet or smartphone. Veteran workers with decades of experience may not always be too keen on complicated multi-form software, but give them an opportunity to use their own personal mobile device and they’ll jump at the chance. As an anecdote reported in the Engineering News-Record, attributed to a long-time superintendent, put it, “Once they showed me what I could do with a tablet, it was a no-brainer.”

To find out more about Raken, visit www.rakenapp.com or call 866-438-0646.

5 Ways To Improve Technology Adoption With Subcontractors

Federal_Building_constructionAs a general contractor, you and your employees have bitten the construction tech bullet awhile ago, and have learned to enjoy all of the benefits that the digital revolution has to offer. Or so you think. But what about subcontractors? As construction software becomes more and more important at all levels of a project, subcontractors increasingly need to incorporate it into their work as well. To keep your project moving forward smoothly no matter who’s working on it, below are some suggestions to help all workers easily adjust to the construction technology you need.

1. Make It As Subcontractor Friendly As Possible
As a general contractor, you love your new construction software. Your permanent staff at least tolerates and has learned how to use it. But have your subcontractors? They’ll tell you that they signed on to install conduits or drywall, not to waste time to plug data into a computer file. To avoid this, general contracting firms can help to explain the use of technology in construction by doing the following:

  • Let subcontractors know well in advance of projects that the job will require them to complete some digital “paperwork”
  • Learn what subcontractors need to make this process as easy as possible
  • Offer free training and access to required programs

For example, Raken for daily reporting now offers a free Super Daily program that allows multiple subcontractors log in and file daily reports on the same project. The result is a single seamless report where extensive subcontractor data can be accessed with a mouse click.

2. Be Ready To Provide The Right Construction Tech Tools
Everybody at your firm is accessing Raken and other industry software on the job with their smartphones? That’s great but as unbelievable as it sounds these days, not everyone has one. Maybe that’s true of some of your subcontractors. Or maybe they don’t want to use personal phones on the job. Or maybe they don’t want to give themselves eyestrain trying to decipher as-builts on those tiny screens. So why not keep tablets on hand for their report filing and plan to examine use?

3. Pitch The Product
Construction Software has made the whole construction paperwork experience so much faster and easier. What’s not to like about programs that reduce errors and reporting time and get people paid more quickly? Make sure that subcontractors are aware of all of the benefits of technology used in construction.

4. Teach The Teacher
Odds are good that you won’t be able to individually train all subcontracting firm employees on how to use software. That will be the job of their own supervisor. So take the time to make sure that he or she fully understands and knows how to use it.

5. In Case Of Emergency….
No digital highway is without the occasional pothole. When your subcontractors hit one, make sure that they have a contact at your firm to help them get quickly back on the road.

Construction Industry Trends SMB Buyer Report

These days, both software developers and software industry publications are specifically gearing material towards the construction industry in increasing numbers.For example, for the third year in a row, the takeoff software consultancy Software Advice has dedicated an issue to new construction trends within the construction industry. “Our 2016 analysis of trends among construction buyers revealed an interesting finding: While pre-sale functions such as estimating and takeoff continue to top the list of capabilities most often requested by buyers, we found that contractors are increasingly looking for solutions that streamline the actual build process,” says Eileen O’Loughlin, the report author.

Top Four Construction Software Capabilities Requested (1)

They’re also noticing that you not only love your mobile devices but are relying on them as work tools more than ever.  “In fact, six percent of buyers specifically requested solutions with construction apps. These buyers need tools that allow contractors and technicians access to the main system while out on job sites. This makes critical information such as RFIs and change orders immediately accessible to all parties, helping to improve transparency and reduce errors,” she added.

Top-Requested Construction Software Functionality

O’Loughlin concludes by noting that “However, it’s important to note that nearly every construction software available for cloud-based deployment is going to include a corresponding mobile application with the purchase of the subscription license. As such, the percentage of buyers looking for mobile connectivity is likely much higher than the six percent referenced above.”

Aside from acknowledging that the internet or Wi-Fi access are now about as essential on worksite as safety shoes, the report clarifies in graph form the current methods being used by potential buyers of construction software. More than half of all managers and superintendents still record paperwork and reports manually. More than 15% of these project supervisors are using software like Raken for daily reporting. And other managers continue to use a mix of methods for “streamlining” project paperwork and communications including doing nothing, non-construction software, and a mix of manual and digital methods of construction industry technology.

Top Reasons for Evaluating Construction Software (1)And how are these “traditional” and “mix and match” firms managing with these methods? An unsurprising 20% of those surveyed indicated that they thought a digital upgrade would help their bottom line. And then there are the starry-eyed dreamers who say they’re still waiting for someone to develop their ideal software. But what they and these other managers don’t realize is that their industry has the full attention of software developers.

How To Collect Daily Reports From Subcontractors Consistently

4814632541_088fb83af7_bSubcontractors. You can’t live without them, so you’d better learn to live with them. That’s paraphrasing the old quote a bit, but it’s true all the same. As general contractors are relying more and more on subcontractors for the overall success of a construction project, the importance of effectively managing each sub involved on a jobsite is increasingly important.

It’s therefore in the best interests of a GC to establish a good relationship with the same subcontracting firms and work with them on project after project. This not only ensures that construction managers can quickly subcontract electricians and plumbers when they need them, but that they can count on them for consistent quality work. Staying on good terms with the various subs and trades on a jobsite requires:

  • On-time payment
  • Treat them with respect
  • Be better communicators
  • Make all required paperwork and processes easier

You think it can be frustrating getting your superintendents to submit reports correctly and on time? Pity the poor subcontractor supervisor who is trying to juggle multiple report requests from multiple jobs that often require that they be submitted in different formats? Is it any wonder then that many GC superintendents are handed subcontractor “daily reports” that are handwritten or printed out on spreadsheets, and very often are lacking needed data? And these incompatible reporting systems mean that GC staffs can’t easily access, store, or transmit this subcontractor information to other parties.

But Raken, the company that offers construction software for daily reporting, has a solution. Its Super Daily program allows all of a general contractor’s subcontractor teams to submit data to the same report seamlessly at no cost to them. This means that managers and superintendents get the daily data that they need in the required formats without having to hunt it down. And a subcontractor will find that Subcontractor Daily Report Super Daily’s fields are not only password protected, but super easy to use and edit, making it more likely that subcontractor dailies will indeed be done on a daily basis. Even better, Super Daily’s fields allow GC and subcontractor work to be looked at side by side in the same report fields. Subcontractor comments and photographs can be submitted as well, creating an even more streamlined look for report readers. Subcontractor data even appears in a streaming newsfeed format here.

This software may not solve all GC/subcontractor conflicts. But everyone will appreciate software that resolves report problems, gets subcontractors paid on time, improves communications, and makes it easier to collaborate in true partnerships. With Super Daily Report Forms for Construction, general contractors and subcontractor teams may soon be quoting that immortal line from Casablanca about the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

5 Construction Blog Ideas For General Contractors

construction7It may sometimes seem as if everyone has a blog. Is this a good idea for your company as well? It’s true that in the early days of blogging, the contents of these electronic journals were very much vanity projects, and about as exciting as reading somebody’s diary. But then a funny thing happened to blogs. Bloggers realized that people just weren’t that excited reading about mundane goings on, and to keep readers blogs would have to evolve. And so blogs moved from the adventures of the writer’s cat to a site with general information on cats. Or child or car care, among many other topics. And readership grew. And businesses took notice.

For they saw in the lowly blog a way to draw audiences to and promote their businesses at low cost. And by updating blog information frequently, they were guaranteeing themselves a regular audience of not just readers but potential customers as well. Who, if they were excited enough about the blog, would recommend it to yet more reader/customers. And today, everyone from exterminators to swimsuit companies have blogs on their websites. General contractors would do well to follow suit. Ah, but what should a contractor blog contain?

A good blog should be primarily informative (self-promotion is permitted, but don’t overdo it), frequently updated (at least bi-weekly), and most importantly, cover topics that people want to read about.  Below, are some construction blog ideas for yours.

1. Emerging Trends
To stay ahead in business, one needs to know what’s coming next. Topics here can range from materials to best practices, to changes in standards and technology.

2. Construction Law
Ours is a profession in which a working knowledge of legal matters is very useful, and topics here can range from terminology to the proper filing of paperwork, to legal changes that can affect work.

3. Safety
The sky’s the limit here, with endless possibilities ranging from clothing and equipment to devices, to training, to cultural understanding.

4. Technology
Lots of potential here, as well. Topics can cover software, devices, equipment, trends, tutorials, and buying guides.

5. Training Resources
Lots of required and recommended industry training can either be found or at least registered for online, but many managers don’t know how to find this or even what subjects are offered. Much of this can be offered at low or even no cost, and there’s a big potential audience for this type of information.

Other good blog topics? “Green” is certainly the word, as is ongoing worker shortages, plus all this infrastructure job talk, not to mention the latest stats on construction jobs in general. So consider adopting a blog. If you want to know about it, so do others. Your good blog won’t just lead to readers, but potential customers as well.

From Paper To Predictive Analysis In Construction

Tianjin_Construction_SiteConstruction software among many other technological innovations has cut down on reporting time, improved firm communications, made sites safer, and increased project efficiency. The problem is that we’ve gone from an industry where we were all oohing and ahhing over laser levels to having Robbie the Robot as a co-worker seemingly overnight. That’s a lot of construction tech to embrace all at once.

And the problem is not that construction workers don’t know to operate all of this nifty technology, say industry experts, but that they’re unclear on how to interpret and analyze the data that they’re being given. As a result, they’re acquiring lots of technology, but not getting maximum benefit from much of it. Scotty has the Enterprise’s “Computer” to help get him out of tough jams. Might there be similar relief for construction firms?

Predictive analytics is a statistical process that incorporates data from multiple sources to show how something operates historically, currently, and in the future. By using this Construction Data Analytics system, a project manager could predict and avoid delays as well as manpower and equipment shortages, and bring more projects in on time. To this end, the American arm of the construction technology giant Skanska Technologies is participating in several pilot programs in which digitally collected data is submitted, analyzed, and incorporated into the same report. Tony Colonna, who is heading the Skanska USA’s program said that construction provides a unique challenge because of its constantly changing needs and environments. Other challenges towards making predictive analysis programs as much of a fixture at sites as a backhoe operator? Industry technology prejudices and the immediate ability to see value in this technology.

To make the advantages of predictive analytics easier to appreciate and access, construction technology companies are currently working on analytic platforms that will immediately return easy to understand information and directions from collected data. This work has been slowed down due to the necessity of including many different types of data. But the day is approaching when one will track down the location and availability of workers and equipment in real time by tapping a single command into a mobile device. And by developing the software in construction industry that allows these analytic programs to be accessed with the mobile devices we’re increasingly comfortable with, it’s hoped that the construction industry will continue to boldly go into the digital (and paperless) future.

5 Construction Wearables For The Jobsite

Screen Shot 2016-10-28 at 3.13.58 PMOne of the observations made about why so many firms are so slow to embrace construction technology is that they don’t think that it’s a good fit for site work. And it’s certainly true that in the past, technology tools that other types of business adopted without blinking weren’t always appropriate. The connectivity they needed wasn’t always available in the field. And it’s neither safe nor practical to juggle a handful of tools plus a laptop, plus a smartphone, on top of a girder.

But as digital technology continues to evolve and improve at rapid rates, construction software is no longer limited to computers bound by cables to a desk. Software companies like Raken offer a construction app that can be downloaded to mobile devices for reporting among other features. But sometimes on jobsites it seems as though all workers could use an extra set of hands and all of them would be busy. So how can construction sites gain any practical benefit from all of this new innovation in construction technology if all of those hands are too busy to use it?

By using wearables. Wearables are hands-free devices that do everything from enhancing basic safety to communicating, and these devices aren’t just for Dick Tracy and The Jetsons anymore. Read on to learn more about some wearables that if you aren’t seeing yet at jobsites, you soon will be.

1. Smart Helmets
Not even Darth Vader himself has a helmet this cool-or this practical. Produced by augmented reality specialists Daqri, this helmet features a pull-down visor on which printed instructions appear. No more fumbling with notebooks or trying to keep that paper from blowing away. The helmet also features a 360-degree navigation camera, HD video recording, photography, and 3D mapping among other features, meaning that reporting and recording from “on high” will be much more practical and safer.

2. Halo Light
Not only is construction roadwork unglamorous, it’s unsafe, especially at night, when 40% of all worker accidents and fatalities occur. This light wraps around standard hard hats and provides light in all directions, allowing workers to both see and be seen for up to a quarter mile. Manufactured by Illumagear, the light contains a rechargeable battery which lasts up to twelve hours.

3. Myo
Why should comic strip detectives get to have all of the fun? Worn on the lower arm and resembling a smart watch, this Bridgit produced device is used by smart glass wearing workers to communicate and record what they are seeing just by moving their arm.

4. Safety Helmets
Yeah, this product made by Human Condition Safety looks like your average hard hat. But do your hard hats have built in lights, alarm systems, and embedded codes to identify downed workers?

5. Robotic Suits
Not yet here, but in development by companies like Robotics Rise and Ekso Bionics, these “exoskeletons” or lightweight, flexible harnesses will protect workers while bending, stretching, and lifting.

How High Tech Equipment Tracking Is Changing Construction

Screen Shot 2016-12-05 at 2.34.18 PMOne hears so much about start-ups, high-tech firms, and digital whiz kids that it’s hard to keep track of them all. Not only are there a lot of them, but the vast majority of them seem to disappear after a while as well. Are these firms (and their creators) really worth all of this attention?

One such company called Uptake is certainly worth some notice from the construction industry. Founded by Groupon whizzes Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky, Uptake obtains funding for and helps to develop “disruptive technologies”. Disruptive technologies are defined as ones that completely transform an industry. These technologies don’t just make profound changes, these are changes that will permanently affect how these industries do business.

So why exactly should the construction industry be excited at what two guys who started a discount club are doing? Because of this company’s work with software to improve business safety, security, data analysis, collection, storage, and distribution. Managers already know that construction software like Raken for daily reporting saves time and money in overall project data gathering using mobile devices. And now construction software developers are turning their digital sights on another kind of equipment found at construction sites.

Caterpillar Incorporated recently invested $45,000,000 with Uptake for the development of construction site equipment and vehicles with imbedded software that allows data to be collected and analyzed while the vehicle or equipment is being operated. This concept of really smart working machines is known as telematics. Construction telematics is something that the construction industry has been interested in for a number of years. Trucks and dozers and even generators that can collect and store data on that machine’s fuel use, hours used, and when it’s time for maintenance have been at sites for years. These data systems were created by manufacturers to look at equipment use individually, and the data had to be collected manually.  But the construction equipment software now in development will change this process in several significant ways.

1. Data Collection
Ever spend a morning driving around a site going from dozer to backhoe, logging in their miles and hours individually, then trying to incorporate these figures into a report showing how equipment is being used overall? How about a system in which your equipment routinely sends all of this information to a central site which then thoughtfully analyzes data on everything from physical location to fuel consumption and breaks everything down for you?

2. Predictive Learning
Also known as “machine learning”, software algorithms allow machines to recognize patterns that allow them to perform simple tasks, like identifying themselves when being tracked by GPS or driving themselves from place to place.

3. Increased Efficiency
Heavy equipment that lets you know where it is when it will be back, how much fuel it uses and when it’s time to go to the doctor? Not to mention contributing to reports and making on-site deliveries without having to take a coffee break? In addition to reducing time now spent on coordination and data collection by staff, this “smart” equipment can also help managers make decisions about customers to target and work schedules, meaning not only time saved, but more profit earned. Some proprietary telematics squabbling among manufacturers continues, so all access to all equipment data doesn’t exist just yet, but managers should prepare for a near-future site scenario where a lot of the work is being done by formerly “dumb” machines.

3 Tips For Construction Superintendents To Boost Productivity

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 10.14.43 AMIf you’ve ever had a job, it’s happened to you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a manager or an intern. If you’re working, then you’ve eventually attended at least one meeting or training session that concluded with you thinking “Well, that’s an hour (ninety minutes, day, etc.) out of my life that I’ll never get back”. Unfortunately, if you’re in a supervisory or managerial position, you may have run a meeting like this as well.

Since both meeting runners and attendees come into meetings with the best of attentions, why do they often end in frustration for all parties? This is a question well worth exploring since the information and ideas meant to be shared at these gatherings impacts actual work and practices out in the field. Meetings are an important and often mandatory part of construction projects and shouldn’t be discarded. But managers and superintendents need to make sure that these gatherings are as productive as possible, and that meeting and training productivity in turn translates to the project site. So superintendents might want to look at the way they’re currently running these assemblies and ask themselves:

1. Is There A Reason For This Meeting?
The answer’s obviously yes, but are you one of those facilitators who beats around the bush or adds unrelated subjects to the point where everyone’s bored and confused? Good communication means productive meetings. And the techniques of good communicators include:

  • getting right to the point
  • don’t talk just to be talking
  • use tools to emphasize message points and make them stick

And perhaps the single biggest point of meeting running? Don’t forget who’s there with you, which brings us to….

2. Involve Your Audience
A worksite can’t be a democracy, and this doesn’t mean allowing your workers to run your meeting. But it’s their meeting as well, so their participation, suggestions, and ideas should be encouraged. If you’re struggling to come up with a daily safety topic for example, why not allow field workers to come up with topics occasionally based on their practical experiences? If you feel that poor communications are a problem in the field, the feeling is undoubtedly mutual, so why not turn some meetings into brainstorming sessions where suggestions are accepted from all quarters? In addition to problems being more likely to be solved, your empowered staff will feel an even greater investment in the project, helping to increase productivity.

3. Use Technology Tools
Better communication leading to greater productivity in construction doesn’t have to be limited to meetings, either. Construction technology includes software that allows supervisors and workers to stay in constant touch. Raken‘s mobile app means that any portable device can be used to file reports, comment on them, and exchange updates, notifications, safety warnings, photos, and streaming video, all in real time. So with tools like Raken, superintendents can be assured that they have a clear path towards getting their tasks accomplished by improving construction productivity.

Wearables In Construction Jobsites

Screen Shot 2016-10-28 at 3.13.58 PMWearables at construction jobsites? Is this some new construction fashion trend? Can we now expect to see models strutting down scaffolding? Actually, “wearables” refers to digital technology that the user affixes to a body part as opposed to carrying it. The idea behind this type of technology is that users can use data without having to use their hands. “Wearables” devices have been a science fiction staple for many decades. Considering the many ways that the technology could be applied in real life from operating rooms to the upper floors of a half-constructed building, many people were excited. Then the first wearables showed up.

But instead of the sleek wristbands and eye pieces people were expecting, these devices were large and heavy. They seemed to combine all of the worst elements of ski goggles and welding masks, only they were less comfortable to wear. These first wearables were plagued by many “bugs” as well. Major problems concerned connectivity and power issues. These wearables either couldn’t run very long on a battery charge or be disconnected from a power source at all. It also definitely wasn’t cheap. But those were the first wearables.

Wearable technology produced within the last five years is lighter, sturdier, and more practical than its predecessors. It’s still not cheap, but a study conducted by Dr. Chris Brauer at the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London is encouraging. It shows that these new wearables can be practically applied in a number of job scenarios. The results would be happier, more productive, and safer employees. And happy, safe and productive employees are certainly what superintendents and foremen want to see at jobsites. But although construction tech devices and construction software are becoming much more common in the industry, do watchers see these wearables ever being much utilized? The surprising truth is that wearable technology in construction is being used right now at a number of active sites. For example:

Seeing What They See
XOEye Industrial Technologies has developed a “cloud-based ocular system” which involves on-site workers wearing glasses with cameras that tap into the internet. Images they see are then projected onto a screen via a computer in real time. This means that their managers can:

  • observe project work away from the site
  • make sure that safety practices are being observed
  • both train and participate in training away from the site

Lighting The Way To Worker Safety
The only thing more dangerous than doing construction road work during the day? Doing it at night. But the Halo Light is what manufacturer Illumagear calls a “360° personal active safety system” that wraps around any hard hat. Non-wearers can see its light from a quarter mile away. And the wearer’s area is brightly lit in all directions up to the edge of his or her peripheral vision.

Talk To The Arm
Thalmic Labs’ “smart armband” Myo allows users with arm movements or gestures to conduct wireless conservations or combine images with construction software for permanent photographs and graphics.

Other upcoming construction technology in 2017 to look forward to? Microsoft’s HoloLens is currently being field tested by some construction firms at select sites. While still too large to be used practically, ongoing improvements are being made to this “hologram” device that allows users to see images superimposed over or beside “real life” ones. With images like the HoloLens, it’s anticipated that everything from as-builts to invoices will be reviewed in the field more quickly, safely, and hands-free.

NEW: 4 New Improvements You Asked For…

1. QuickSign on the web
One-click signature of your daily reports. Simply quick “QuickSign” to automatically email your daily reports.

2. Task Report (PDF & Excel)
Create a report with open and/or completed tasks. Review and share all tasks in PDF or Excel format.

3. Unlimited photos on PDF
Add as many pictures as needed per section on your daily report PDF. Add unlimited photos to any section, including “Attachments”, “Notes”, and “Work Logs”.

4. Project member directory
Manage all project members (subs & employees) by downloading a project member directory PDF from Raken. Keep members’ names, emails, companies and phone numbers in one place.

Key Qualities Of Successful Construction Superintendents

6254504140_02ba059874_bSuperintendents play a vital role in any construction project. But it’s not simply enough to have one on board to ensure a good outcome for your project. You need one who is successful in their endeavors. Successful means a superintendent who works effectively with every aspect of a project to get it done on time, on budget, and safely. Such successes result in profit and future work for firms. Obviously, a successful superintendent is one you want to have on a jobsite all the time. So what attributes should firms be looking for in hiring such superintendents? And even more importantly, what can they contribute to ensuring that these successes continue?

Leadership Skills
Whether it’s trying to get forms filled out or trying to find out who’s going to make a street repair, pretty much everyone has dealt with a situation in which no one appears to be in charge. When this happens, no one thinks that they’re seeing an example of democracy at its best. Such a scenario is unprofessional and frustrating. And at a construction site, it can create a chaotic and potentially dangerous jobsite. But on the other hand, no one wants to report to work every day to a dictator. That’s why site superintendents who run successful sites have:

Good Communication Skills
Construction superintendent duties and responsibilities should also include good communication skills. This applies both verbally and in writing. And given construction’s evolving workforce, the ability to do so in more than one language doesn’t hurt either.

Ability To Be Flexible
The subcontractor is behind schedule. A comet smashed into the widget factory. Your vitally needed widget delivery is going to be a bit late. And next week’s weather isn’t looking promising. While no one wants to go through life assuming the worst, successful superintendents are skilled at drawing up (and modifying!) contingency plans for life’s little surprises.

Talked The Talk Because They’ve Walked The Walk
Many superintendents come to these positions after having worked on the “front lines” of construction. Practical construction experience can be invaluable for someone in a supervisory position. It enables that individual to have a more realistic idea of the demands, timetables, and limitations of certain tasks. It can also make for a bonding experience with work crews if the boss was once one of them, making it easier to take instructions (okay, sometimes they’re demands) from them. On the other hand, this same attribute can sometimes backfire with particular crews, so it helps if qualities include:

People Person Skills
This is a tricky skill. It’s even trickier if it has to be learned and isn’t natural. And it’s often mistaken by supervisors as needing to be outgoing or everybody’s buddy. But is anything more repugnant than someone who’s falsely friendly? Instead, sought after “people” skills in someone in a supervisory position should include:

  • empathy
  • patience
  • the ability to be firm but fair

Ideally, firm management should also be so comfortable with a superintendent’s people skills that they allow that individual to make award nominations and appoint de facto supervisors among work site staff.

Technology Skills
Even the construction industry can’t escape technology these days. To help keep projects on track, site superintendents should ideally be familiar with the firm’s software, and how to utilize it. They should also be willing to research, adopt, and even adapt new technologies for project benefit. For example, no general contractor loves doing daily reporting, but it’s essential. But by using construction technology like Raken for the writing of daily reports, savvy superintendents can:

  • save up to 60-90 minutes a day in report filing
  • provide up-to-date site information
  • collaborate with subcontractors
  • get project information more quickly

Firm managers can also make it easier to find and recruit the best field superintendents by being willing to purchase new technologies, permitting training time, and providing opportunities for professional advancement within firms.

Importance Of Proper Documentation In Creating A Safe Jobsite

7797524972_5469637ddf_oThere are many reasons for creating a “paper trail”. To protect oneself or a business from potential litigation. To provide others with instructions or directives for completing a task. And to create more effective and safer workplaces. And the construction industry is badly in need of safer workplaces.

Compiled Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data on workplace fatalities and injuries shows that contractors were the victims in seventeen percent of all fatalities in 2014. In other words, roughly one in every five job-related deaths was someone who worked in the construction injury. While those workers are less likely to meet with a fatal accident than a logger, miner, or airplane pilot, construction work retains the dubious distinction of being one of the deadliest jobs in America. So how can construction firms, managers, and supervisors improve on this, and how do “paper trails” come into play?

Since 1971, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been the country’s Federal safety watchdog. It requires all fatalities and all but the most minor of injuries that happen on the job to be reported to it. Administrators generally must do so in twenty-four hours or less of such events. OSHA uses this information to file complaints and criminal actions against companies in some cases. OSHA also uses this documented data to highlight and help companies correct and end unsafe work practices. Because of OSHA’s need for accessible company records in the aftermath of a serious accident, the ability to produce proper documentation can help firms avoid further censure.

And chronicling accidents on a project shouldn’t just be done to meet OSHA’s requirements. “Self-reporting” less serious and even near-accidents on site can help managers to identify and control present problems and avoid future ones. This type of data can also be applied to future jobs in the same type of environment. And digital tools such as Raken for daily reporting can be very helpful in collecting such data. Raken‘s Construction Documentation Software:

allows for fast recording and transmission
permits real-time collaboration, even from separate locations
allows for the inclusion of photographs, graphics, and streaming video
allows incident reports and related data to be stored for up to ten years online

Even more conveniently, Raken’s Construction Documentation Software is compatible with a number of mobile devices. This means that incidents or problems can be documented at sites where they occur. The results are documents with detailed, correct information that can protect both firm investments and employees in future. And working with electronic accident reporting fields now can have further benefits. OSHA will be requiring many employers to begin reporting and transmitting accident daily job report forms electronically in 2017. Firms who master this form of reporting now may find themselves helping to set the stage for safer and more efficient workplaces in future.

Benefits Of Field Reporting For Construction Companies

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Given all of the paperwork that is part and parcel of a construction project, it’s understandable that project managers and superintendents don’t particularly want to do more. And given all of the updating that does go on throughout the project process, is it truly necessary to do project reporting on a daily basis? The short answers to that would be yes, and that it’s not a bad idea. Yes, because a number of clients particularly government ones, now require daily reports on topics ranging from crew safety meetings to subcontractors’ man hours. And it’s not a bad idea because even if your firm is working for a client who does not require daily reporting, your staff should still create these records both to protect your business, and to create a tool that can be referenced for future projects.

Litigation Protection
It doesn’t take much to get litigation started in the construction industry. Seemingly excessive subcontractor charges. An obscure (but important) contract page that the client claims to have “missed”. Arguments over the physical condition of a work site. Contractors may well find themselves on either side of a dispute, which is why they should always be careful to have well-documented daily reports in an easy to read style that can be accessed by appropriate parties. And it would be helpful if these reports supported the inclusion of appropriate photos and other visual media.

Increased Productivity
By keeping written documents of a project’s progress (this again includes photographs), managers and supervisors can positively influence project outcomes by tracking man-hours, delivery schedules, working around bad weather, etc. Firms should be warned however that some businesses using “micro-tracking” have employees that report worker dissatisfaction, something that the labor-starved construction industry needs to be attuned to.

Catching Small Issues Before They Become Big Issues
Ongoing problems with a supplier. Problems connecting with a stakeholder. The strange red sludge oozing out of a hole at the edge of a site that’s getting a little more noticeable every day. Daily construction field reporting creates a record that can be used to justify certain actions (like hiring additional equipment or ordering testing) to prevent problems from developing.

Visibility To Project Managers And Executives
As much as managers, firm heads, and their partners would like to give each project they’re involved with their daily and unrelenting attention, it’s just not possible, especially at busy firms in busy seasons. Well-documented and archived projects provide CEOs and stakeholders a way to track progress and follow the project’s history.

And with the advent of construction-oriented applications for ever-present mobile devices, daily reporting software for the construction industry has never been easier. Raken for daily reporting, for example, has reduced daily reporting time by hours each week, in addition to allowing reports to be transmitted in under a minute to waiting recipients. And in addition to allowing for automatic report reminders or warnings to be issued, Raken’s software allows both video and photos to be added to reports, creating both an evidence trail for litigation purposes and a visual record for distant stakeholders. Add to this a file storage system that allows files to be retained online for up to ten years, and the practice of diligent field reporting undertaken with a digital approach just makes good business sense.

Types Of Construction Disputes And How To Avoid Them

ic-3One of the unfortunate aspects of working in this industry is the amount of time construction firms spend bogged down in court. The construction field has the dubious distinction of being one of the professions most likely to be involved in litigation either as plaintiffs or defendants.  Veterans within the industry say that there are various reasons for this, but the single largest cause for this preponderance of lawsuits is miscommunication between parties.  Such miscommunication could be between companies and clients, contractors, and subcontractors, or suppliers and warehouses.  In many cases, the initial problem snowballs from manageable to disastrous because necessary documents and/or instructions were not understood by all parties or were not complete, or site work was not documented.

Even more frustrating than this lack of communication and field documentation say  experts, is the fact that the same type of construction disputes are occurring repeatedly. It may be that in some cases, especially ones involving very large construction firms and clients, that legal posturing followed by settlements may allow all parties to move on.  But for most firms, whether as plaintiff or defendant, litigation means a loss of time, money, and even professional credibility that really can’t be afforded. Below are a few examples of the most common misunderstandings that lead to court, and techniques for dispute avoidance in construction.

1.  Confusion Over Scope Of Work
The subcontractor doesn’t understand the extent of the work that is being bid on.  The client has interpreted something entirely different than what the contractor is planning to do.  Shouldn’t these people be talking to each other to get on the same page?  These parties do have the recourse of filing a Request For Information (RIF), but because of frequent confusion and misuse of this option, it’s often ineffective.  This is why construction software for daily reporting is so important.  <strong>Raken</strong> for daily reports for example, allows contractors to chronicle all aspects of a project, and share this information with clients and subcontractors in real time, allowing for quick responses to problems.

2.  Changes To Original Scope Of Work
They can range from changes to the original design itself, to an extended completion time due to bad weather.  While such changes are a given in almost any project, trouble can arise when such changes, ranging from supply delays to extra subcontractor work aren’t reflected in the daily report. Construction software like Raken allows reporters to not only easily make updates, but allows reporting from other parties, like subcontractors, to be added to the document.

3.  Site Conditions
While the party commissioning a project is ultimately responsible for site conditions, contractors are legally obligated to investigate sites themselves and identify issues that can delay, prevent, or require extra efforts to complete work. Raken‘s features allow reporters to issue real-time warnings and add streaming video, photos, and graphics to reports to quickly make clients and stakeholders aware of problems encountered on sites.

While these new reporting techniques won’t reduce litigation overnight, by making documentation easier to record and more accessible to all parties, it can certainly help to avoid the pitfalls that lead too often to court.

Introducing: Work Log Rollover

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Autonomous Equipment In Construction: Anytime Soon?

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If you’re a fan of both vehicles and Disney movies, then odds are good that you’ve seen the original, the remake, or possibly both versions of The Love Bug. In this movie, Herbie, the loveable little VW wins races, patches up fractured romances, foils criminal plots, stays spotless, and apparently needs no fuel of any kind. And best of all, he can drive (and presumably parallel park) himself. Audiences at least enjoyed the movie’s fantasy of an automated car, but nearly fifty years after the film’s initial release, self-driving cars are on the horizon, and in everyone’s future. Automotive experts think by the time Love Bug III debuts in the mid- 21st century, almost all drivers will be transported by completely automated autos.

And it won’t just be private drivers that let Herbie do the driving. Businesses are already experimenting with automated cars for deliveries, and a start-up company named Otto put five automated trucks on the road this summer, testing out both short and long distance trucking routes. It should be noted that none of these vehicles are out joyriding by themselves. In all cases, there’s a human passenger aboard (automated vehicles it turns out, deal poorly with road debris, unexpected traffic jams, and having their computer systems hacked into) to resume control if necessary. But despite the challenges all of these vehicles must overcome before they can truly be considered self-driving, experts are expecting many positive gains from this type of vehicle, including:

  • Greater driving safety and less driver fatigue
  • More fuel savings and less emissions
  • Elderly and disabled drivers more able to do so safely, and keep their driving independence longer

So what does this mean for the construction industry, no stranger to using vehicles for work? Will Herbie soon be a fixture at sites? Actually, in some ways he’s already here. “Self-propelled” road stripers have been marking lanes for several years. Chugging down the road at a nose-bleed inducing speed of ten miles an hour, this machine can be programmed to produce thirty-five varieties of stripe, saving human workers from tedium, fatigue, and being struck by other vehicles. This road worker has an automated vehicle colleague who is operated drone-style by a human outside of the vehicle. Currently, this type of vehicle is employed by the state of Florida, moving and positioning crash barriers.

Construction equipment developer Komatsu unveiled a line of four “automated” bulldozers and one excavator in 2013 that could be operated on site with minimal human guidance and skill. And this summer, the company announced the debut of its SmartConstruction company. Its goal is to have a much more automated pre-foundation work site, with Komatsu drones working in conjunction with equipment like laser scanners and stereo cameras, to complete surveys of sites, then compile it into data automated construction equipment can use.  Komatsu construction equipment company anticipates that the only humans needed on site at this stage would be the ones supervising the machines’ work. Such services save money, improve safety, and compensate for ongoing worker shortages.

So does this mean that Herbie will soon be a co-worker or maybe even a supervisor at a site soon? Not quite, say experts, but it does mean that construction management should be preparing now for more staff training, more off-site supervision, and budgeting for more high-tech automated construction equipment, or risk being left behind professionally.

5 Revolutionizing Technologies In Construction

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We’ve all been hearing a great deal about how construction management is being enhanced and improved by emerging technologies. Indeed, many of you reading this can probably think of examples of ways that you’re currently employing all the new technology in construction job sites, from hybrid vehicles to software that snaps selfies. Since we’re also an industry that’s reluctant to try new ways of doing things, your willingness to do this is good news. But that technology you may be using now is but the tip of the iceberg. There are a number of new construction technologies either available now or in the pipeline that one day soon will be as ubiquitous on a construction site as scaffolding.

1. Augmented Reality (AR) Devices
Have you been brushing up on your Pokémon Go? Because this technology, which allows graphic images to be superimposed over what you’re seeing, is available now for construction use. So why aren’t you seeing your construction superintendent walking around the site wearing a glorified Viewmaster? Some production problems continue to dog AR viewers, but a larger problem is that the industry isn’t yet embracing this technology. Hopefully this will soon change, as blueprints, as-builts, and other construction paperwork in AR form can make sites both more efficient and safer.

2. Drones
Drones! They’re cool! They’re controversial! And while the FAA is still hammering out some fine points, they’re now acceptable for commercial use, including on construction sites. Given that drones can be employed there for mapping, photography, project monitoring, and even deliveries, from a project management standpoint, these devices could be very useful in saving time and money. Just be aware that strict rules continue to govern drone use, and a designated pilot and plenty of liability insurance are musts when using them.

3. 3-D Printers
No, all the bugs aren’t out of these devices yet. And some legal and ethical questions remain concerning their use. But don’t expect these “printers” to be going anywhere either, especially in construction. It’s anticipated that these machines will be used for “additive manufacturing” rather than create a building from soup to nuts (or nails to drywall), but even when just used for producing components, 3-D printers can provide considerable benefits. And as London’s FreeForm Project pointed out, these printers also produce impressive and detailed 3-D architectural models.

4. Multi-Tasking Vehicles
These self-operated vehicles aren’t making coffee runs yet, but they’re currently striping asphalt and hauling and placing equipment on American highways, and transporting materials for an Australian mining company. While these vehicles will continue to have at least a “remote” human operator, they’re already cutting down on the need for manpower, reducing fatigue, and increasing productivity.

5. Mobile Technology
Everyone’s got at least one device, and they’re not just for texting or game playing anymore. Applications like Raken for daily construction reporting means that this paperwork can be completed far more accurately and quickly than with conventional methods. And in addition to construction daily reports, software programs like Raken can be used to produce crisp photographs and streaming video, monitor and provide updates to work in the field, and track employee hours. Raken allows all of this data to be compiled into a single report as well. So construction management should embrace this and other emerging technologies, as they’re leading the industry down a more prosperous and efficient road. Learn more about the new innovations in the construction industry on our blog.

How To: Manage Construction Progress Photos

Background image RakenYou’ve heard a lot about the importance of construction daily reports. There’s no downplaying the importance of the photographs that accompany them, too. The human brain comprehends and remembers visual images more readily than written ones. Properly curated and used images can be an important part of all types of reports, from dailies to special ones prepared for shareholder meetings. These images can be progress photos, point out safety hazards, show that environmental issue that might delay a project, or unfortunately, be used as litigation evidence.

In the good old days, photo documentation often consisted of Polaroids stapled to paper reports, which neither was too professional in appearance, or held up well over time. Once everyone figured out that whole pixel thing, digital cameras proved to be a boon for superintendents in the field, as these cameras’ size and quality both improved with time. But despite these improvements, digitized photography still wasn’t convenient. There was still a wait process as the construction supervisor (or a lab) had to transfer the images from the camera to computer for processing. Even after everyone began taking pictures with their cell phones, images still had to be transferred to a computer, and a new file had to be created and named. Moving these images from a photo file to incorporate with a text file could sometimes be awkward. Since this process often meant making trips to the office to do this, the result was an expenditure of time and money, and often a delay in completing reports.

But with the advent of software applications, construction photo management as part of daily reporting has become a great deal easier. Photo apps can help users organize, backup up and share both single photos and collections instantly, all using mobile devices. Take for example, the construction photo documentation software offered in Raken‘s app for daily reporting. When a foreman snaps some shots of the day’s work using his phone, those shots automatically become part of the daily report. No looking for USB cords and struggling to manually transfer those images from one file to another. Not only does this save field photographers much work, a project manager or others in the office can immediately see those images in real time. Raken also incorporates these images into a newsfeed of daily activities, making it even easier to see how these images correspond to site activities.

Raken make life easier for a busy site superintendent with its Photo Gallery feature, which makes it easy for users to find, organize, and download photos, using their desired cloud server. This is especially convenient not just for construction management purposes, but when image files are shared from everyone from shareholders to attorneys in litigation cases. And as with all other parts of these reports, Raken stores images safely and securely online for up to ten years. So while these features probably don’t mean that your project management team will be quitting their day jobs to become professional photographers, with Raken, they can be assured of professional, real-time images that enhance and protect the integrity of a firm’s work.

Mastering The Creation Of Construction Daily Reports

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Given all of the challenges of working on a busy project site, it would seem that the creation, filing, and curation of project reports wouldn’t be all that challenging. But managers and superintendents should by no means underestimate the importance of reporting, especially daily reporting. Sure, it’s a slog to track down data and fill out report sheets, but this seemingly mundane material:

  • Provides in-depth information on an active project
  • Can serve as a warning system
  • Serves as evidence in litigation cases

Part of the reason reporting is regarded with such “non-love” by those in the construction industry is the way in which reporting information is recorded and filed. Surprisingly, while their grandmothers are all out playing Pokémon Go, many in the construction industry are laboriously copying field report notes by hand, then transcribing them over onto report forms again when in the firm office. Aside from giving individuals a definite case of “reportingitis”, odds unfortunately increase of losing data and missing important reporting deadlines when using these antiquated methods.

And given the explosion of construction industry digital products within the last decade, there’s no real reason to continue reporting in this way. Today’s digital software makes it easier, faster, and more accurate to file these reports than ever before. And given how it’s now possible to add sound and visual effects to these reports, they’re also a good deal more readable than they were in years past as well.

But even with all of these entertaining bells and whistles, construction reporting remains essential documentation that needs to be taken seriously. There’s important information that needs to appear in every report, even on days when it seems that there isn’t much to report. Superintendents who create a reporting inclusion checklist for filers to follow with every report will find that:

  • Essential information isn’t overlooked
  • Reporting time is actually reduced if there’s an established protocol of what to include in reports

And what should be going in every report?

User Time Stamps
This helps to verify the integrity of enclosed data, and the authority of designated reporters.

Photo Documentation
The human brain processes and remembers visual information more readily than written, and photo documentation serves not only to compliment written reports, but act both as a warning and evidence.

Hours Worked
This information is actually now mandatory for many government projects, for safety as well as billing purposes.

Notes, Issues and Concerns
The once reliable supplier no longer is? The neighborhood kids are becoming a real nuisance? The ground seems awfully soft at Site A? There should be a section on the report for even the most mundane of observations, in case They Suddenly Become Very Important To The Continuing Health Of This Project.

Safety Observations
As with notes above, even potential safety issues should be chronicled, preferably with accompanying photos. How these issues were resolved should be documented here as well.

Quality Control Observations
How are things going on the project in general? Digital technology now allows for the seamless, professional integration of charts and graphics into these reports.

So while digital reporting makes this once onerous task faster, easier, and more efficient, the right software is important. Raken for daily reporting offers general contractors a fast, fluid program that can be used in the field on a variety of mobile devices. Raken’s reporting app allows managers both in the field and office to collaborate on daily, weekly, and monthly reports in real time. This reduces the time and money consumed with physical meetings. And addition to adding to the convenience of firms, Raken’s new feature Super Daily contractor software program, allows subcontractors to submit their data directly to GC reports at no additional cost to anyone, and saving even more reporting effort.

So. Contractors can carry on with the outdated reporting method, or they can use systems like Raken that not only save reporting time, but that allow managers and stakeholders to visit a site even when they can’t. Raken doesn’t just make reporting easier. It provides an accessible window to the actual project.

5 Reasons To Collaborate Using Cloud Based Construction Software

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Yes, social experts are concerned that as we head with ever more confidence down that digital highway, we’re inadvertently isolating ourselves in front of glowing screens. And while they have a point, there’s no getting around the fact that “doing it digitally” makes life faster, easier, and for businesses, both more profitable and cost efficient.

And with the advance of “cloud” based platform technology, which allows for software access directly through the internet, it’s even easier to share information and conduct business without having to be in the same room (or even the same country) with other individuals. This work doesn’t even have to be done with a traditional computer either, as software apps allow smartphones and tablets to become the new place of business.

Construction firm geeks everywhere are now flying their freak flags proudly as colleagues scramble to embrace what they knew all along, but there are a number of non “because it’s cool” reasons to adopt this new technology as well. Below are just a few reasons to adopt cloud based construction project management software into jobsites.

1. Because It’s Cost Effective
One of the reasons firms are hesitant about embracing new software is that in the past they could only be used in a limited way, usually in a single office setting. But with cloud technology, information can be shared across “basic” equipment like smartphones and tablets, eliminating the need for expensive new hardware. This means that partners can contribute data without making those expensive purchases, too. Raken’s cloud construction software for example, includes a feature for sub-contractors called Super Daily that permits free data collaboration.

2. Because It Allows Greater Access
One of the problems with internet use at work was that it meant literally having to plug into a grounded box. Since even the head-hunters of New Guinea have WiFi now, it’s almost impossible for contractors to not be able to plug into cloud based software from a variety of remote sites.

3. Because It Allows For Real-Time Collaboration
Consider the amount of time that gets spent on setting up project meetings, not to mention the amount of time going-and-coming and the actual meetings themselves. Wouldn’t it be great to have all project participants do this remotely? Software like Raken allows this to happen, even allowing CEOs and stakeholders to participate in this process. And Raken’s Super Daily allows subcontractor daily reports and manpower hours to be sent directly to the general contractor’s report. In addition, by using Super Daily, subcontractors can add their own notes, observations, quality control observations, safety observations, and project photos to a project report from almost any location, meaning that GC superintendents aren’t wasting time and effort tracking down and collating this information on their own.

4. Because It Allows For Greater Storage
Paper and even older software programs create bulky files that are difficult to copy and share. Cloud-based internet storage areas can hold the equivalent of the content of eighty-five filing cabinets, meaning that any device can now be an architect’s office.

5. Because It Makes Firms Money
With time and expenses saved in fewer face to face meetings, data collated more quickly from different sources, and less time spent on reporting in general, document sharing and other features offered by cloud-based software make it a venture well worth investing in.

Leveraging The Cloud In Construction Technology

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 4.48.33 PMFor the last several years you’ve been seeing and hearing all about “the cloud”. How everyone has it. How everyone thinks that it’s great. And now you’re learning that many businesses, including construction firms, are hopping aboard this cloud bandwagon. You’ve been dissatisfied with your firm software for awhile now. Maybe it’s time to get yourself some of this cloud stuff, too. But what exactly is it?

Cloud technology in a nutshell allows its users to enjoy all of the benefits of information technology without many of its constraints. It achieves this by offering these IT services directly over the internet. They are offered in one of three ways.

IaaS, or Infrastructure As A Service provides users with “blocks” of storage that allow them to access different types of data through the provider. Your Kindle Fire uses this system to download those books and movies.

PaaS, or Platform As A Service allows users to utilize the provider’s infrastructure for their own purposes. This service is used most commonly by developers of websites and applications.

SaaS, or Software As A Service allows users to access software directly from the internet. This means that users can access desired software from anywhere they have an internet connection by accessing it through a portal. They are brought immediately to it. There is no waiting for hours for it to download (tying computers up in the meantime) onto an office system. Software offered through this service can be used in the field and from other offices. Increasingly, this service is becoming available on mobile devices as well, in the form of applications. Not surprisingly, SaaS is quite popular in the business world, and is seen as an increasingly important piece of construction technology because of the mobility and flexibility that it allows.

But as great as all of this emerging digital technology is, none of it is free. Is this a worthwhile construction technology to invest in, or will these cloud services turn out to be as unsubstantial as well, you know, clouds?

But as cloud technology becomes more mainstream, it makes good sense for construction companies to switch to this method of software delivery. Construction companies using cloud systems instead of traditional, computer based software experience:

  • quicker software access times
  • no need for in-house IT, and fewer IT issues in general
  • the ability to customize and have the software programs they actually want

And as any dedicated mobile device users would tell you, “there’s an app for that”, and one cloud based construction app that’s providing particularly useful is Raken for daily reporting. With this construction cloud app, users can file and send a variety of reports in under ninety minutes, using a number of features including streaming video. The ability to do all of this from mobile devices means that filing can be done from a site or the field, saving projects time and money.

And Raken’s cloud based construction project management software is just one example of cloud technology that’s enhancing the work of construction firms. So rather than view cloud services than just one more flash in the pan, managers should be looking for the services that’s right for them and joining other forward moving construction companies in the clouds.

Maintaining Good Relationships Between General Contractors and Subcontractors

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 4.27.33 PM“I mean, it’s not like they actually work for us”. And true, subcontractors are not an official part of your construction firm. Given how many different ones that you may work with over the course of your professional lifetime, it’s easy to be dismissive of their work and take their contributions to a project for granted.

Except that subcontractors play a vital role in construction projects, now more than ever. In addition to doing more project work for extended periods of time, subcontractors are now finding themselves filling “diplomatic” roles formerly more commonly held by a GC, such as answering clients’ questions about work in progress. So a superintendent wants his or her subcontractor to not only be paid (although that’s very important), but to feel like a valued member of Team Project, and one who can be counted on for reliably great work in the future. Below are some tips for keeping the road that general contractors and subcontractors both travel on as smooth as possible.

Communications
Every aspect of communicating with a subcontractor is important here, from making sure that subcontractors fully understands the aspects of their part of the project, to how and when payment will be made, to site protocols on everything from safety to sexual harassment reporting. And because many subcontractors have employees who do not speak English as a first language, firms should consider more universal picture signage on site, as well as warning signs and notices in Spanish, Portuguese, and French as well.

Be Transparent About Hiring Practices
Many general contractors will use a particular subcontracting group again and again. What’s the secret to these great working relationships? It’s not so much chemistry as it is transparency. The general contractor should be upfront about what is wanted from a subcontracting firm in term of work standards, materials, etc. A GC who is reasonable and flexible will find that subcontracting firms are eager to return, also. They should be clear with their general contractor and subcontractor agreements.

A True Partnership
Nothing guarantees good work like “pride of place”. Rather than treat subcontractors like temporary, disposable workers, they should be made to feel like real partners on every aspect of a project, including reporting. And with Raken’s Super Daily feature, foremen and subcontractors can use Raken’s digital format to turn diverse information into a seamless, real-time collaboration that appears on a single report. Project superintendents don’t have to worry about delays in receiving needed data, and subcontractors don’t have to incur added expenses in producing this information. While Special Daily alone won’t create the perfect subcontractor partnership between them and the firm it’s an important tool that can lead towards effective working relationships that can last for years.

Top 5 Benefits Of Construction Management Software

andr-minApplications. The cloud. Streaming video. Keyword searches. Are these so-called perks of the digital revolution true rewards, or are they the 21st century’s answer to Pong, VHS, and DOS? Given the ever-changing digital landscape and its expenses, is it worth bothering with the products and programs now being offered to the construction industry?

It’s true enough that a decade from now, devices and programs now considered cutting edge may be obsolete. But since digital technology is in a perpetual state of evolution, those who choose to wait until a “gold standard” is reached could be left behind in terms of reaching increased effectiveness and profitability with their construction firms. Look below to see how simply employing effective construction company software programs can enhance the ways in which your firm is doing business.

1. Good Software Packages Work For Everyone
That’s fabulous that your IT guru totally gets that new program, and that it’s totally awesome on his computer. But he’s not the only one who has to use it. A good software program is one that not only is easy to master and compatible with machines. It needs to have practical, real world applications that make a firm work more productively and save money. Daily reports are tedious but important documents. They are viewed in various formats by everyone from project managers to stakeholders. It’s important that this data be legible, transcribed quickly, and available for viewing as soon as possible by numerous parties. Raken for daily reporting reduces transcription time by as much as ninety minutes daily, and allows multiple parties to view and edit this data in real time.

2. Software Improves On Storage
All of that paperwork is important, remember? It must be stored legally for years. Not only does stored paperwork take up a lot of room, it’s vulnerable to loss and damage. Project management software for construction like Raken uses a cloud platform to digitally store thousands of files safely for up to ten years.

3. Software Improves On Accessibility
All those filing cabinets, and no idea which one holds the file for Project X? With software like Raken, that file can be located with a quick keyword search. Even better, that file can quickly be passed electronically along to appropriate parties with none of the delays and risk of loss caused by “snail mail”.

4. Software Spells It Out
One reason those physical files are so “plump”, is that multiple reports are included within them. Software like Raken allows diverse reports to be saved in the same file, and separate elements to be easily incorporated into the same comprehensive report.

5. Software Frees Up Staff
In the “good old days”, a single daily report needed multiple employees to:

  • take field notes
  • copy notes over onto “official” forms
  • review, approve and pass along official report
  • search for and pass along filed documents

With software like Raken, a single employee can now perform these tasks, freeing up time and resources to concentrate on other aspects of a project.

Tips For Embracing Mobile Technology At Construction Jobsites

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 4.53.38 PMWe’ve written here before more than once about the many benefits of employing mobile devices as computers at construction work sites. They’re portable. Cables, wiring, and only being able to hook into intra-office internet systems are no longer issues. Employees with a wide range of IT abilities find them easy to use. And while these tiny phones and tablets do have some limitations, they also have the technological capacity to operate some of NASA’s toys.

Sounds great! So let’s go down to the nearest big box store, buy a bucket load of disposable smartphones, and…. Okay, slow down. Despite the many advantages of adopting a cloud based, wireless system for your digital technology needs, all roads have their bumps. The handy “fun size” of these devices makes them easy to lose or have stolen. And speaking of stealing, the virus and malware crises that have long plagued conventional computers and laptops have moved on to their little cousins. And some of these mobile device diseases, like Stage Fright, which can take control of a smartphone and its camera, are especially sophisticated and scary.

So what are we saying here? That mobile technology in construction project management isn’t a good idea, after all? Not at all, but as with any other technology one adopts, going mobile at work should be done thoughtfully.

Keep Control Of The Technology
As a certain potential future President Of The United States could tell you, it’s a bad idea to conduct business over private technologies. Aside from the fact that employees shouldn’t be required to use or purchase their own mobile devices for work, employers should provide all technology (devices, plans, security services and upgrades) to guarantee:

  • data and site security
  • adequate virus and malware protection
  • device compatibility with software packages

Choose The Right Construction Software
It’s not all created equal, it doesn’t offer all of the same functions, and not all of it operates on the same systems powering mobile devices. For example, if you’re looking for software for construction daily reporting, then choose a product like Raken, which not only provides fields for daily reports, it allows reporters to do weekly and monthly reports as well, aided by features like streaming video and notifications. And Raken delivers all of this via a construction reporting app that delivers fast, easy access to software sites.

Select A Company That’s There After The Sale
Just because your new construction applications are really cool doesn’t mean that you’ll never have issues with, questions about, or desires to upgrade it. Raken, for example, has its users’ backs with Customer Success service seven days a week, plus chat and training services, in addition to customized software packages. So by selecting a company like Raken, construction firms can ride the digital wave with confidence.

New Raken Tools Are Live!

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Importance Of User Acceptance When Purchasing Construction Software

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ULTREX is here! This is so exciting! You’ve been eager to try a construction software package that will reduce time you spend with construction documents, and the ULTREX rep assured you that this was the product for you. She made it sound like ULTREX would do everything including hang sheetrock for your team, and all with reliable customer service, too. Staff problems adjusting to it and using it? No worries! If you can breathe, you can use ULTREX! So now the big day is here, and-what’s this? Everyone hates ULTREX, and refers to it as “Ugly”. Office staffers are complaining that it has slowed the firm’s computer system to a crawl. Field workers are having to drive into the office to log data into ULTREX, further slowly things down. And you’re thinking of adding an additional IT person to the staff, because that “reliable” customer service has turned out to be pretty unreliable.

That’s too bad, but ULTREX may not be the cause of it. Rather, you may have selected the wrong construction software for your team. This is not an uncommon mistake, and it often happens because the purchaser forgets who this software is being purchased for. In the case of daily reporting, data is collected in the field, where access to offices and intra-office computer systems aren’t easily accessible. That’s why when selecting construction software, purchasers should keep in mind:

  • who will actually be using the product
  • what they will be using the product for
  • whether or not the product can be used by people with a wide range of technical ability
  • the equipment that they will be using this software on

If possible, software purchasers should either do field tests of software, or solicit opinions of field employees as to what types of digital equipment works best in the field. One type of computer that most employees are already carrying and using like pros for example, are their mobile devices.

And software like Raken for daily reports easily transforms those devices into digital tools that allow workers to quickly and easily complete and transmit reports in real time, without having to leave sites. Raken’s mobile app is easy to understand and use, eliminating misreporting and delays in completing daily reports. Software like Raken can also be customized, to meet the needs of specific trades or projects. Employees don’t have to dread having to work with construction technology. Instead, they can make that technology work for them, resulting in a more efficient and profitable project, saving their firms thousands of dollars.

3 Questions To Consider Before Committing To Construction Software

ic-3The construction industry has gone with remarkable rapidity from being very nervous about embracing new digital technologies for work, to adopting them with great enthusiasm. This in turn has led to some growing pains. Which in turn has made some firms sitting on the digital fence nervous about taking on such technologies themselves. Which they shouldn’t be. Because the problem isn’t that there’s necessarily something wrong with these products themselves, but that they’re being used inappropriately. Take construction software, for example.

Computer use in the construction sector has come a long way since the days of DOS. In just the last few years, dozens of construction software packages have come onto the market, helping firms with everything from inventorying to construction reporting. It may seem as though some of these packages offer the same services with simply a different brand name. But in reality, these software packages can provide users with very different experiences. And if it’s an experience that the firm doesn’t want to have, the results can be expensive and frustrating. That’s why when contemplating software purchases, managers should first ask themselves:

1. “How Can This Software Solve A Specific Work Flow Need My Team Has?”
In other words, is this software package helping your staff to work more efficiently, saving time and money, or might they just as well be playing MineCraft? Raken is a daily reporting software package that is designed to ensure that reporters are doing so correctly, in industry mandated formats. It can also can reduce that dreaded reporting time from anywhere from ninety minutes to an hour daily.

2. “Can My Users Actually Understand And Use This Product Consistently?”
The software training went really well? Great! How about when you’re not standing over them in a classroom setting? For example, when doing daily reports, can they move easily from field to field, entering and saving data? Can they get back into files after being “kicked out” without your assistance? And in addition to ease of software use itself, is it compatible with computers and devices that staff themselves are compatible with?

3. “What Is The After-Sale Support And Why Does That Matter?”
Everyone’s bought the slick looking device, brought it home, found that it wasn’t quite as easy to use as the ads made it look, and when they called Customer Support, they weren’t. Because real life isn’t a commercial and Stuff Happens, a company should stand behind its product with first rate customer support and service. Raken offers a dedicated Customer Success Team that offers support and assistance to clients seven days a week, through a variety of options. So with Raken’s help, clients never again have to question their decision concerning purchasing construction reporting software.

AGC IT Forum Conference To Take Place August 3-5

AGC IT
The Associated General Contractors Of America (AGC) will be offering a information technology seminar August 3-5 in Chicago. Conference attendees can expect plenty of live technology demonstrations during this three day event, in addition to keynote addresses, panel discussions, and lectures delivered by industry leaders in the construction tech field.

Speakers include Blue Collar Labs founder Karl Sorensen, who will be joining forces with “construction app guru” Rob McKinney to bring their popular “construction technology roadshow” to Chicago and send conference goers home with information on current and upcoming tech products that will be used by construction firms and IT companies alike.

The Con Tech Trio comprised of Rob McKinney, James Benham, and Josh Bone of JB Knowledge, a leading construction IT company will also be present. Between them, McKinney, Bone, and Benham bring a wealth of knowledge on BIM and mobile applications, software, and cloud platforms. Their podcast will not only be a lively way to spread this knowledge over the airwaves, but to share it with the podcast’s in-house audience as well.

And addition to speakers, shows, and demonstrations, construction software representatives will be on hand to discuss their products and how they can benefit firms. Raken for daily reporting will be among them. Raken of course, offers many other features in addition to effective real time daily reporting via mobile devices, and we look forward to seeing you at the IT Forum to show you how we can help your firm succeed not just this summer, but for many summers to come. To meet the Raken team, just schedule a 15-minute slot on this calendar.

How Eliminating Paperwork Can Save You Thousands

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 2.28.30 PM“What’s this? Construction project paperwork is not only tedious, it’s financially wasteful, and should be stopped? Quick, grab the confetti and turn up the music!”

Alright, alright, stop that happy dancing. Don’t misunderstand us. We’re not implying that project documentation has suddenly become obsolete. If anything, timely and complete documentation is more important than ever within our evolving industry. But there’s a better way of doing it. Construction software allows users to now complete daily, weekly, monthly, and special reports more quickly and legibly. And a software product like Raken for daily reporting allows for documentation in real time, plus features like streaming video. This means that these digital reports are often the next best thing to being physically present on a daily basis on a job site. Getting those tedious reports done more easily certainly sounds like a plus. But software packages like Raken don’t just save time, they can save firms considerable amounts of money as well. Below we describe how to save money in construction:

Paper Is Pricey
Paper is one of mankind’s greatest inventions, but its acquisition is not cheap, either environmentally or financially. What we think of as “office paper” comes by the ream, and those reams aren’t cheap. Prices vary depending on paper quality, but reams generally run between $8-$16. The average office goes through about twenty reams of paper a year, per person. Assuming that your staff of twenty is using the cheapest paper, that still adds up to an annual paper cost of $3,200.

“Old School” Paperwork Makes More Work
One of the reasons that paperwork has been so disliked is that it often has to be done again and again. Because of the lack of a field office at many sites, reports often start out as scribbled notes, which have to be rewritten when the reporter returns to the office. And if those notes aren’t transcribed properly, they have to be rewritten. Again. And aside from reports, many other forms of paperwork, like drawings and RFIs have to be copied over to various paper formats repeatedly. Studies have shown that construction companies spend billions of dollars annually both on this copying process and correcting errors made while doing so.

Reduce Litigation
Million dollar construction litigation suits have increased by twenty percent over the last decade. Given the amount of paperwork related to such cases, digital paperwork can save considerable money in terms of transmittal and storage. And given that many suits happen over misunderstandings and poor communication, using paperwork software packages to create complete, readable reports might actually help to reduce the number of these suits themselves. There are many construction software benefits with the use of our Raken app!

How Doable Would Be Pokemon Go For Construction Reporting?

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 1.54.36 PMAngry Birds. Warcraft. Minecraft. Since the advent of the digital revolution, it seems that there’s an iconic new computer game coming out every five minutes. And the hottest by far these days is Pokémon Go. This game takes characters from the perennially popular Japanese “pocket monster” sensation and has players try to track them down on a hunt. The “weapon” used on this particular safari is the camera embedded in a player’s smartphone. Players track Pokémon characters out of doors, comparing an on-screen map to real life locations. Augmented reality (AR) technology takes control of the phone’s camera at certain phases of the game, and as the player looks at real life locations through the camera, a Pokémon character appears, seemingly part of the real-life landscape. Players then use on-screen devices to try to capture the creature.

Hilarious stories have appeared in the media concerning players getting into minor mishaps and accidentally trespassing as they track Pokémon beasts. But what exactly does Pokémon have to do with construction reporting? It seems unlikely that Squirrel is going to take over daily report filing, for example. And while it’s true that you might not see him or Bulbasaur working on a construction site anytime soon, in future, you may well be seeing the technology that makes Pokémon Go possible being used regularly on project sites.

Augmented reality technology has existed since the early 1990s, and has been used extensively by the military. But non-military groups ranging from medical therapists to yes, the construction industry, have seen the potential of a device that allows the user to superimpose graphic images onto real world ones. Developers promised potential users that soon the technology would be available on hands-free devices like helmets and goggles. In construction terms, this meant that workers would be able to walk through a site, looking at as-builts right on top of what was actually being built. And then, nothing. Testing revealed a lot of design flaws. Progress was slow. And it began to seem as though augmented reality in construction might not have a lot of practical use beyond computer games. Microsoft has made progress with its HoloLens, but the product’s still far from a release date and expected to be quite expensive when available. Which brings us back to the Pokémon gang, and yes, construction.

Construction software apps powered by iOS and Android exist now for smartphone use. But they are limited to CAD and BIM use, and developers say that the industry seems “reluctant” to use this new technology. Might those in the construction industry embrace a software that allowed users to superimpose report data over live work images? Or change work forms over actual examples? Or call up a RFI as they inspected a project in progress, among many other paperwork uses? Similar software exists now, and is being used by some retailers and some online educational programs, such as Fieldtrip. Developers could certainly modify these programs for construction uses such as punch orders, submittals, reporting and more. But there needs to be a market.

So firm owners and managers, don’t be so quick to dismiss construction augmented reality as a fad or game. This technology has great promise as a way to transcribe, transmit, and share data effectively and quickly. But in order to get winning results from it, first you have to play.

From Paper To Digital: Evolution Of Construction Technology

Old daily reportAs tedious as paperwork can seem to construction, its importance is undeniable. Well-documented construction projects are safer, more efficient, and ultimately, more profitable ones. Construction site documentation has existed for about as long as construction itself. Historical examples are still in existence rendered on “mediums” ranging from cuneiform, to papyrus, to parchment. But until the wide introduction of modern day paper about two hundred and twenty years ago, documented accounts of construction projects were sporadic at best, and the information these early reports contained was quite spotty. This was often deliberate, to avoid giving away “trade secrets” to competitors.

Required written accounts of construction projects didn’t appear until after the turn of the 20th century. And at that point, the purpose of these documents was to insure that contractors weren’t trying to rip off clients through false billing and other tactics. Construction reports that would seem recognizable to many today didn’t appear until mid-way through the century, and safety briefings and warnings didn’t become a required part of these reports until 1971.

As time marched on, construction reporting expanded as well, due to customer demands, contractor convenience, and government requirements. What had started out as cuneiform on clay tablets had “evolved” into boxes of folders of paper files, sometimes just for one project. And unlike clay tablets, paper doesn’t hold up particularly well to time, fire, flooding, or insects.

In addition to the durability limitations of paper, was the issue of coalescing data from all of the files onto a single (paper) document. As the twenty-first century beckoned, clearly a better way was needed to do construction paperwork, preferably involving less actual paperwork. Business-oriented software began first appearing at the end of the 1970s. While doing paperwork over the computer was quicker, more legible, and allowed for integration of different documents into one, these software packages were often slow to download, difficult to use, tied up computers for hours, and were often limited to use as part of an office system. And yes, such reporting required the use of an actual computer with all of its attendant cords and wires, not terribly practical for field use.

Fortunately, like paperwork and the industry itself, construction software has evolved. Not only is today’s construction software faster and more task specific, it is no longer limited to conventional computers. It can be used on laptops, notebooks, and wireless systems, meaning that today’s reports can be completed on a variety of devices, from a variety of locations.

Raken for daily reporting for example, allow users to complete and send reports in ninety minutes or less from Android or iOS powered devices in real time. Raken’s fields also allow for the inclusion of photos and streaming video for a more comprehensive report. And Raken’s cloud technology allows for up to ten years of online file storage, making those office file rooms as obsolete as office DOS. So by using Raken and other construction software programs, firms are guaranteed an evolution into more productive and profitable businesses.

5 Facts About The Collaboration Nature Of Construction Jobsites

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 10.14.43 AM“No man is an island”, said metaphysical 17th century poet John Donne. And while he was referring to humanity’s need for each other in general, the phrase has some relevancy to the construction industry as well. Successful projects don’t happen here without the successful collaborative efforts of a project team as a whole. But there are some key partnerships within this group that very much affect the outcome of a project. Below are a few examples of the collaboration in construction.

5. Owners And Stakeholders
Sometimes also known as project shareholders or sponsors, project stakeholders are bluntly, the financial wheels that make a project turn. They may or may not be a project client, who will be directly utilizing a finished project. But these individuals definitely have access to, and control over, the finances that allow a project to move forward. While it’s possible for a construction firm owner to be a stakeholder as well, generally firm owners handle money connected to the operations of the firm itself, such as payrolls and supply purchasing. Stakeholders and owners work directly together on issues like financing and scheduling.

4. General Contractors And Subcontractors
General contractors enter into contract agreements and provide general building services, while subcontractors provide more specialized work like installing plumbing or electrical systems. While these two teams technically aren’t on the same one, it’s important that they can work collaboratively to avoid accidents and project delays. Good scheduling skills are important here.

3. Project Managers And Project Superintendents
Managers and superintendents work together to insure the progress of the project, including such potential issues as land, paperwork, and permitting. These two also work closely together on budgeting, to try to keep a project within its framework.

2. Project Superintendents and Foremen
Yes, the superintendent is the project’s “eyes on the ground” person, but it is essential that he or she work closely with the site’s foreman to avoid safety, staffing, and equipment problems.

1. Architects And Designers
These two groups of specialists work closely together during various phases of a project to make sure that their visions are in compliance with all planning and building requirements.

And one construction “partnership” that is becoming essential on projects is construction software like Raken, which allows for collaborative work in real time from a number of locations. Not only does Raken insure the fast and secure transmission of both text and images between parties, it reduces the need for physical meetings, saving firms time and money.

3 Tips For Managing A Construction Site Effectively

3063632328_55f14099de_o“Doing good work gets you more work”. While that statement would seem to be a no-brainer, the reality is that construction projects, like any other workplace, have become more hectic over the years. Lots and lots to do, but less time and fewer people to get these tasks accomplished. So how can project superintendents keep effective management of construction sites in the face of ever-increasing workplace challenges? Below are a few tips to help keep a firm and its projects safe, efficient, and profitable.

1. Software
The industry has been resistant to adopting digital technology, and who could blame them? With packages that were difficult to download, and often inconvenient and awkward to use, especially in the field, it’s easy to see why. But the most recent generations of software are much more convenient and nimble, and don’t require an in-house battalion of IT experts to maintain them, to boot. And new products of this type are constantly being released, ranging from payroll tracking to literal tools. Raken for daily reporting, for example, providers its users with an app that can be used on a variety of mobile devices. This makes it a great deal more convenient do both reporting and other documentation work from the field. And Raken’s fields are much quicker and legible that hand written notes or the hunt-and-peck method. Raken’s real time documentation also allows for remote collaboration, reducing the needs for physical meetings and expensive travel.

2. Where Are We Going And Where Have We Been?
All firms should develop multi-year company plans that allow them to track their successes and weaknesses in project work. This data can be applied to individual projects. Are they doing a better job on this project than on past ones at scheduling subcontractor safety meetings? Tracking deliveries? Achieving faster RFI turnaround times? If not, can they see the areas in which they need to improve, and the methods that they should be using to achieve them?

3. Knowledge Is Power
If it’s industry related, there should be regular training opportunities for all firm employees. In addition, superintendents and other staff should take advantage of low-cost and free educational opportunities offered online by a number of professional industry organizations, like the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA). Organizations like CMAA not only allow for educational and job opportunities, but a little “friendly espionage” among competitors. Being aware of rivals’ work allows managers and superintendents to establish benchmarks to track their own firm’s effectiveness and success within the industry.

New Tech Helping Construction Companies Become More Profitable

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 10.27.08 AMThere’s no denying that the construction industry has been slow to hop on the technology bandwagon. But it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks. Thanks to Raken and other types of new technology for construction, firms are saving both considerable time and money in doing reporting and other types of paperwork. And the benefits for the industry don’t just stop there. While some of the latest innovations in construction technology “in the hopper” won’t be seen for awhile at project sites, they’ll be taken for granted in another decade or two. Below are just a few of the ones that will be making construction sites in the near future smarter, safer, more efficient, and more profitable.

3D-MC Three Dimensional Machine Control
You think those road crews are doing it “old school”? Like everyone else in the industry, they’re embracing new construction industry technologies, including the use of lasers. But there’s a problem. Current laser technologies don’t do well on curves, which many roadways alas, tend to have. The solution? Roadway construction equipment is currently guided by hubs, staking, or elevated string lines. The 3D MC system utilizes three “modules” to guide equipment, consisting of a total station, receiver, and control system device. Productivity has been greatly enhanced using this system in trials.

Concrete Cloth
Storm water is an increasingly dirty word in construction, in every sense of the word. Not only does the runoff that it creates endanger properties through erosion, it can create waterway environmental hazards as well. When storm water was addressed in the past, it was in the form of concrete chutes or earthen ditches that needed frequent maintenance or repair themselves to work effectively. Just installing such methods ran the risk of creating more erosion or environmental damage. But the development of a new material called geo-synthetic cementitious composite mats(GCCM) and trademarked and sold under the name Concrete Cloth are making an enormous difference. Now being used at a variety of construction and municipal sites, the GCCMs are placed on the ground first, making it possible to use concrete on slopes, in water, and in other difficult situations, without workers having to use forms, do mixing, or be forced to use a lot of equipment.

Movax Robotic Hydraulic Vibratory Pile Driver
Pile driving sheeting at sites currently involves lots of equipment, lots of workers, and lots of opportunities for accidents. The excavator-mounted Movax robot allows a single operator to pick up a 50 foot sheet and drive it, thread it, and place it without dropping it.

Why You Should Ask Your Contractor What Software They Use

DEC_VT100_terminal When you’re window shopping for a construction firm for your dream project, there are certain things that you’re going to be checking for. The quality of the contractor’s work on previous projects, for example. The reputation of the firm’s integrity is another. But the type of construction software that your potential contractor uses probably won’t be one of the criteria you’ll be checking on. Your goal is a safe, stable, quality structure, done on time. Should you really care what that firm is doing on its computers expect perhaps for pulling up and printing out your invoice?

Actually, you should. Paperwork has long been a part of construction, and not just in terms of billing. Project management relies on efficient paperwork for everything from daily reporting, to scheduling, to subcontractor activity, to payroll. A half century ago, such notes were recorded by hand on sites, then laboriously typed up, either in a field office if one was available, or done in the contractor’s main office if not. In either case, delay and possibly misplacement of these reports might be the case. And while lost or tardy paperwork would seem to be a contractor’s problem, and not a client’s, such issues can help to create project delays, safety issues, and projects being shut down altogether.

The right field reporting software is especially important, as it allows contractor employees to write and file reports from almost anywhere. This means that reports can quickly and properly be written and submitted, so that they can be reviewed and approved more rapidly, allowing projects to stay on schedule. Raken construction software for daily reporting allows contractors to save from sixty to ninety minutes a day in routine report completion. This software for contractors also allows them to author weekly and monthly reports on everything that affects a construction project, from project progress (or reasons for delays), to payroll, and other cost tracking. And the right reporting software like Raken’s can be utilized in a number of ways that can help a project to move safely and efficiently along.

So. Software that keeps projects on time, on budget, and that helps to insure safe and efficient completion? It sounds as though not only contractors should be seeking this technology out for their firms. Potential project clients should also be checking up on what contractors are using, to insure the best possible outcome for their dream projects.

3 Communication Tips For Construction Teams

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 11.14.51 AMNot too long ago, when a group of construction executives and industry experts were asked in a survey what they thought some of the construction industry’s biggest problems were, at the top of the list was communication. What kinds of communication, exactly? Between CEOs and shareholders? Architects and clients? Superintendents and foremen? Well, everybody really, said those surveyed. And they felt these construction site communication problems affected every aspect of construction work, from contracts, to scheduling, to deliveries, to safety, to dealing with subcontractors. Knowing the source of a problem is an important first step in fixing it. In the words of the Captain from Cool Hand Luke, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate”. Knowing this, how should we in the construction industry move forward to fix it?

1. Who’s In Charge Here?
It’s important that project managers establish a clear chain of command at the start of every project, and make sure that this is documented in writing. By establishing this chain early, not only do employees and clients alike know where to go for instructions and information, schedule changes and site problems are reported to the parties best able to deal with such issues, avoiding delays and other complications.

2. It’s All Perfectly Clear
That “all staff” memo from the office might be perfectly understandable to the superintendent. But what about the site’s foreman and workers? To insure a smoothly running site, superintendents need to take the time to make sure that all subordinates, whether a firm employee or a subcontractor, fully understands all site protocol, practices, and any schedules that pertain directly to them. Superintendents in turn need to be good listeners, which actively involves paying attention to and understanding what’s being said. The best way to achieve this is by creating a comfortable work environment, where everyone can speak and ask questions freely.

3. Construction Software
Paperwork has been an important part of communication in the construction industry for hundreds of years, but paper is bulky, fragile, and prone to water, insect, and fire damage. Handwritten documentation, for reasons ranging from bad penmanship to weather, often has an adverse effect on written communications as well. But with the rise of software designed specifically for construction tasks, written communication is far more legible and effective. The Raken application for daily reporting, for example, allows employees the ability to complete and submit multiple types of reports using mobile devices, meaning that such reporting can be done from almost any location. And because these reports can be reviewed and collaborated on in real time, firms using Raken are assured of reports written and received quickly and efficiently, meaning an end to a failure to communicate.

Purchasing Construction Software That Will Save You Thousands

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 4.53.38 PM“It’s the little things that mean a lot”. These aren’t just catchy song lyrics, they’re words of wisdom in business. Especially in the construction industry, where one wrong move can have disastrous results, even seemingly small ones. Take paperwork, for example. Those schedules, tables, graphs, and very dry language wouldn’t seem to have much to do with getting that project built. But late, incomplete, incorrectly done, or lost construction documentation can result in lost contracts, delays, fines, lawsuits, and non-payment. The potential loss of all of that money doesn’t make a little writer’s cramp seem all that bad, does it? Besides, given all of the software out there these days to assist with daily report writing, writer’s cramps are hardly necessary. Nor is scrambling to find a place to do paperwork in the field, making road trips to collaborate on reports, or involving an entire IT team to make changes to a document.

No, with construction software like Raken for daily and other project reporting, not only can documents themselves present ways to save money. Time and money can be saved on the production of the report itself. But just purchasing a construction software package won’t do it. So before doing so, here are some pointers that will help you make sure that you’re making the right buy.

5. Make Sure That This Is A Product That’s Right For Your Firm
There are now many types of construction software out there, but if you want one that produces a construction daily report, you probably don’t want a product called “Digi-Hammer”. Take the time to research and find construction companies software and products that are right for you.

4. Make Sure That This Product Is Right For Your Employees
The time, effort, and expense you go to for employee training won’t much matter, if they’re too uncomfortable with, or can’t find a place to do dailies. Raken provides an app that allows staff to enter and transmit reports from mobile devices such as smartphones, devices nearly everyone carries, and are comfortable with. Raken reports done in this way can save hours a week in completion time, and meet industry guidelines.

3. Make Sure That This Product Is Not A “One-Trick Pony”
Your software for recording a daily log should also allow it to be transmitted to the devices of other appropriate parties in real time, to allow for review and collaboration, as Raken does. Money saving software can also produce other kinds or related documentation, such as weekly and monthly reports. And such software should have special fields that allow for the inclusion to reports of change orders, warnings, and photographs. A subcontractor asking a general contractor for a RFI is nothing new, but construction site diary software like Raken puts a new spin on it. Now a contractor can enter and send requested information within minutes, avoiding the delay of “snail mail” and saving money.

2. Make Sure That This Product Is “Legitmate” And Secure
Reports unfortunately sometimes become part of legal actions involving clients or others. Make sure that you use a documentation software product that uses fields acceptable for legal documents, has features such as date stamping, and that can be stored securely for up to ten years.

1. And Yes, Speed Is Good
A construction software package that allows for various types of report writing and document writing is good, but one that allows recorders to do so quickly can save dollars with every report typed. Raken allows users to save anywhere from sixty to ninety minutes daily with its report typing features.

How GCs Choose Subcontractors For Their Construction Job

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.20.51 PMAs any general contractor knows, despite the skill level and professionalism of their own employees, it’s a subcontractor who can make or break a job. Contractors can be both a superintendent’s delight and worse nightmare. For all intents and purposes, when they’re working on a project site, subcontractors are the employees of the GC, even though they’re not. Certainly, clients don’t know the difference. As a result, unprofessional behavior and shoddy work by subcontractors are laid at the feet of the contractor. And in addition to having a potentially adverse affect on a firm’s reputation, subcontractors can cause plenty of other problems, ranging from project delays to safety issues. So selecting the right subcontractors for a project is no small thing. Contractors looking for subcontractors is such a big thing in fact, that academic studies have been conducted on this issue.

The authors of a white paper financed by the Housing and Building National Research Center explain that so much research and related surveys have been done on construction subcontractors, that researchers have been able to develop computer algorithms that can select attributes of the best subcontractors. According to the paper, there are forty six separate qualities that general contractors are looking for when making their hiring selections. But the computer didn’t decide this on its own. Instead, it looked at data compiled both from surveys and questionnaires filled out by a number of experts in the construction industry.

What contracting firms are looking for in subcontractors isn’t surprising. Ones who charge reasonable fees are a plus, of course. But what contractors are also looking for in subcontractors are ones who are conscientious about work quality and habits. They also want to work with subcontractors who:

  • have proven work histories
  • have good reputations
  • are specialists
  • can guarantee quality control
  • don’t have disruptive work habits
  • practice good safety habits
  • don’t create unnecessary messes or noise
  • can keep up with the contractor’s schedule
  • work well with suppliers, and delivery issues are minimal

This dependence on subcontractors isn’t unique to American firms, either. While other nationalities may assign different values to the criteria of hiring subcontractors, the paper shows that they are essential to construction internationally.

As construction firms struggle to find qualified employees, and are becoming increasingly reliant on the services of an electrical subcontractor or a mechanical sub among many others, what are the best ways to guarantee dream temporary employees? Asking friends and other contractors is one time proven way, while other methods might be to inquire at specialty suppliers, or talk to homeowners who recently have had work done. And once a firm finds the right subcontractors, they should hang onto them with both hands, as the need for these specialists will only increase as we advance into the 21st century.

How To Write A Daily Construction Report That Matters

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 2.57.47 PMWhile most people don’t go into the construction field to do lots of paperwork, there’s no escaping the fact that for some employees, it’s a regular part of the job. Project superintendents, for example, usually find themselves tasked with writing the daily construction report (DCR). This report is admittedly not an assignment in pleasurable creative writing. But there’s no denying its importance to the success, and even the legality, of a construction project. These construction daily log forms contain information that has long been required for Federal projects. Increasingly, state and municipal governing bodies are calling for it, too. And in addition to providing required information, a daily report can:

  • chronicle the progress and delays of a project
  • be used as notification of safety warnings and other problems found at sites
  • serve as evidence in litigation cases

But while a superintendent won’t deny that this report is both necessary and useful, there are only so many hours in the working day. In the past, given all of the important site tasks that are part of a superintendent’s daily duties, report writing often got put on the back burner. Sometimes, reports were often transcribed by administrative office staff based on a superintendent’s field notes. This sometimes resulted in delayed and incomplete reporting.

Fortunately, with new advances in digital technology, daily reporting software is available to construction superintendents. This means that daily reports can be done much more quickly, are much more legible, and best of all, can be completed in a variety of locations with mobile devices. The Raken daily reporting app for example, allows superintendents to complete reports in ninety minutes or less in real time, using industry standardized fields. So knowing that Raken provides an easy to complete, professional report, what should superintendents include in it to make sure that it’s a report that matters?

1. Company Logo
This gives clients a professional impression of the firm, and helps them to remember the firm for future projects. In addition to the company name, make sure that pertinent contact information goes here as well.

2. Safety And Weather Condition Information
In addition to report fields to accommodate this information, Raken can issue warnings on both over devices as well.

3. Site “Housekeeping”
Apps like Raken can be used to add files to daily reports that contain information on project numbers, deliveries, manpower and other pay issues affecting both staff and subcontractors.

4. General Notes
Less is more? Not in a construction report, where it could have legal importance, or even be potentially life saving. Even the mundane should be chronicled in a report.

5. Photos And More
A picture is worth a thousand words in terms of site safety and progress, but it’s time for superintendents to stop monkeying around with polaroids and tape. Raken’s app allows for the seamless integration of both digital photographs and streaming video.

Raken Named Best App For Construction Reporting

tsheets-top-ten-constuction-apps-badge_printRaken was named the Best Construction App for Reporting by TSheets, a business software leader in tracking, managing, and reporting time. TSheets periodically issues “Best Of Awards” to various industry products, looking for features that help a company to run more efficiently and productively. Being able to be mastered quickly, and the ability to be used easily by employees certainly doesn’t hurt in the eyes of TSheets’ judges, either. In its most recent contest, construction apps were the competitors, with a whopping one hundred nominees being considered. Winners and runner-ups were selected in ten different categories.

And it wasn’t just the opinions of the TSheets judges that determined the winner of the best construction app for reporting. Before naming a winner, the opinion of construction industry experts was sought, and the results of industry peer voting were tallied. In addition, every top construction app nominee had to score high marks in a variety of fields. These “talent contests” included:

•Demonstrating expertise in performing certain tasks
•Ease of use of the app
•The quantity of functions the app could perform
•The performance of the app’s quality assurance team
•The app developer’s performance record
•Company’s average customer performance ratings in app stores
•Ratings from other industry and media sources
•Number of users of the app

Noting that use of construction software applications had increased within the industry by 20% in just a little over two years, TSheets editors stated in a company “infograph” that the use of apps like Raken would be transformational within the construction industry, creating improvements in communication, collaboration, and profitability.

Reviewers of Raken App certainly agreed with TSheets’ assessment. They stated that they found Raken’s software easy to use and understand, with rapid results, and considered it a product that their firms would use on a regular basis. And Raken offers a number of collaborative features in addition to daily reporting fields, including real time viewing and editing capabilities, photo and video inclusion, warning and notification updates, and the ability to create weekly and monthly reports. Considering all of this, Raken isn’t a must-have simply because it’s an award winner. It’s a must-have because it’s essential for creating a modern, profitable construction firm.

Constructing A Safe Workplace Environment

As they say, “Accidents happen.” Unfortunately, an awful lot of them seem to befall us at work. This doesn’t mean that employees should call in sick and hide under their beds. On the contrary, over the last decade, incidents of workplace injury and illness have decreased. Similar results have been reported for other industrialized nations, such as Great Britain and Canada. Why is this happening? Analysts think it’s the result of a variety of reasons, ranging from better workplace communications and training, to safer equipment and adherence to procedures. And yet the quest for a completely accident-free work place hasn’t been fulfilled. Three out of every one hundred American workers in the last year fell victim to workplace related illness or injury. And the construction injury remains among the leaders in this field. Because of the dangerous nature of this type of work, it’s not surprising that many mishaps are construction related. In 2012 for example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that twenty percent of all victims of labor fatalities were employed in the construction industry.

Fortunately, not all construction site accidents are fatal. Unfortunately, the construction industry has a preponderance of non-fatal ones as well. Construction workers fall well within the unenviable “Top Ten” of professions that are frequent victims of non-fatal injury or illness. The most common accidents that caused both fatal and non-fatal injuries were falls, falling objects, electrocution, and getting caught between two objects. Illness and indirect injury were caused by exposure to carcinogenics, chemicals, and other substances. As can be imagined, workplace compensation claims for construction site mishaps are almost an industry unto themselves.

But construction worksites don’t have to be accident or injury hotspots. Many calamities can be avoided with conscious effort by both employers and employees, and it all starts with training. Employers should make every effort to make sure that employees are aware of potential hazards at sites before work even commences. Before any worker enters them, they should be made aware of areas where potential falls, exposure to falling materials, slips, or trips could occur. All workers entering a construction site should be aware of the presence and proximity of both buried and exposed electrical and water lines. They should also be aware of any confined areas and of the presence of hazardous materials, either known or possibly buried. Once warned of potential site hazards, training should begin in how to avoid them.

Such training should be conducted off site to avoid distractions. In some cases depending on the state, such training is mandatory, and includes testing. Such training should not only help employees to detect and avoid site hazards, but to know how to render assistance to employees who are victims of workplace mishaps. This includes either providing on-job CPR, first aid, and AED training, or compensating employees who receive such certification on their own time. Multiple, fully stocked first aid kits and emergency contact numbers (in case 911 is not an option) should be placed around the site. Employers should conduct reviews and explanations of all workplace protocols before site work begins. This includes all gear to be used, (such as hard hats, tackle, vests, etc.) proper equipment operations, hand signals, radio communications, lock-out tag-out procedures, visitor policies, and end of workday and end of project site cleanup. Employees in turn should be empowered to suggest additional pertinent training to employers. Employers should also offer employees the chance to report safety deficits or offer suggestions for safety improvement without fear of ramifications. After a recession-era slump, the industry is rebounding and will continue to do so as we approach the mid twenty first century. Employers and supervisors can ensure a safer journey to that point by making employees partners in getting there.

A reliable way to stay on top of security concerns is to use a construction project management software. The use of a daily reporting app such as Raken can help Project Managers and Supervisors ensure that appropriate tasks are being followed at jobsites even when they are not physically present. Along with the ability to add tasks to ensure guidelines, Raken allows for notifications to be sent in case of an accident. 

Construction Bidding Best Practices To Help Your Margins

Steel_construction Since construction firms live or die by the projects that they successfully bid on, it’s easy to see how a knee-jerk mentality towards bids can develop. However, the feeling that a firm must bid on all projects available at all costs can just as easily lead to a firm’s downfall. Engaging in aggressive bidding wars can result in winning a contract, and being legally obligated to complete it at a price far, far, below what it’s worth. Or perhaps a firm snaps up bids so quickly that they don’t take time to learn all the details of a pending project, and end up struggling to complete a project that in hindsight, the firm shouldn’t have taken on at all.

While the act of bidding on a contract is not legally binding in the way the contract itself is, this doesn’t mean construction project bidding shouldn’t be taken seriously. Potential clients notice (the Federal government is a good example) firms that aggressively and repeatedly bid on contracts and then back out, or have problems with the resulting contract. And not in a good way. After all, if a firm can’t handle a bid, was does this mean for its handling of the actual project?

But all of this doesn’t mean that a firm should be shy about bidding on project opportunities as they arise. Instead, they should make sure that they’re bidding in the most effective way. And they can start by making sure that they have the most up to date construction bidding software. Such software helps firms to:

  • Keep track of project budgets
  • Compare budgets from different projects
  • Analyze changes in costs of supplies
  • Create professional looking reports based on research

All of this information can be considered when preparing for bidding on projects. This is turn will help firm managers in deciding which potential projects can be completed cost effectively, and which ones are simply money pits. A thoughtful approach to bidding impresses clients as well. They want to save money, sure, but they also don’t have to worry about all the corners possibly being cut by a desperate contractor who wants to get that project over with.

As our industry begins to recover from the recession era slump, it’s certainly seeing more jobs. It’s also seeing more competitors for these jobs, which can result in lower profit margins. Savvy firm managers therefore, should keep their heads and invest in software to help them find and bid on the projects which can be completed quickly and profitably.

Can Microsoft’s HoloLens Be Effectively Applied To Construction

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 5.39.05 PMIf the latest variation on “Google Glass” works out as well as its developers and producers hope, you may be seeing construction workers and architects wearing some very funny looking sunglasses. Microsoft’s HoloLens, the product in question, is the latest generation of what is best described as a “wearable super computer”. Much like the much talked about Oculus Rift, a wearer secures the device to his or her head, and looks through and responds to images he or she sees. But whereas Oculus Rift is a self-contained device that immerses its user in a virtual reality (VR) world, the HoloLens deals in augmented reality (AR). Augmented reality is defined as “computer-generated sensory input”, appearing over fixed real life images. That science fiction movie where characters suddenly call up a mid-air streaming video newsfeed in their living room? Or suddenly insert a 3-D user’s guide over the spaceship part that they’re trying to fix? That’s AR in action.

But AR isn’t just the stuff of fiction any more. This technology has been with us for awhile, and car manufacturer BMW has actually been using AR at some of its assembly lines and in other manufacturing areas for the last couple of years. And Microsoft has begun an aggressive push to interest the U.S. military in the maintenance and engineering possibilities of AR.

Because this device is hands-free and wireless, designers in many industries are interested in its possibilities. And as this video shows, the ability to insert designs with in-progress work could make AR very beneficial on construction projects, as could the ability to call up 3-D floor plans, instruction manuals, and other documents from any location.

But before you authorize that intern to run down to the electronics store and pick up a few pairs for your firm, a few cautions. Not only is this technology costly at $3,000 a pair, Microsoft is currently only making it available to application designers. The company has not indicated when the HoloLens will be available to the public at large. Technology experts invited to field-test the device say that while the viewing experience is “magical”, the device is many months away from release to the public. Design problems include difficulty in activating it, and disappearing and reappearing AR images.

So while it will probably be years before one mistakes a construction site for a scene from Star Trek, the HoloLens has definite potential as a construction tool in terms of design, maintenance, and documentation. This Hololens for construction is a technology whose progress managers should follow.

Managing A Construction Jobsite Remotely

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 4.53.38 PMIt’s certainly good news when a construction firm has multiple projects going on at the same time. While project managers appreciate that job security as much as anyone else, it doesn’t make their lives any easier. Other types of businesses try to accommodate busy employees by offering them work-from-home opportunities, and many of them find that offering this type of work option actually increases employee productivity.

But it’s essential that construction managers have “eyeballs” on construction projects for a number of reasons. It’s true that superintendents, foremen, and other supervisors can serve effectively as the manager’s proxy in many cases. But it’s still the manager’s responsibility to have an onsite presence and be aware of progress, deliveries, and various issues happening on an active construction site. And this construction site management couldn’t be done via computer from a firm or home office. Until now.

Digital technology has not only taken off quickly, it has improved so rapidly and has updated new products coming out so constantly, it seems that everyone is now an IT expert almost from birth. This is good news for construction managers, because these technological advances can actually bring project activity to him or her, without the manager having to:

  • travel frequently between sites
  • call for frequent physical meetings
  • keep track of “hard-copy” paperwork for multiple on-going projects
  • Reporting And Files

Raken software for daily reporting for example, doesn’t just allow managers to input data for report purposes much more quickly. It allows co-workers in other locations to contribute data remotely in real time, and the combined information can become part of a professional looking report that can be easily viewed over multiple computers and devices. This remote construction eliminates the need for bulky, hard copy spread sheets. And Raken report files can be stored for up to ten years online, and are easily accessed with keyword searches.

The Eyes Have It
Everyone has smartphones on a construction site these days. And Raken’s app allows their users to transmit both photographs and live footage with these devices. This means that managers can track multiple site activities with streaming video.

Barcodes. They’re Just Not For Grocery Stores Anymore.
“Tag gates” at construction sites read codes on incoming delivery vehicles, and instantly transfer inventory information from them to files, eliminating the need for managers to check up on and compile this data. And similar technology allows mobile devices to scan codes on floor plans and structure components themselves, to ascertain work progress in these areas.

So while the project manager may not be able to clone himself or herself, today’s digital technology certainly makes it possible to be in multiple locations at the same time. Even without actually visiting any of them.

3 Reasons For Construction Superintendents To Keep Daily Logs

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 1.14.47 PMWith everything that’s going on in the very busy life of a active construction site, worrying about the keeping and curating of daily construction logs may seem excessive. After all, one of the reasons doing daily reporting is a task no one wants to get stuck with is that it’s time consuming to do. Not to mention tedious. And if we’re mentioning tedious, we might as well bring up repetitive. Sure, sometimes big, dramatic changes (both good and bad) happen at a construction site, but let’s be honest. There are days as well when it just seems to be more of that same old, same old. Is it really necessary to keep track of it on a daily basis?

But if daily reporting will never exactly be “fun”, reporting construction software packages like Raken certainly make them much faster to do. And with options ranging from automatic notifications to inserted streaming video,
a Raken report allows its writers a good deal more creativity, while retaining professional formats. And relevance and clarity aren’t the only reasons superintendents have for keeping fully completed reports on a daily basis……

1. Legal Reasons
All federal, most state, and an increasing number of local governments require contractors to file and eventually produce daily reports on topics ranging from staff safety meetings to employees present. And a correctly completed and filed daily report can be a firm’s best friend in legal matters, whether they’re the plaintiff or the defendant.

2. Lessons Learned
In chronicling construction daily activity, scribes are recording both best and bad site practices, information that can be both used (or avoided) to achieve good results on similar future projects.

3. Change Happens
While everyone wants that project to rocket along to a satisfying conclusion, the reality of construction projects is that there are often delays, and frequent work starts and stoppages. And it’s not just payroll procedures and subcontractor safety protocols that managers will have to recollect. During delays and work stoppages, firm, partner, and stakeholder personnel may come, go, and be promoted internally.

Well-kept and curated daily notes not only help construction staff to remember important work details and contact information, it helps partners and others both get into the loop or never leave it at all. So rather than being looked at as a tedious daily drag, that superintendent daily report should be appreciated for what it is. It’s an important document that protects both firms and customers, and helps to produce projects that are fast, safe, and profitable.

How Construction Daily Reports Save Thousands In Litigation

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 11.09.02 AMAs they say, it seems as though if you assume the worst, the worst never happens. Likewise, it seems that if you take the “don’t worry, be happy” approach, trouble comes looking for you. It’s not that magical thinking rules the business world. Rather, an abundance of preparation and explanation means that a construction superintendent has a more smoothly functioning site, and protection for those more bumpy periods.

Daily logs will never be one of a supervisor’s favorite things to do, but this daily reporting is essential. In addition to serving as an effective way to deal with everything from safety issues to supply chains, daily reports for construction projects can help firms prevail in litigation cases, and better still, keep them from happening altogether. How so? Consider this real life California case.

“Mrs. X” was having major renovations done to her hillside dwelling. Preliminary investigation indicated that because of severe sloping and probable unstable soil, soldier piles would have to be installed. Only examination by a qualified inspector could confirm this situation for a certainty. But the probability of having to have this work done seemed so likely, that the homeowner agreed to add $100,000 to her construction budget for this hill stabilization.

When inspection time arrived, due to ground settling, the inspector determined that this extensive stabilization wouldn’t be necessary after all. However, unforeseen engineering issues on other parts of the project had arisen, and to cover the cost of these necessary modifications, the firm used “the hill fund”.

The client was unhappy with the finished product for various reasons, and the case ended up in court. Among the plaintiff’s complaints was that the firm discovered that hill stabilization wouldn’t be necessary, but kept the “hill fund”, and overcharged her. Although the construction firm ultimately prevailed, this litigation resulted in a time consuming six week trial, and a firm loss of $75,000.

Had the firm in question kept proper daily reports for construction projects, everyone’s “day in court” could have been avoided altogether. Software programs like Raken for daily reporting doesn’t just mean a faster, more efficient daily report for a firm’s internal use. It also means a real-time report that can easily be shared with clients. One that allows for the inclusion of photos, graphics, and other reports, to help explain changes to projects, and show how money is being used. Such sharing helps make a client become a true project partner, and helps to avoid misunderstandings that can lead to construction litigation. In cases where litigation is unfortunately unavoidable, Raken’s features can also be used to create court-appropriate documents that can help firms prevail in litigation. So while the “bells and whistles” of a construction software package may seem to some to be unneeded preparation, a savvy superintendent knows that this small expenditure can save firms considerably larger ones down the road.

How to set up real-time field notifications

Construction Daily Report Template For Superintendents

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 1.14.47 PMWhile it may sometimes seem as though a construction site superintendent does everything on site including washing out the coffee pot and turning out the lights, it isn’t quite that bad. But he or she does have a number of duties, which usually includes making out or at least overseeing the submission of daily reports.

By now, even if they aren’t paper pushers, most in the construction industry are aware that software exists to both allow a wide variety of daily reports to be done digitally, and to be done on a variety of mobile devices. For a busy general contractor, this does make daily reporting both easier and quicker, if not more enjoyable. But one perk of doing reports in this manner is that a daily log here can be customized. Such report files might not win awards for artistic creativity, but a customized daily report template digitally created and stored has multiple benefits. It means that in a superintendent’s absence, another filer can find, update, and submit reports, making sure that a project stays on schedule. Accessible templates also mean that reports are filed consistently and accurately, always important since these reports have weight as legal documents. And a construction daily report may be viewed, edited, and commented on by any number of people, including shareholders, so a customized daily construction report template should be easily recognizable, and not so “customized” that it’s unprofessional looking.

The essential function of a daily report is to chronicle the various activities that affect a project, ranging from presence of workers, to weather conditions, to deliveries, to work progress. Assume that at a minimum, your report will include daily updates on this. Since this is a digital construction daily log template, and on the internet showing means as much as telling, assume that this template will need to include fields for photos and graphics as well.

So now that you know what you want this daily report to contain, how do you achieve it? By purchasing construction software like Raken for daily reporting, contractors are getting an application compatible with the most commonly used systems, that allows superintendents to create a multi-page template for everything from manpower hours to notes within minutes,that can be accessed by users within seconds. So while daily reports may never be fun, with software like Raken, it will be fast, efficient, professional, and easily accessible to all appropriate parties.

Implementing Construction Software For Contractors

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 10.14.43 AM Okay. You’ve gotten an earful from colleagues about how great it is. You’ve done the research. And you’ve persuaded the main office to give it a try. It’s finally time to integrate daily reporting software into your construction firm. And why not? You’ve certainly heard fantastic things about construction software. How it can reduce reporting time from anywhere from sixty to ninety minutes a day. How it assures legible, industry standard reporting. And how these reports can be stored safely and securely online for years.

And construction software for contractors is especially geared to their special needs. For example, many of these packages now come with a mobile device application. This means that this daily reporting app allows phones and tablets to be used for doing this reporting, further adding to general convenience.

But software implementation should always be approached with caution in the workplace. Many an office has purchased the latest trendy, flashy, software package, only to discover that it’s totally inappropriate for their needs. While the right construction software can lead to time and money saved and profits made, the wrong package can be an expensive and embarrassing disaster. So how does a construction company make sure that they’re picking the right product and implementing it throughout the organization successfully?

In addition to not being swayed by the latest bells and whistles, pick a software package that anyone in your firm could learn to use with relative ease. At the same time, accept that there needs to be a training period for any new product, and that everyone learns at different speeds. And make sure that this is a program that employees will actually use, and that it is compatible with the devices that they normally use. And finally, while such software will ultimately save and help your firm to make money, accept that money will have to be first spent, both in purchasing and training.

And get your money’s worth out of that product’s sales team. Yes, they want your sale, but they want you to be a satisfied customer so that you’ll be a returning one. Make them earn that money by asking plenty of pre-sale questions and running particular work place scenarios past them.

And be sure to shop around for the right construction software for contractors. Raken‘s daily reporting software has made it an industry leader for multiple reasons. Its daily reporting app is compatible with the heavily used Android and iOS systems, for example. And once that construction report app is on devices, thanks to Raken’s cloud technology, users are accessing its software within seconds. No long download wait times, or software that can’t download at all! Users can access this contracting software without a mobile app as well, and the result is an entire firm working together within a program quickly, able to remotely review and collaborate on each other’s work in real time.

There’s no doubt that construction contracting software can be a boon to firms, but choosing the right package is key. And with products like Raken, firms can be sure of a product that not only contains all of the “fun” of digital technology, but one that is both truly useful and ultimately profitable.

Real Time Visibility At Construction Projects

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 1.43.12 PMA picture is worth a thousand words. That is especially true in the construction industry. Workers can write a book’s worth of reports (and by the end of a major project, they generally do) on everything from payroll, to subcontractors, to equipment, but no matter how well-written the narrative, written reports certainly can’t compare to the photo array of a construction protect coming to fruition, step by step. Or an actual look at the land that will become incorporated into a project, with all of its pros and cons. Or a “selfie” of the on-site “swamp” that workers fear will become a safety issue if allowed to remain.

And these “thousand word” pictures need not be static ones either. One no longer has to be a master camera man or have ultra-expensive equipment to reliably capture clear, real-time activities of work-in-progress, deliveries, and other active construction site footage. This is not to say that managers should chuck written reports in the trash and focus on just those photos, by any means. The best and most complete construction site reporting features both.

And it’s important that construction site managers select a construction software program that allows them to successfully merge text and imagery, like that offered by Raken. Raken’s software allows an app to be downloaded to mobile devices, that allows their users to:

– Take photographs that can be incorporated into documents
– Do “field captures” of various locations that can be added to smart document programs
– Users to view real time dashboards showing progress from multiple jobsites at once

The result of this construction photo management is information that is easy to interpret and pass on via the Internet to executives and shareholders. No more numbers on spread sheets to puzzle over with this construction photo app! Managers should be warned that while state and federal government rules allow workplace activity to be filmed and photographed, there are restrictions, such as no sound recording or photography in personal areas, like employee break rooms and restrooms. These restrictions can vary by state, as well. But for managers diligent about compliance, and willing to embrace software with visual capabilities, the results are a better informed, more proactive management team, better able to a keep a project on track because they can literally see what’s going on, no matter where they are.

Construction Daily Reports: From Paper To Mobile

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 1Not everyone likes change, and indeed, there are not always benefits to be had from it. Change can result in increased efficiency, safety, productivity, and yes, profit. Consider the saga of the construction industry and its paperwork.

There’s been lots of paperwork involved with construction for probably the last couple of hundred years, and shockingly, change was very slow to come to it. Project foremen and superintendents took notes, even if it was in a informal and primitive way, of daily project events. These notes were then later transcribed into more formal reports, which could be viewed by company owners, clients, and shareholders. Sometimes, when things unfortunately didn’t go as planned, these reports could serve as important documents in a trial.

Of course, it was very possible that these field notes could be lost. Or that the formal report scribe was a different reporter from the original one and didn’t understand what was written originally. Or the formal daily report form was turned in so late that it missed deadlines. And couldn’t be submitted as a court document. Or was lost, damaged, or destroyed when filed and stored.

It’s time for the paper construction daily report to become history. Advances in digital technology and software over the last couple of decades haven’t just produced better cell phones and computer games. They have provided laypeople with the means to carry and easily operate small wireless computers wherever they go. These devices are no longer limited to games and conversations, but allow people the opportunity to work on the go, and to work collaboratively with others in real time.

Raken for daily construction reporting is part of this positive change. Its software allows an app to be installed on wireless devices powered by Android and iOS. This means that a site supervisor can complete and transmit a daily construction report from almost any location in an hour or less, on easily read, industry standard formats. This DCR can then quickly be transmitted to main offices or other staff for editing or verification without the need for physical travel. And Raken’s software and formats also make it appropriate for use as a general construction log. Additional files and even photographs can be added to Raken documents easily. And with Raken, a daily log doesn’t have to be tossed into a box or filing cabinet to face a uncertain filing future. These documents can be stored for up to ten years on Raken’s cloud platform, safe, secure, and easily accessed by keywords.

So while the construction agency has been slow to embrace change, technology like Raken’s daily reporting app shows that when it come to daily paperwork, change can be good, and managers interested in efficient, productive projects shouldn’t hesitate to embrace it.

#ConTechTrio Interview with Kyle Slager

Check out the #ConTechTrio interview Raken’s CEO Kyle Slager! @JBKnowledge https://www.spreaker.com/user/jbknowledge/contechtrio-podcast-episode-1-15-constru
Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 1.45.54 PM

Importance Of Photo Documentation For Construction

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“It’s the next best thing to being there”. Actually, photographic documentation of work or issues at a construction site is an excellent idea, even if workers, subcontractors, and superintendents are seeing it for themselves on a daily basis. It’s been well documented at this point that human beings both understand and remember static visual images better than what they’re told, or written text that they have read.

And photographs taken of work or problems in the field, if curated and presented properly, can enhance daily reports by:

  • showing clients and stakeholders project progress
  • serving as a graphic warning to site employees
  • serving as compelling litigation case evidence

But even more than that, a photographic record of construction site activity has been shown to increase site productivity, eliminating project site waste by thousands of dollars. How exactly does “say cheese” achieve this? While written documentation will always be an important part of daily reporting, a visual record of progress and issues affecting safety and quality control have been shown to cause improvement in all three areas. To paraphrase the movie Field Of Dreams, “If they can see a picture of it, things will go much more smoothly”. And by a lucky coincidence, many site superintendents and managers are carrying around in their pockets a mobile device that happens to double as a pretty decent camera. A camera that takes digital images that can quickly be shared among many mobile devices, meaning that images capturing progress and problems can be shared that much more quickly.

But in order to utilize these photographs in an effective way, you can’t go old school and pass around a handful of Polaroids, or staple photos to a paper report. Instead, you need construction software like Raken‘s for construction daily work reports to help you integrate captured images into daily reports, in addition to passing these images along for editing and additional commenting. Raken’s app allows users to store digital items in a central location with cloud technology. Photos then can be conveniently downloaded by appropriate clients, stakeholders, and employees with easy to use keyword access. These construction site photos can also be securely stored and accessed for up to ten years.

Raken’s software automatically time stamps all images, meaning that image content is not only easy to use and understand, but that such marking makes these images potentially important legal documents as well. So by using software like Raken’s to manage and integrate digital photography into daily reports, a picture is simply no longer just worth a thousand words. Now these images can make construction firms safer, faster, more effective, and more profitable as well.

The Case For Mobile Daily Reporting: A No Brainer

multidevices-600x542-noshadow Nobody likes paperwork. But it’s an essential part of doing business, nowhere more so than in the construction industry. But everyone likes mobile digital products, especially as they become both cheaper and easier to use with each new generation. So one didn’t exactly have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that: A. paperwork has largely migrated to computers, and B. people of all ages are now routinely carrying around tiny computers in their pockets, so C. why not develop these office software programs to be compatible with mobile devices?

There’s no denying that the development of office based computer software programs more than a decade ago was revolutionary. These programs saved transcription time, compelled users to use approved formats, and could be stored much more easily than paper files. But these programs had their drawbacks, especially in industries that often lacked conventional offices, as in construction. Then cell phones came along, which rapidly evolved from a novelty to an essential communication and entertainment system. With everyone spending so much time on them, is it any wonder that they’re being utilized as work tools? But the right software is essential. Take Raken for construction daily reporting, for example.

With an application powered by Android and iOS, Raken takes users to industry approved fields that allows them to complete daily reports in ninety minutes or less. In addition, Raken’s software allows users to protect firms in terms of litigation by easily recording and storing documentation. And not only does this software allow for the writing of standard reports, it allows users to chronicle safety and other issues in real time for other users to immediately see. In addition to emergency matters, Raken‘s app allows firm co-workers to “distance collaborate” and edit reports, even creating and sending PDF files, reducing the need for physical meetings and saving money. And while everyone from toddlers to grandparents are texting pros these days, Raken has a convenient alternate feature that allows speaking report and notice information into devices in addition to writing it.

In addition to allowing multiple employees to access reports at the same time in real time, Raken’s mobile apps for construction industry allows authorized clients and stakeholders to do so as well. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, this software allows for the addition of additional files, photos, and even videos to reports. Raken even has a feature that allows these photos to be curated. And in case anyone forgets to check, Raken issues automatic notices and reminders to all authorized users. And Raken doesn’t just provide access to current reports. An unlimited amount of files can be stored for up to ten years with cloud technology, and are easily accessed via keywords.

And because firms increasingly have both employees and clients that are foreign-born, the Raken app allows reports and comments to be recorded and commented on in a variety of languages. All of this, and Raken’s software still has room to support executive reports, weekly reports, monthly reports, and Excel programs for payroll purposes.

So your firm can continue to struggle with hard copy spread sheets, and be left behind in terms of projects and profit, or it can join the digital revolution, stock up on cell phones, and see how construction software like Raken can transform both their firm’s paperwork, and the firm itself by using a daily construction log.

Completing Daily Reports With Raken’s App

Winning Construction Litigation With Digital Daily Reports

documentsNo one ever wants to go to court. But the construction industry is one that experiences a disproportionate amount of litigation either as defendants (clients claimed contracted work wasn’t done, wasn’t done correctly, was done too slowly, etc.) or as plaintiffs (clients didn’t pay them, clients will only pay under new and onerous conditions, etc.) There was a time when courts often did not look favorably upon construction firms. That has changed in more recent years, but that doesn’t mean that firms should not take litigation seriously. To prevail in court, preparation is key, and a big part of this are project daily reports and construction logs.

This doesn’t mean that daily logs should be prepared with an eye to eventually ending up in court. On the contrary, firms may find themselves penalized by courts who have reason to think that daily logs have been crafted to be trial friendly. But construction logs should be kept in a format where data is easy to read, understand, and access. And digital daily reporting makes such a report easier to produce than ever before. In the past, when hand writing or “hunt and peck” typewriting produced reports, the inclination with daily reports was only to provide detailed accounts when a problem was encountered that day. As a result, daily reports usually only included fairly basic information, such as brief daily weather and temperature descriptions, the number of people working that day, and perhaps a general description of equipment used and general conditions. A major reason that this type of reporting was discouraged was because of the amount of time needed to compose such reports, challenging under field conditions. Another was the physical size of these report files. As impressive as it looks on fictional courtroom dramas when attorneys slam boxes of files to the floor, how do you store and access such files in real life?

But digital daily reports created by software like Raken can create complete, accurate files with compelling information to help firms prevail in court. These digital files are easily shared among the many parties often involved in litigation cases, and specific information within these files can easily be accessed via key pad. No more rooting around through filing cabinets or those cardboard boxes only to discover that the information is not there. And Raken’s files can be stored online for up to ten years, safely and securely to help risk management in construction.  So while the prospect of litigation will never be pleasant, digital technology like our Raken construction business software provides firms with a professional, accurate document that helps to increase the odds of winning their day in court.

How To Create A Construction Daily Report

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 1.14.47 PMSuperintendents and project managers usually have to include daily reports among their usual tasks. While reports aren’t much fun to write, they’re important documents, and increasingly, not an option. In addition to the Federal government, many states now require construction firms to submit various reports on a daily basis.

Beyond being a requirement for many public clients, daily reports can help superintendents, project managers, and firm CEOs monitor a project over time, get guidance for future projects, and protect themselves in litigation actions. And today’s construction software, like Raken‘s for daily reporting, results in consistent, accurate reports, that allow for the inclusion of photographs and real time editing and collaboration to enhance and update them. But although technological tools like Raken make it easier and quicker to do reports than ever before, given the importance of these documents, there are certain ways in which these reports should be presented, regardless of what format is used to create them.

What A Daily Report for Construction Sites Should Be:
A correctly done report is an accurate, factual document reflecting work at a site on a day by day basis. It should be able to be read and understood by parties from various backgrounds. It should be written in a neutral, just the facts style. Photographs may be included, provided that they pertain directly to the report. Weather, traffic, etc. reports can be included with the main report provided that they had direct bearing on the events of that day. Typical construction daily reports include:

– Project information
– Weather information
– Log of daily manpower
– Subcontractor hours worked by each crew
– Employee hours
– Site safety observations
– Quality control observations
– Progress photos

How Digital Technology Can Help Create The Right Report Format
Raken‘s reporting software allows for real time, properly formatted reports that easily can be edited and accessed from Android and iOS powered devices. Project managers and superintendents can create multiple report files within Raken for various projects, and access them with a tab format. Once within these individual reports, files can be broken down into manpower, survey, tasks, etc. categories, and these can further be customized with appropriate graphics and photographs. These documents can then be stored for up to ten years with cloud technology, and can easily be accessed from storage.

So while report writing will never be “fun”, Raken’s construction daily log software provides firms with more accurate, professional documents, that can be produced quickly and shared easily, allowing more time to devote to the more enjoyable aspects of construction work.

How To Start A Project On Raken

Are Daily Reports The Most Important Document In Construction?

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 12.01.09 PM If you were to poll construction industry workers as to what the most glamorous and exciting job on a construction site was, the keeping of daily logs probably wouldn’t be mentioned. In fact, most workers tasked with the writing and filing of daily reports would tell you that it’s a fairly thankless task. And truly, do the fruits of all of that hard labor even get looked at? It seems that a lot of that data goes from spread sheets to filing cabinets, never to be seen again, with the exception of a stakeholders’ report, or a court case.

But as unglamorous as those reports may seem, they are vital to the successful completion of construction projects. Reports and daily logs chronicle the life of a construction project, from the weather of the day, to the number of people working, to the progress made on the project, and more. For people who will never or seldom set foot on a project site, such as stakeholders, daily reports in construction provide a view of the project that they’re investing their money in.

And stakeholders are not the only reading audience of these reports. In the unfortunate occurrence of litigation, daily reports can form the backbone of a successful defense for contractors. They can also help contractors prevail as plaintiffs, too, by showing courts a project’s history, ranging from actual work progress to delivery delays. And daily reporting provides an archive for employees to refer to when having to revisit past projects or produce something similar.

So, these reports are important. But still tedious to do. And often inconvenient, as formal report forms can’t often be completed in the field, leading to losing time traveling between offices to do so. All this repeated filing of the same report also increases that chance that some of this information will be lost, or at least lead to a filing delay. And when that report is finally filed, it’s often awkwardly stored, making specific reports hard to find and access.

Fortunately, with the advent of the digital revolution, these documents are now much easier to complete, file, access, and store. Raken‘s construction reporting software allows superintendents and foremen to file reports with mobile devices in the field, cutting down on travel time and expense. Raken reports used real time and industry approved fields, meaning that they’re timely, correct, and easy to read. And with Raken’s cloud technology, reports can be stored online for up to ten years, and are easily accessed. So while report writing may never be glamorous, with Raken, writers have the satisfaction of knowing that they’re providing a document that saves time and money, and contributes to the running of an efficient and profitable site.

From Papyrus To Digital: History Of Construction Reports

Old daily report There’s nothing new under the sun, and that includes the construction industry. Pretty much as soon as our ancestors gave up those cave dwelling, hunter-gatherer ways and put down roots, they were looking for contractors. And ancient contractors were remarkably like their contemporary counterparts. No ancient building project was complete without a foreman, a project manager, and a superintendent. And of course, lots of project-related paperwork, even before the invention of paper.

Those earliest methods of chronicling events surrounding construction projects were done on clay tablets, which were heavy to lug around and fragile if dropped. As a result, large and important government construction projects were the ones that got much written attention, such as the Ziggurat (temple) of Ur, and the Ishtar Gate, both located in ancient Mesopotamia (today’s Iraq). By the time ancient Egyptians began to construct the first pyramids in 2700 B.C., easier to use papyrus had arrived, but ancient contractors weren’t yet as careful about their daily reporting and record keeping as they should have been. As a result, there will always be lost or conflicting information concerning the construction details of some of these iconic monuments.

The Middle Ages in Europe produced many stunning churches and palaces, built by paid workers, both skilled and unskilled. These projects were overseen by the ancestors of unions, known as guilds. While a written account of a project in the time of England’s King Edward II shows that supplier and subcontractor issues are nothing new, parchment was expensive. As a result of this, not to mention plenty of trade secrets and guild rivalries, few written records survive of either architectural renderings or project work.

As history and construction marched on, technological advances made it easier to keep various parties abreast of construction problems and progress. The telegraph, developed in the 1830s and 1840s, can be looked on as a primitive form of construction software. And it came in handy beginning in 1869, as one of America’s greatest construction projects, the Pacific Railroad, got underway. Telegraph operators issued frequent construction reports to journalists and stakeholders alike.

Today’s construction document software has progressed beyond clay tablets. It’s no longer necessary to erect poles or string wire to send daily reports, either. And thanks to today’s digital technology, a manager or superintendent is no longer confined to an office to issue construction reports. Products like Raken allow daily construction reporting to be filed in real time using a variety of mobile devices, and with report fields that meet industry standards. Raken can also issue real time warnings and notifications, helping to protect projects and keep them on schedule. Using construction software like Raken saves time and money, and the security of its cloud storage for reports guarantees that all of that hard work won’t become history.

How To Customize Your Daily Report

Managing Litigation Risks Through Compliance and Visibility

ACF5F0 In science fiction thrillers, our heroes manipulate thoughts, images, and history to (usually) save the day. Something similar is being achieved in the real world by businesses embracing the latest technologies to create permanent records of transactions both in text and with images. There are many reasons to create digital “paper trails” in business. High among them are:

  • more accurate records of transactions
  • easier editing and updating of reports
  • easier to track employee work for efficacy purposes
  • easier to collect, document, and store information relating to litigation

Those who work in this industry know that it is no stranger to litigation. When a construction firm is on the defendant’s side of the table, charges levied against it often include delays in project completion and subpar work done by employees. The plaintiffs may not be mistaken. It can be difficult for superintendents and project managers at a busy firm with multiple active sites to monitor work, compile reports, and keep track of suppliers, deliveries, and subcontractors on a daily basis. But these harried supervisor may be overlooking an effective tool for monitoring employees and subcontractors alike, issuing and updating warnings, and keeping shareholders in the loop. Its name: digital construction reports.

When filed properly, today’s digital daily logs and daily reports can not only create a record that can prevail in court. It can avoid litigation altogether by allowing superintendents and project managers to oversee work remotely, and stakeholders to understand what’s happening in the field without having to visit it at all. One of the problems of construction reports in the past was the difficulty of keeping daily logs updated in the field. Deadlines were often missed, and documents were lost and damaged. But with Raken software for daily reports, compliance for these documents is easy to achieve. Easily completed from most mobile devices, Raken features industry-standard documents, meaning that these reports aren’t only completed quickly, they’re completed correctly. Raken clients report documents so easy to complete that they have almost 100% report completion compliance.  But in addition to creating a paper trail that will hold up in court, Raken produces reports that allow supervisors to track site activity on a daily basis and help. Overall, helping the risk management in construction projects.

And with Raken software, supervisors, stakeholders, and clients can do more than read about site activity, they can view it. Raken’s online dashboard, plus weekly, monthly, and executive summary report features allow viewers to access streaming video of work at and deliveries to construction sites. Not only can this provide a visual narrative in case of litigation, it allows multiple parties to visit sites without actually visiting them, answering their questions and improving site safety. For supervisors, this Raken tool saves on time and travel expenses, alerts them in real time to site problems, and increases worker productivity.

No one likes to spend time in court, and many cases can in fact be avoided with better understanding and increased transparency.  And not only can users achieve this with Raken’s software for a construction company, the end result are safer and more productive sites as well.

How To Create Weekly & Monthly Reports On Raken

Why Automating Field Reports Is Key To Construction

Fully_customize_reports_to_showcase_chosen_findingsAs the construction industry scrambles to catch up and climb aboard the technology bandwagon, some firms are spending and wasting a fair amount of money on new technologies. But the technologies themselves are not at fault. Rather, they are being used inappropriately.

And that’s unfortunate, because the right application of the latest digital tools can help a firm operate more efficiently, be able to take on more projects, and more often avoid litigation. Construction reports are a good example. Daily construction reports have existed since the time of the pyramids. And while foremen and superintendents no longer record them on clay tablets or papyrus, until recently daily reporting in the field was fairly primitive. Reports were hand scribbled into notebooks. Later, the same reporter or another employee had to decipher these field notes, which had to be transcribed onto yet another form. These reports then often had to be transported to other offices and awkwardly stored, running the risk of report loss and damage.

But by using software like Raken for daily reporting, firms are assured of construction reports that are:

1. Entered on forms that are industry compliant
2. Filed in real time and can instantly be seen by both staff and stakeholders
3. Safely stored digitally for up to ten years, and are easily accessible

In addition to daily reports, Raken’s software has format fields for weekly reports, monthly reports, and company executive summary reports. These reports are easily edited, and allow for the inclusion of photos, graphics, and additional reports.

And Raken’s construction reporting software allows an application to be downloaded and used by foremen and superintendents on mobile devices, which most individuals now carry as part of daily living. This means that reports can easily be completed and transmitted directly from the field without having to lose time and possibly data itself in the process of re-transcribing these reports. And to make sure that no report is overlooked, Raken issues automatic reminders and warnings directly to devices. Raken even e-mails company branded PDFs directly to firm stakeholders to keep all parties up to date.

So while there’s nothing wrong with getting nostalgic for the green field notebooks of yore, automating field reports with software like Raken help to keep firms on schedule, compliant, and profitable.

Introducing Week & Month Reports

Tired of going through your dailies to create a week/month summary?

We got you covered! Introducing:

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Impress the owner or your boss by providing a quick snapshot of your project’s progress. Reports will summarize hours worked, daily weather, delays, accidents and missed reports.

Reporting on multiple projects? Don’t worry! The Project Summary will include multiple projects in one report. Learn More

Reasons A Construction Superintendent Is The Jobsite Hero

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 2.06.20 PM They might not wear a mask, tights, or cape to work. Or have a secret identity. Or get around town in an exotic, high-tech vehicle. And you’ve never seen them weld a girder by shooting laser bolts out of their eyes, or picking up that excavator one handed. But despite all of those deficits, a good construction site superintendent is worth his/her weight in men of steel. Why?

A Construction Site Superintendent Can’t Leap Over A Tall Building In A Single Bound, But……..
He or she is quite capable of handling anything else involving a building project. A construction superintendent’s responsibilities encompass almost every aspect of a project, from pre-project legwork, to early days groundbreaking, to public relations and informational meetings, to researching and obtaining any necessary permits. A construction site superintendent is often the only “front office” supervisor that site workers and subcontractors will see on a daily basis, as well. This means that the supervisor also does a great deal of report writing and filing.

A Superintendent Can’t Shrink Down To Fit Into Tiny Spaces, But…..
Actually, to a degree, he/she can do this. Because of their daily presence on sites, superintendents often have no office at all or a very scaled down one, such as a trailer. Fortunately, our increasingly digital dominant society makes roughing it a little easier, as with software products like Raken which allows daily reports to be written and filed using mobile devices.

A Superintendent Can’t Make Himself/Herself Invisible, But……
Given how many people that a superintendent must see over the course of a day, that’s not a bad thing. In addition to serving as the site’s personnel manager, the superintendent often meets with the project manager, stakeholders, suppliers, and subcontractors. The site superintendent is also often the project employee who conducts site tours, acts as media representative, and works with regulatory offices to obtain any needed permits or exemptions.

A Superintendent Doesn’t Have A Justice League, But…….
It’s certainly important that a site superintendent has a qualified staff working under him/her, ranging from foremen to roofers, so site supervisors are generally very involved in the interviewing, hiring, and duty assignments of site personnel.

A Superintendent Isn’t Faster Than A Speeding Bullet, But……
That superintendent still has to be plenty speedy, not to mention adaptable, to make sure that the whole project stays on track, and comes in on schedule. In addition to this, the construction project superintendent’s duties include making sure that the project remains within budget.

A Supervisor Isn’t Recruited From The Fortress Of Solitude, But…..
Site supervisors traditionally were experienced construction workers who were recruited internally after doing their time in the trenches. Now, however, with the retiring and loss of these veteran workers, it’s time for firms to invest more resources and money in internships and college programs to train future superintendents to make sure that future sites aren’t without their heroes.

Construction Project Documentation Checklist

raken_web imageAs any construction superintendent knows, paperwork is an enormous part of any construction project. In addition to bid proposals, and the all-important contracts, there are reams of daily reports, covering everything from safety meetings, to inventory, to subcontractor hours worked, to suppliers, and beyond. As tedious as all of this daily reporting can be, all of this paperwork is very important. It helps to keep projects on schedule, insures uninterrupted supply and labor streams, and can act as important legal documents in case of disputes.

And while legal disputes are not as common as paperwork in the construction industry, unfortunately, litigation is all too common a part of it. Construction lawsuits often cast contractors in the role of both plaintiff and defendant. In both cases, the best way to prevail or defend a firm in court cases is to have an over-abundance of documentation. But while it’s better to be safe rather than sorry in acquiring project-related paperwork, there is some documentation that is absolutely vital to take to court.

Bid Proposals And Related Documents
While not binding as in the sense of a contract, bid documents are an important indicator of party intentions and expectations. Bid proposals submitted by contractors should be very complete, and include guidance as to how everything from weather to subcontractors can potentially impact on a project and a bid submittal.

Contracts
Probably the single most important document in construction litigation, especially when the contractor is the plaintiff. As a result, contractors should sign no contracts until they have been thoroughly read and understood, with contractor-friendly provisions in place for weather, suppliers, etc.

Daily Reports
Whether they’re called reports, or logs, or notes, there’s no dismissing the importance of daily reporting, as this report information is a daily chronicle of work at a construction site. Because of all of the important information that these reports contain, it’s essential that these reports:

  • be submitted in a timely fashion, meeting all deadlines
  • be legibly documented, and documented on approved industry forms
  • are retained from the beginning of the project to at least 3-5 years following its completion

Until fairly recently, all of this report documentation meant transcribing handwritten notes into a typewritten form, and transporting and storing these reports between offices. This often resulted in lost and damaged paperwork. Fortunately, with software like Raken for daily reporting, report filers can submit reports in real time directly to industry-standard fields, using mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Raken’s fields also allow for editing, collaborative additions to the report, and the insertion of any relevant photographs or graphics. Raken’s cloud technology also allows for the safe and secure storing of these daily reports for up to ten years.

Whether as a plaintiff or as a defendant, a contractor’s best ally in court is carefully documented and curated paperwork, especially reports. With the assistance of tools like Raken’s construction document management software, construction firms can increase the odds of being winners regardless of the litigation case.

Construction Employment Rises In 44 States Over Last 12 Months

Jobsite1While the construction industry has rebounded in a huge way from the good old days of the Great Recession, it continues to have its ups and downs. National statistics show the biggest industry employment gains in a decade. However, there have been setbacks in some parts of the country due to labor shortages, severe weather, and the uncertain fortunes of the natural gas industry.

However, 2015 was a great year to be working in the construction industry, according to information released by the Department of Labor. According to their data, 44 states and the District of Columbia began new construction projects within the January 2015-January 2016 period. And 30 new construction projects were added nationally in December of 2015 and January of 2016. This makes the construction industry as a whole one of the nation’s biggest employment success stories of the last year. But not all regions got to share in this building bonanza. Because of the continuing natural gas controversy, and ultra-cheap foreign oil, construction work was noticeably down in states where drilling and fracking occur. The slow death of the coal industry has not helped, either. The victims here included North Dakota with a loss of over 5,000 construction jobs, Alaska, which lost a little over 1,500 jobs, West Virginia, which lost about 2,500 jobs, Wyoming, which lost a little over 1,0000 jobs, Kansas, which lost a similar number of jobs, and Pennsylvania, the second place “winner”, with a loss of 3,600 jobs.

Happier news for employment in the construction industry came from states like California, Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island. While the first two states have been consistently busy with construction projects in the last few years, construction has struggled in New England as a whole, so it is encouraging to see these latter three states back in the “win column”. Other state winners included Nevada and New York, where Manhattan continues to enjoy a project boom. The biggest surprise here may be Hawaii, whose construction project rate climbed by 15%, making it the state with the overall biggest jump in construction projects.

The lack of winter in some parts of the country thanks to weather pattern El Niño, may have played a part in this upswing. Also credited are some state partnerships that gave many stalled infrastructure projects a jump start. And while some analysts say that the “invasion of the big box stores” may finally be behind us, different kinds of commercial building continue to be robust, as does residential construction. But while industry watchers are pleased, construction’s labor shortages worry them. They warn that in order to keep the industry on an upwards track, and continue a rise in employment, construction’s next big boom needs to be in training and recruiting workers.

How To Improve Employee Productivity

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“There’s always room for improvement”. This doesn’t necessarily mean that as a manager or superintendent that you’re not running an effective, productive worksite. But it also means that you shouldn’t be unwilling to take a good, long, hard look at how everything is going at the job site, including employee morale. A recent national Gallup poll revealed that a staggering 70% of Americans working in business and industry were “disengaged” while at work, resulting in an economic loss of $550,000,000,000 annually. And that’s a shame, as study after study has shown that happy, involved workers are more productive and safer ones, as well. So what’s the secret to changing employee workplace attitudes from “Eh.” to “Yeah!”? It turns out that there are several ways to improve productivity in construction.

Empower Employees
Letting site workers take turns running the company isn’t a good idea for various reasons. But there are other ways in which they can help to contribute to the effectiveness of a site, including an employee suggestion program. As your project’s eyes and ears, workers on a site daily are the best ones to observe safety issues and supply and subcontractor problems. Because of their experience with working on site, their suggestions may be the best way to resolve these issues. If some job positions can be enhanced with the proper training and/or education, make sure that employees are aware of this, and are given opportunities to pursue it, as well.

Have Meetings
Everyone likes to know what’s going on, and meetings are a great way to get staff together. But make sure that those meetings have real information to convey or problems to address. Otherwise, they’re just a waste of everyone’s time.

Transparency
You’ve decided lower level workers don’t need to know about potential downsizing and cutbacks? That’s okay, they’ll get the old rumor mill going on their own. And the result may be angry, disenfranchised employees who feel that they owe you minimal work in the face of all of that uncertainty. While you may not be able to involve workers in every level of firm decision making for various reasons, don’t keep them in the dark about decisions that affect work and employment either.

Use Technologies Everyone Can Use
It had a cool video and a good price, but are all of your employees comfortable with that construction software package you purchased? Is it inconvenient for them to use from various locations? Have you taken the time to make sure all affected employees have been trained to use it? And given how digital so many traditional industry tasks are becoming, managers need to make sure that they have software that not only works in a traditional office, but that is mobile as well.

Five Tool Box Talk Tips You Should Remember Every Day

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.20.51 PMThere’s no one in the construction industry who will deny the importance of safety at a work site. Safe work sites are not only well, safer, but more profitable, due to increased effectiveness and lack of fines. But there’s no denying that the topic of workplace safety isn’t exactly sexy. Or particularly interesting, either. And it’s not just an American problem. In Ontario, Canada, University of Algoma professor Cathy Dénommé conducted a study in which subjects attended safety training for various jobs. This training used a number of methods, ranging from computer Power Point style presentations to lectures with a live speaker. And the results? Workers dutifully attended these meetings and training sessions. And not only did they retain very little of what they were taught, the topics covered did not improve safety in any measurable way in work environments. Why? Dénommé and other specialists feel that a large part of the problem is that construction safety talks and safety training is offered in a generic and impersonal way. Feeling talked at, “students” disengage without even being aware of it.

Safety conversations aren’t ones we can’t afford to stop having in this industry. Daily safety tool box meetings aren’t just a good idea, they’re required for some contractual construction work, such as with the federal government. So what tips and safety toolbox talk topics do Dénommé and others offer to ensure that safety audiences are actively involved instead of just bored?

5. Safety Training Should Involve Real Life Work Experiences
Why are your roofers watching a video featuring actors pretending to jam their fingers in a filing cabinet when they could be viewing the true account of the roofer who neglected to use proper fall protection?

4. Involve Employees In Safety Training
Dénommé said that the most effective safety training allows workers to be directly involved with it, as in forming safety committees and helping to set agenda, and allowing for time after meetings for feedback and questions.

3. Make Employees “Safety Spies”
Don’t wait for meetings to report safety issues or bring up concerns. Encourage employees to both keep an eye out for potential or active safety concerns, then post them where they’ll be checked frequently. Management shouldn’t ignore these posts either, but respond to them quickly and prominently.

2. Incorporate Differences
Construction sites are no longer the domain of white male workers. Be aware of potential ethnic and cultural differences that could affect perception of safety issues. Bilingual safety signage and warnings are a must for sites with non-native workers and visitors. And while the days of “shrinking violet” female workers are long gone, certain circumstances may create unique health or safety issues for these employees. Be aware of them and make accommodations accordingly.

1. Make Safety Part Of The Culture
Work sites should never have a “double safety standard”. All firm employees should be held to the same safety protocols on a site, with the same rewards and consequences for doing or not doing so.

Don’t let employees think that there is a “good enough” level where site safety is concerned, either. While it’s impossible to avoid all accidents, all site employee should never stop trying to create a work environment that’s as safe as possible.

Managing A Construction Site Remotely

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 4.02.52 PMWhile the construction industry has admittedly been slow to embrace the range of options technology has been providing over the last decade or so, it’s coming around, especially in the utilization of construction software. Forget those painful spreadsheets, today’s industry software is being used for everything from virtual blueprints to timesheet upgrades. Increasingly, this newer software is being used by managers to manage project sites remotely.

Wait a minute! What does this term mean? That a project manager will now never actually visit an active project site? Not at all. But much of a busy manager’s time is taken up by various forms of paperwork, much of which is not especially practical to do on a busy site for many reasons. In the past, three of the top ones were lack of office space, bulky equipment, and the lack of appropriate connectivity (i.e., you can’t get to the Internet from here).

But almost twenty years into the twenty first century, the room sized computer has shrunk into a versatile, often pocket sized personal device that you can even make phone calls with. As the technology grid expands into remoter areas, operators can use these wireless devices with far fewer worries about losing connectivity or data. This means that managers now have to make far fewer trips from sites to other offices, saving time and money. And it also means that the manager has to make fewer trips from the office to distant sites to collect data, because that data is coming to him or her. How is this possible?

With online construction management software like Raken’s daily reporting app for example, foremen and other employees can use smartphones and tablets to collect data on site, log it into devices, and file it. The project manager can then immediately access this information, and not only review it, but make corrections or additions and retransmit the data, or send it along to other parties. The result of this virtual office work and collaboration? More accurate and timely filing as it’s being done in real time, and less waste in terms of travel, scheduling meetings, and potentially lost paperwork as it travels between physical offices. Raken’s construction project app also accommodates graphics, photographs, and other report attachments. This means that information from different sources can seamlessly be incorporated into a single digital document, saving much effort and unnecessary traveling.

Raken’s data can also be stored through cloud technology, meaning that “timelines” can be created from data to show stakeholders and other partners everything from project progress to cost savings, again without frequent visits to a site. As a result, software like Raken means more accurate reporting and better project communicating. Going forward, this type of reporting will become the industry norm, as it allows more chances for a manager to get to spend more time on other important tasks when he or she does visit a site.

How Virtual Reality Will Change Construction

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 2.27.47 PMWill virtual reality ever really come to have a significant impact on real life? And aside from daily living applications, are there ways in which VR can be utilized for business? Could a construction manager or superintendent one day be checking up on site work by stepping onto the old holodeck?

While a construction project manager might not have adventures in VR that are as dramatic as a Star Trek episode, the reality is that virtual reality as a construction technology tool is not a new concept. Ideas for the technology now known as Building Information Modeling (BIM) were being discussed as early as the 1970s, and the first BIM software debuted in 1987, in the form of a program called ArchiCAD. The advantages of BIM in construction over traditional 2-D blueprints or even 3-D structural models quickly became apparent. By “building” a 3-D structure on screen, architects, construction managers, and even clients could move through its rooms. This not only allowed various parties to envision the shape of a evolving project, but easily make additions or eliminations to it. Previously, such alterations would entail completely new renderings of plans, which was not only costly, but time consuming.

But while it sounds as though as a construction technology tool BIM couldn’t possibly have a down side, the construction industry has been slow to embrace it. Because of the technical know-how required to create and set up BIM programs, for a number of years the only construction manager or superintendent that could utilize it was one working at a firm with a robust IT department. But that has changed over the last decade. More and more digital technology leaders such as Microsoft and Daqri, are working on developing both VR software packages and accompanying accessories that are both affordable and easily adaptable for BIM purposes.

And this emerging VR “democratization” doesn’t just mean easier structure layout planning in 3-D. Today’s BIM software allows users to work with digital models in both 4-D and 5-D as well. 4-D use with a BIM model means that a project manager can program the project work schedule directly into it, while 5-D allows project costs to be directly added as well. The result is a digital total package that saves both time and money by allowing for inclusion of and quick changes to project components.

Larger construction firms such as McCarthy Building Companies in Arizona are already using current BIM virtual reality in construction extensively. While some firms are wary about using a technology that was developed for the computer gaming industry, given all of the time, money, and potential conflict that VR can save, this may be a game that they can’t afford not to play.

New Raken Feature: Photo Management

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You Asked, We Listened!

Access, manage and download all of your photos from one central location!

All photos taken on Raken are uploaded and displayed chronologically giving you even further visibility into your projects. Simply log in to Raken on the web, select a time frame and we’ll send you an email with your photos.

PS: We’ve got video files covered too! Stay tuned for more updates to come! Learn More

 

Construction Management And Mobile Solutions

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 4.43.16 PMA few years ago, only science fiction characters carried and used them. Today, you see them everywhere in real life, and even infants and toddlers use them with surprising ease. “Them” of course, would be mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and their yet-to-catch-on lovechild, the “phablet”. And while it’s getting harder and harder to imagine a time when we didn’t use them to make telephone calls, watch television, or listen to music, these devices are still underutilized in terms of their business potential. Especially in the construction industry. While many firms have graduated from green books and typewritten forms in terms of daily reporting for example, they continue to use “legacy” software.

“Legacy” first appeared in computer lingo as early as the 1970s to describe a system that was out of date. The term is used today in IT circles to refer to older software programs. While “legacy software” programs are often not obsolete, they tend to be difficult to install, can’t accept upgrades easily, often affect office-wide computer use while upgrades are being downloaded, and can only be used on limited machines under certain circumstances.  If this sounds like the construction project management software that your firm is using, it might well be worth moving to software that features apps that can be downloaded to mobile devices, like Raken for daily reporting. Working on devices powered by Android and iOS, Raken allows for between 60-90 minutes per day to be saved on report writing and filing. Raken report fields meet industry standards, assuring that these reports can become legal documents, if necessary. And Raken allows for real time editing and viewing, meaning that the “meeting about the report data” can be held anywhere, even when all meeting participants aren’t necessarily physically in the same place, saving travel time and money. And Raken is not a construction manager’s only “mobile solution” for a more effective construction site. There are a number of other products out there using technology that most site employees are already carrying in a pocket or briefcase. Other possibilities include a mobile app called JobCost that allows employees to update their timecards with their devices and managers to track work, JobWavz, mobile apps for construction that allow residential projects to be scheduled, and managers to receive job bid notifications via devices, and various tagging products that allow managers to conduct inventory updates with yes, a few swipes of a phone or tablet.

While it sounds like construction managers should hop right onto that app bandwagon, they are warned that not all construction software packages are appropriate for all projects, and due diligence should be done before making purchases. But for managers willing to do the homework, the many construction mobile solutions now out there not only save firms time and money, but will keep them competitive traveling down that digital highway.

Importance Of The Cloud In Construction Management

Cloud-computing-1Weather has quite an impact on construction projects. But when people are talking about “the cloud” and construction management these days, that’s probably not what they’re referring to. They’re most likely referring to cloud computing, which involves a network of remote servers storing, processing, and moving data across the Internet, something that “local” servers and personal computers used to exclusively do. This new technology affords users a great deal of more freedom and flexibility, as it allows them to work and access information from many locations, using an increasing number of devices with digital capability.

So how exactly does all of this affect the construction industry? It’s not as though bulldozers need to surf the Web. But traditional equipment is becoming increasingly automated and self-aware. Prototypes of such equipment exist now that use online searches to help carry out tasks. In the meantime, construction management is becoming increasingly reliant on various types of construction software to carry out administrative tasks, like completing daily reports. Older construction products that could be used on computers were certainly faster and more efficient than typewriters and carbon paper. But these software programs were limited, as well. These programs were often difficult to install, and updates often notoriously tied up every machine in a office. Formats for daily reports were often limited to infamous bulky spreadsheets, and add-ons such as photographs and additional reports had to be manually and awkwardly inserted.

But a software program like Raken for daily reporting utilizes cloud computing technology to allow devices like smartphones and tablets to serve as roving offices. With Raken’s cloud computing in construction users can add to and complete reports, and share this information in real time with other users. They can also issue notifications, and add both photos and videos to these documents. And because such reports can be created from cars, meeting rooms, etc., using cloud construction software like Raken means staff doesn’t have to waste time returning to site trailers or firm offices to complete reports. Because data can be viewed over multiple screens, it reduces the need for physical meetings as well. And Raken allows reports to be stored for up to ten years on the cloud, reducing the need for physical storage space and potential damage to stored physical documents.

Cloud-based software providers can also easily update and customize product, and also serve as the product’s IT specialists, reducing the need for firms to devise their own IT solutions. Managers shouldn’t assume that they’re completely done with construction software programs that arrive in a box. If they have found such a program that works effectively for them, they shouldn’t hurry to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But given cloud computing’s explosive growth and many applications, including within the construction industry, now is the time for managers to be considering their options, and how their firms can best utilize them.

New Features Are Live!

We’re happy to announce our newest features, thanks for your feedback in getting these built out!
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Export Manpower Data To Excel
Download manpower data into excel based on a time frame that you choose for each project. Learn more

Automatic Daily Report Email
Ability to automatically email daily reports once they are signed along with the option to set a certain time of the day for reports to be sent. Learn more

Improved Weather Capture
Improved automatic weather capture to include temperature, weather conditions, wind, precipitation and humidity. All of which are done automatically on your daily report. Learn more

Locate Completed And Missed Reports
Easily locate reports that were completed or missed.
This makes it easy to print and/or email completed reports as well as fill out missed reports. Learn more

Project Documentation Tips You Should Know

paperwork-315083_640In 62 BC in Rome, the great Julius Caesar divorced his second wife, whose name came up in a courtroom trial involving trespassing. Had she done anything wrong? Didn’t matter, said Caesar. “My wife ought not even to be under suspicion”. Thousands of years later, it’s hard to know if the former Mrs. Julius could have saved her good name and marriage with documentation. But modern day contractors can certainly protect themselves with it. While no one wants to start a work assignment assuming that all parties will face off in court, there’s no denying that we live in a litigious society. And the construction industry is especially prone to lawsuits, ranging from claims of defective work to displeasure over finished products.

How can contractors protect themselves from these suits? How can they make sure that clients, partners, suppliers, and others in turn honor their obligations and agreements? By documenting all steps of a project in writing, even before a project starts. All parties involved in a project should fully understand, before signing and committing to anything:

  • the financial obligations of all parties
  • any or all provisions that parties must make
  • the potential for work stoppage or delays during the course of a project, and actions to be taken if such events occur

But even these safeguards can’t entirely protect firms from suits. This is why it is important that thorough construction documentation of project events occur during project work, too. That daily report that no one enjoys doing can be a great help in this regard. Thorough record keeping here both creates a valuable court document, and can act as a deterrent to suit filing as well. And construction software on the market today like Raken can be very helpful in creating a daily report that provides the documentation that can prevail in court. Such daily reports should include:

Photographs
The human brain remembers visual images better than text, so record everything with photography on a worksite, including actual work, storage of supplies and vehicles, signage, and any safety issues and concerns. Changes to any of this should be re-photographed to appear in that day’s report.

Record All Work
This includes not only tasks performed by contracting employees, sub-contractors, suppliers, inspectors, etc. Records should include both the type of tasks performed, and the amount of time spent doing them. “Events” (visitors, press conferences, etc.) that affect daily work should be recorded as well.

Safety Concerns And General Issues
Actual or potential safety problems should be documented with both photographs and writing. This should include all actions taken and notifications issued. Observations on site weather and official weather reports and statements should be included here. More general issues to include here are steps taken to insure quality control, any training undertaken during the project, and documentation of all meetings held and who was in attendance.

While such record keeping sounds excessive, for legal purposes, it’s not possible to be “over-documented”. And project management software for construction like Raken not only makes it much easier to collect and store (for as long as ten years online) such data, it’s easy to use. The Raken app can be used on any mobile device using Android and iOS. This means managers can quickly create a full legal document that can also serve as a general update for stakeholders and partners as well. After all, as Caesar’s wife could tell you, it’s not much fun to spend time in court. Proper documentation can help contractors avoid or improve the outcome of such visits.

Top Five Recommended Construction Industry Blogs And News Websites In 2016

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 3.19.42 PMOriginally known as “web logs” (weblogs, get it?) these “diaries” soon took on a life of their own. Transitioning from personal musings for a private audience to a way to pass along quickly updated news within a web site, various organizations and finally businesses adopted this format to pass along information within their own sites. The construction industry was no exception.  Today, if a firm has a web site, odds are good that a construction blog is part of it. But are these blogs and similar “breaking news” sections good reading? Below are five construction oriented blogs that are worth following.

1. Contracting Coach
This site recognizes that part of being a good construction manager is keeping both clients and workers happy. This construction blog not only offers tips on how to be both a good employer and employee, but provides information on changing trends within the industry that can affect work, plus training in the form of downloadable podcasts on topics like effective meetings, firm marketing, and more.

2. Blue Collar Labs
This construction industry database provides not only “breaking” latest construction news, but compiles and archives technical information for use as well. In addition to accessing online information, a newsletter is available for site members as well.

3. Con App Guru
Rob McKinney is a construction industry technology consultant and blogger who is becoming an increasingly well-known speaker at industry events. As the name of this site indicates, it focuses on applications that can be used within the construction industry. Blog content here includes reviews of products, podcasts, and a database of apps that the “App Guru” has tried out and found useful.

4. Construction Leading Edge
Site owner and host Todd Dewalt offers a podcast series here that features interviews with leading firm owners and entrepreneurs within the construction industry. This site also offers information on industry training opportunities and a reading list.

5. Raken
The software company for daily reporting features a construction blog that offers lively and timely information on breaking news, training resources, trends within the construction industry, and more. The Raken site also offers demonstration videos, training webinars, and technical information.

Best Practices When Creating Daily Reports

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 2.57.47 PMWhen individuals decide to embark on a career in the construction agency, it’s highly unlikely than they’re doing so that they can write daily reports. Like routine paperwork of any kind, these reports can be tedious and time consuming. But there’s no denying the importance of them, either. These daily progress reports for construction companies provide information that can save firms and their investors time and money, potentially protect workers from injury, and help avoid supply problems. Careful reporting can also help construction firms with litigation issues, both as plaintiffs and as defendants. Now if they were only more fun to write…

Given the nature of what goes into these reports, it’s unlikely that anyone will ever beg to do them, or take them on vacation to read on a beach towel, either. But the good news is that construction reports are now much easier to complete, file, and access than in past years. Larger report files can be stored now as well, for longer periods of time without concerns about finding storage room and risking damage. And construction reports can now be passed along or collaborated on without resorting to mailing or having to have physical meetings.

It’s not magic that’s transforming daily reports, but construction software. Just a few decades ago, this software was clunky technology that was downloaded sloooowly via a CD, and often held computers hostage for hours. Today’s construction software however, is nimble and Internet based, meaning that it can be accessed from a number of locations, including field sites where an office may not be practical.

But this doesn’t mean that the sky’s the limit when filling out these newly digitalized reports. These daily reports serve as a legal record of events and transactions on a project, and should be filled out using consistent standards. As Dragnet character Sgt. Joe Friday would say, these reports should contain “just the facts”. And like Sgt. Friday himself, the report content should be neutral and no-nonsense. They should, using both text and visual images, recount what happened that day on the project site, both in positive and negative terms. If a supervisor is having problems off-site pertaining to the project such as with suppliers or regulatory offices, this should be recorded within the report as well, again stating only the known facts. And daily reporting should be completed on well, a daily basis. These means that recorded times and dates are an important part of the report completion process.

Fortunately, software like Raken for daily reporting not only is both quick (users report a reduction in completion time of 60-90 minutes) and convenient (Raken’s app can be used by any mobile device powered by Android or iOS), format templates are provided to users to produce proper legal documents. With the Raken construction daily log app, users can create separate files for each individual project online, and within each file, create separate tabs for daily logs, photos, surveys, notes, and tasks to be completed. The tabs can be updated and modified. And completed files can be stored for up to ten years on Raken’s cloud platform.

Paper and pens still should be a part of a site superintendent’s daily tool kit, but with software like Raken, reports can be customized and produced not only more quickly, but ones that result in safer and more efficient job sites.

Five Traits Of A Construction Superintendent

16029345959_67125db2a4_bMost construction superintendents aren’t required to turn off the lights and wash out the coffee pot at the end of the day, but given all the other duties required of them, they might as well. The construction superintendent is often the busiest person at any given time on a working site. Given the importance of this particular individual to the successful outcome of a project, what qualities should firms look for to make sure they’re hiring the right person for the job?

1. Leadership Abilities
The construction superintendent is essentially the site boss. But proclaiming someone a “boss” doesn’t necessarily make him or her good at it. Firms should select a candidate who can be assertive without being dictatorial, one who is empathic yet firm, and one who is a good delegator. For example, can work continue, and continue smoothly, if the superintendent has to be away from the site?

2. Communicator
A good superintendent is able to express himself or herself clearly both in speech and in writing. This applies to visitors, suppliers, and sub-contractors in addition to site workers.

3. Planning
A good construction superintendent knows that if you “plan for the worst, the worst never happens”. In addition to scheduling for planned work scenarios, this superintendent has contingency plans for working around weather delays, supplier problems, etc.

4. Paperwork
A good superintendent not only completes and turns in all required paperwork on time and meets deadlines. He or she is also aware of the paperwork responsibilities of other onsite employees, and has oversight into the completion and filing of these documents. Construction supervisor duties also consist of he or she taking the time to select the correct software to help expedite such paperwork, like Raken for daily reporting.

5. Integrity
The best construction site superintendents lead by example when it comes to site work and safety practices. These superintendents know that on the happiest and most effective work sites, the same accountability standards apply to all.

Importance Of Construction Jobsite Photo Documentation

roofing work“A picture is worth a thousand words”. That’s not just a catchy saying, it’s a accurate assessment of how the human brain works. Whether it’s called looking at pictures or “visual communication”, humans have been shown in formal studies to be able to recall about twenty percent of what they read, and eighty percent of what they see. “Well, great!” you may be thinking. “If human brains are so good at this “visual communication”, then there’s no need to waste time on job sites playing roving photographer!” Ah, but there’s a catch, you see.

Because while humans are good at recalling visual information, they’re not too good at accurately retaining that information for very long. Our busy human brains can’t be relied upon to remember (or accurately pass on to others) exactly what we have seen. This is why photography is so vital as a documentation tool. Especially in the construction industry, construction photo documentation is very important for the following reasons:

Photography Makes A Good Reporting Tool
Written and verbal reports can give managers and stakeholders a good assessment of what’s happening on a site when they’re not there, but the camera’s eye can pick up images that might be otherwise missed by these methods. Pictures of the job site in general also help invested but less frequent visitors get an overview of the project and how it functions, to compliment written reports.

Photography Helps To Document Progress
Clients and stakeholders don’t just want to hear or read a memo that the project is moving right along, they want visual proof. And from the ground breaking to the roof raising, photo documentation can provide this. Conversely, if a project is experiencing delays or other issues, photography can help to chronicle this as well.

Photography Can Protect Firms In Court
Accurate photo documentation of problems that slowed down or stopped site work can be tremendously helpful to firms facing litigation from clients, or who are pursuing litigation themselves because of actions on the clients’ part.

Photography Is Enlightening
You’ve got a bad feeling about staging that project in Area 51. But clients and stakeholders want more evidence than that. With photography, construction managers can share physical information including over the passage of time, about potential project areas. This can help both to select good sites and eliminate problem ones.

Digital photography has quickly progressed from pixilated disasters to stunning images at the hands of amateur photographs using mobile devices. But the right software is important.  Fortunately, in addition to being a great textual tool for daily reporting, Raken‘s contractors app allows digital photographers to quickly add unlimited HD images to reports, warnings, and notifications. Raken’s cloud technology also allows those images to be filed and stored for up to ten years. And with Raken’s search features, managers can quickly locate and download those photos, backing up those thousand words with stunning images.

The Future Of A Construction Jobsite

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Although the construction industry lags behind many others in embracing and adapting new technologies, it’s made impressive strides in recent years, especially in adapting construction software for reporting, payroll, and tracking needs. Other technologies that are being tried now that may affect what you see in the future of construction industry sites include:

1. Green Is The Word
“Green construction” methods and LEED practices are no longer novelties. In another twenty years, they may well be the way in which structures are built. Look for construction in future to incorporate natural elements in building design, such as thermal heating systems, and landscaping that both recycles and disposes of waste water. Expect future structures to include more recycling (such as plastic beads replacing concrete in flooring) and new methods for traditional projects (hollow beams that literally bend in earthquake-prone areas) as well.

2. Construction Sites Will Be Easier To “Read”
“Tag” technology is available now via sign posts that allow the contents of supply trucks to be quickly identified as they pull onto job sites. Expect to see more of this technology employed in future to give quick updates on progress or problems on a busy job site.

3. I, Robot Am Your New Co-Worker
Self-driving vehicles are being used in a pilot case to see if they can make road crews safer. 3-D printing methods are being used to construct buildings. Drones are being hailed as non-human photographers, supervisors, and surveyors. And robots at future sites will probably not only perform conventional construction tasks, but supervise other robots as well. While it’s true that all of these methods are being tried in experimental ways at sites, with the exception of drones, these other methods and innovations in the construction industry are decades away from any practical application.

4. No More Paper, No More Pens
Faster. More efficient. Versatile. Can be stored on cloud platforms for long periods of time. Construction software will probably have replaced conventional reporting methods altogether for firms in the next couple of decades. For example, Raken’s app for daily reporting can save up to ninety minutes per day in report filing, can be accessed from a variety of mobile devices, and can be used for collaborative filing. And in addition to its multiple uses, there’s an affordable Raken plan out there for every firm. Starting with a free trial, contractors will find a variety of Raken plans that not only can accommodate current needs, but that can be adapted to best suit future ones. And Raken offers subscribers the option of monthly or money saving annual plans, meaning that with Raken, users don’t have to wait for the literal future for future technologies to be affordable.

Brick Layering Robots In Construction?

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If you have braved the hordes of holiday movie-goers, to see The Force Awakens, then you know that the movie contains robots. And not just any robots, but versatile ones at that. They can help pilot spaceships! Track down missing people with holographic maps! And some of them don’t seem to have to do anything but be just plain adorable. But do any of these of these robots from that galaxy far, far away do masonry work? No? Then maybe they’re not as useful as they appear. Not as useful anyway as a bricklaying robot designed by engineers in Perth, Australia. Admittedly, this robot isn’t quite as cute as R2-D2 or B-88. More machine that mechanical person, it appears to be the love child of a crane and a conveyor belt. But what this robot lacks in looks and personality, it more than makes up for in effectiveness and speed.

This robot is named Hadrian, after the ancient Roman emperor who unsuccessfully tried to wall invading Scots out of what is now England. This Hadrian brick laying robot is a little more effective. It can lay out the framework of a brick structure in just two days. This equates to laying about 1,000 bricks per hour, meaning that this machine does so at about twenty times the rate of a human counterpart. Another advantage to Hadrian’s speed is the fact is that it doesn’t get tired or need to take rest breaks. Engineers believe that Hadrian’s speedy and tireless work can reduce the total time of home building by as much as six weeks. It’s anticipated that while Hadrian is plugging away doing its thing, human workers can be working on and preparing the other components required in home construction.

Hadrian’s “father” is inventor Mark Pivac, who is the founder of its developing company, Fastbrick Robotics. While some other robotic brick-laying technologies are now available for use in road and wall building, the Hadrian bricklaying robot is not anticipated for sale until 2017. Hadrian’s current prototype uses a excavator to get around. But the commercial model will be able to placed on the back of a truck, making this robot even easier to move and use around construction sites.

While those Star Wars robots are loveable pals, elsewhere in science fiction, robots have more devious plans. Are Hadrian and its developers likewise planning to take jobs away from human construction workers? Not at all, says Pivac, who anticipates that this brick-laying technology will actually create more jobs, especially in the area of masonry. As with other specialties in construction, qualified brick-layers are aging, retiring, and not being replaced by younger workers. Pivac hopes that this new robotic construction technology will entice a new generation to enter this field. And with Hadrian at their side, Pivac says, these new brick-layers will have a “co-worker” who’s non-wasteful and helps to create a safer work site with less noise and other pollutants.

To see a demonstration of the Hadrian robot in action, go to this link.

Managing Risks And Avoiding Litigation In Construction

5912623815_a654f94f39_o One of the more dubious distinctions of our industry is that it that it generates a lot of lawsuits. Some of these are generated by individuals trying to recoup damages in the aftermath of a site accident. Another litigation cause is the slowdown or stoppage of project work for reasons ranging from weather to supply delays. And a surprising source of litigation in the construction industry is miscommunications with clients in addition to improperly completed and misfiled paperwork. And that’s a shame, because proper daily reporting, among other project management tasks, can actually help to avoid many of the pitfalls that can lead to court. Below are some common blunders that can lead to legal trouble, and how to avoid them.

Don’t Pass “Go” Without Paperwork
There was a day when a handshake was enough to get a project started, but that’s so early 20th century. Today, no aspect of a construction project should be started without a signed contract in place, even something as mundane as ordering supplies. What’s more, no party should sign the contract until they fully understand its stipulations. Contracts are protection for all parties involved in a project, but remember that signing it indicates that you understand and agree with it in full. While writing and reading lengthy contracts is never fun, contractors should be aware that construction software now exists like UDA ConstructionDocs that is easy to download and customize, and produces documents that are legal nationwide.

Keep Up With That Paperwork
One of the less enjoyable aspects of project management is all of the daily reporting. But those reports are important ways to track progress, problems, and payroll needs among other things, so it’s necessary that these reports be completed correctly and filed in a timely manner. Fortunately, construction software now exists that makes reporting both faster and even more convenient to do. The Raken app for daily reporting for example, can save up to ninety minutes a day in filing time, and provides the proper formats in which to do so. And the Raken app can be used on a variety of mobile devices, meaning that reports can be filed from sites and reviewed in real time, making it easier to communicate with workers, clients, and shareholders.

Licensing And Insurance
All firms should make sure that all forms of insurance, licensing, permits, and training are up to date, and not allowed to lapse, even when work is slow. To do so means that a firm runs the risk of not being able to obtain future coverage, and leaves it vulnerable to liability if the worse happens. Don’t forget to stay abreast of state requirements in these areas too, as it’s not uncommon for them to change.

Getting Paid Fast For Construction Work

raken_web imageEveryone wants to get paid for work that they have completed. More than that, they want to get paid on time and without a tremendous amount of hassle. Unfortunately, that speedy and complete payment dream often reaches nightmarish levels within the construction industry. It is not at all unusual for contractors to resort to the courts to claim late or even non-payments. Such things happen frequently enough that contractors now have some legal recourses to protect them in certain situations, such as mechanics’ liens.

But suing for non or late payment from a client has it drawbacks as well. The contractor might not prevail in court. And a contractor with a reputation for being litiginous may find that other clients are leery to work with a firm that takes drastic steps to get paid on time. But it isn’t unreasonable to expect your firm to be promptly paid for satisfactory work delivered on schedule. And this can be accomplished without the threat of a court date, if contractors are willing to do some preliminary work before and early in the project to avoid construction liens.

Due Diligence And Communications
Whether contemplating government bid requests or discussing a project with clients, the subject of payment should rear its ugly head. Do private clients fully understand the costs involved with such work? Do they understand the obligations of all parties involved? Does the contractor in turn fully understand what must be done on their part (registering on sites, meeting deadlines) to avoid delays in payment on government projects?

Preliminary Notices
In some states, contractors are legally required to submit this notice to clients for all work done or supplies delivered. If the contractor does not submit this notice, or submits it incorrectly, than the contractor may not have any legal recourse down the road if problems develop. It should be noted that this type of notice is not the same document as the more ominous Notice Of Intent. A preliminary notice instead serves as a “here’s what we’ve done for you and what we expect to be paid for” reminder. Indeed, most clients appreciate these notices as a way to keep track of charges.

Creating A Paper Trail
In addition to understanding and retaining all paperwork submitted by a client, contractors need to stay on top of daily reports. Software like Raken’s can be essential in completing and submitting reports to clients and shareholders in a timely fashion to insure quicker construction payments.

Four Tips To Effectively Manage Sub-Contractors

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 3.25.28 PM If there was ever a “sub-contractor’s” market, it would be now. Labor shortages within the industry are making sub-contractors more in demand than ever. This makes general contractors nervous about how to go about managing subcontractors in construction. If these workers feel that they’re being treated unfairly or unreasonably on a site, everyone is aware that they have plenty of other options for future work. So how does a project superintendent keep control over subcontractor work and keep everyone happy at the same time?

1. Understand And Protect Your Surety Bonds
Yes, you know your firm has to be bonded in order to get projects. You even sort of understand how these bonds work. But what many people don’t realize is that if a claim is successfully made against a bond (and a sub-contractor can certainly do this), a firm can be refused bonding for future projects. Since much general contractor/sub-contractor malaise often comes from misunderstandings over schedules and paperwork, managers should make every effort to make sure contracts and other administrative details are understood and agreed upon by all parties before subcontractor work starts.

2. Treat Your Sub-Contractor As You Would Like To Be Treated
And you would presumably like to be paid on time, be told what is going on, and not treated like a cog in a machine, correct? Sub-contractor relations generally go better when a superintendent makes sure that all paperwork is in order, finds ways to avoid or minimize payment delays, and treats the sub-contractor like a genuine team member, instead of a temporary employee.

3. Get It In Writing First
A shocking number of general and sub-contractor firms begin work on a project without a written contract in place. If that relationship goes south, the result is often months of time and money lost as legal eagles try to determine if an “enforceable” contract exists. Contracts protect all parties, and should both be in place and completely understood by all of those parties before work begins. Avoid a sub-contractor who thinks a hand shake is sufficient to seal the deal, no matter how good their work.

4. Proper Documentation
Construction software like Raken‘s for daily reporting is a great way to correctly file and track paperwork for a sub-contractor, such as hours worked and jobs performed. This contractor management system and software allows such reports to be stored and transferred, making sure that sub-contractor work can be tracked by multiple parties, cutting down on confusion and abuse.

Top 5 Construction Technology Innovations Of 2015

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 10.27.08 AMIt’s time for the inevitable cavalcade of “Best of 2015” lists. The construction industry certainly isn’t immune to this lineup. Indeed, new construction technology of 2015 products routinely coming out simply add more contenders to this list. So who are the nominees for our consideration this year?

5. 3-D Printing
Because of the waste stream, expense, and possible legal ramifications, the jury’s still out on 3-D printing’s practical applications. But it’s an undeniably cool idea, and so both the general business and construction worlds continue to tweak this technology. In terms of construction, an American architect and a 3-D printing company called D-Shape are collaborating to produce an actual multi-structure estate in New York, laid out by a giant military grade printer. Project completion is anticipated for 2017.

4. Leave The Driving To The Vehicles
If you want a safe or glamorous job, don’t be one of those road crew workers that paints lines or sets up traffic cones. Both they and the trucks whose path they’re following are in constant danger of being struck by civilian drivers. But the state of Florida is now taking part in a pilot program in which self-driving “crash trucks” are the ones road crews follow. It is hoped that using such vehicles will be both safer and reduce the need for drivers.

3. Fences Make Good Neighbors
Geo-fencing is the latest application to make construction technology news these days. The software acts as a “virtual barrier”, using GPS to track the location of employees’ cell phones and thus employees, for labor and payroll purposes.

2. A Long Drink Of Water
Storm water runoff is a major cause of water pollution, especially for natural waterways like streams and lakes. So there is great interest in a new permeable parking lot concrete called Topmix Permeable. Made by Lafarge Tarmac, the product can absorb and safely disperse up to 1,000 gallons of water per minute.

1. Mobile Applications
As construction moves from paper to digital, Project Managers, Project Engineers, Superintendents and Foremen have begun adopting mobile apps in construction to end field reporting headaches. New construction technology like Raken, the #1 daily reporting app has filled the need with an easy to use, powerful app which allows for reporting, collaboration and compliance.

Construction Workers To Expect Raises In 2016

16029345959_67125db2a4_bYou don’t even have to celebrate Christmas to be a recipient of it. Engineering News-Record (ENR), the construction industry’s international news magazine recently divulged the results of a survey that indicated firms won’t be Scrooge next year. The publication conducted a year end construction industry “Confidence Index” survey, and asked hundreds of firm owners, managers, and engineering supervisors among others for hiring and raise forecasts for 2016.

The answer was pretty sunny. Of the 253 respondents to ENR’s survey, approximately 95% of these administrators anticipated construction pay raises for employees in 2016. On average, these administrators thought workers would see just under a 5% increase over their current earnings. Eight of the responding firms thought that salary boosts would be even higher than that for them. These firms forecast employee raises of anywhere from 15-30%. ENR noted that these figures slightly increased the anticipated raise amount for all workers. However, when the raise amounts from these firms was deducted from the equation, the result was still a healthy and solid 4% increase for all construction workers across the board.

Very few people would turn down more money in a paycheck. But some raises are more generous than others. So who will “Paycheck Santa” be especially nice to in 2016? Sub-contractors and specialty workers shouldn’t be surprised to see paycheck increases of about 4.25% next year. Employees of general construction firms and contractors should expect to see a 4% bump, while employees of general design firms should anticipate a raise of 4.16%. And the reason for all of this sharing of the wealth? Increased pay is certainly a result of the much improved fortunes of the construction industry in recent years. But it’s also a reflection of firms’ understanding that they will have to offer more money to qualified workers (in addition to other perks) in order to retain them in light of construction skilled labor shortages.

And speaking of labor needs, the ENR survey also addressed 2016 hiring plans. 72% of those who responded to this part of the survey indicated that they will be increasing their ranks in 2016. Engineers and project managers are at the top of their wish list, with skilled laborers and craftspeople also much in demand. And estimators may find themselves very popular in 2016, as almost 25% of participants responding to that part of the survey said that due to the construction trends of 2016 their services will be required next year.