Applying New Software Techniques to Old Construction Problems
Since the beginning of time – or at least since the Neolithic era, when humans first began construction – there have been some factors that have consistently caused negative impacts to construction projects. Aside from factors out of human control, like the weather, pretty much all issues in construction can be traced back to errors in communication, including, but not limited to disputes, delays, and overspending. Although there have been a mélange of methods attempting to alleviate these issues, only within recent years has the industry developed tools that have the potential to eradicate them completely.
Applying new software techniques to old construction problems is a modern, viable solution to improve communication, which in turn boosts productivity. The construction industry is notoriously averse to adopting new technology, but by keeping field management methods the same, the issues of inefficiency, delays, and overspending aren't going to go anywhere. Modern methodologies like agile project management and modularization of software solutions are just two ways to use technology to improve overall productivity on construction projects. Now that there are digital tools advanced enough to tackle age-old problems, there's never been a better time to work in construction.
The Root Cause
Throughout our lives, we are constantly reminded that communication is key. Want to share some good news? Communication. Need to fix your marriage? Communication. Want to finish your construction project on time and on budget? Communication! Nearly every controllable construction problem can be linked back to communication in some way or another. Therefore, when there is a lack of proper communication on a jobsite, the door remains open for a whole skew of problems that can arise before, during, and after the project.
For instance, think about a dispute that arose following one of your project's completion. Or, consider a time that a laborer misunderstood instructions for a task, resulting in the need to redo that part of the project, causing schedule and financial setbacks. A few experiences likely come to mind. That's because these are frequently occurring, ultra common construction problems that have come up time and time again, and nine times out of ten, they could have been proactively avoided by better communication during the build.
Agile construction is a methodology that involves adapting to changing conditions on a project with flexibility. By breaking up project sections into sprints, teams can assess progress and alter plans accordingly. Although the practices associated with agile have been applicable to the construction industry for quite some time, the secret ingredient to success for agile is the additional supplement of new software. When you use construction management software to facilitate agile techniques, you have on your hands, a winning combination that allows you to quickly consult your team, think critically, and make changes on a dime. This is crucial for large-scale construction projects with ever-changing plans. By streamlining communication through technology, the time it takes to make decisions is cut down significantly, so projects stay on schedule and there's less instances of rework.
Construction software, and more specifically, mobile solutions for field management provide a platform for better communication between the jobsite and the office. Field management isn't just for onsite supervisors to keep track of their laborers. In fact, construction software with mobile accessibility is just as beneficial for project team members who never actually enter their projects' jobsites, especially when embracing agile project management methodology. When those in the field are able to quickly and easily send real-time updates and insights, office personnel can offer advice or approve decisions right away, so projects stay on track. Construction software solutions that offer the ability to automatically create and send summaries based on the length of a sprint period go the extra mile, by calculating and providing all the analytical details for you. By adopting agile techniques and combining them with new software, you can work towards making project delays and overspending a problem of the past.
In construction, modularity refers to materials and components to a structure that are prefabricated and manufactured off-site. Parts arrive at a jobsite, one module fits together with other modules - and the parts make a whole. When it comes to modularity in software, the concept is pretty much the same. Basically, by integrating the best-in-breed software for each of your construction problems, you can find that you will create a super-solution that actually gets the job done. Modularity in construction software is kind of like the amalgamation of parts that created Frankenstein's monster, but you know - extremely helpful, and not-at-all scary.
Another way to look at modularity is to think of subcontractors. Each sub specializes in a certain trade. And while the phrase, "jack-of-all-trades," exists, there really aren't too many folks out there who can get every aspect of a project done and dusted. Would you want your HVAC team taking over the concrete pouring? Or the electricians focusing on framework instead of wiring? Probably not, since that would just lead to mistakes, and everything would have to be re-built. That same concept applies to software! If one program is accredited as the number one solution for BIM, that doesn't mean you'll want to use them for your daily reporting, right? Best-in-breed solutions facilitate modularity, and keep the flow of communication steady, avoiding disputes and keeping projects on time and on budget.
To reiterate, as long as the construction industry sticks to the project management solutions that have been around for centuries, the same problems that occur again and again are not going to simply disappear. It's time to start applying modern software techniques to old construction problems. The bottom line is that in order to see change, you need to make change, and with solutions that served to you on a silver platter, there's really no reason not to give it a shot. Imagine a world with better communication on construction projects. Envision projects completed on time and on budget, every time. Picture all of your teams getting along, making decisions together, and producing quality results in an efficient manner. As utopian as that all sounds, it really is within reach. If you adopt agile construction methodology and incorporate modular software solutions, you can solve problems that have been plaguing the construction industry since, well, forever.