The following content is sponsored by Foundation.
Consider, if you will, the construction industry as an ecosystem. The labor force, stakeholders, materials, supply chains and equipment are the organisms; the job site is their environment. Unlike a natural ecosystem — which is able to effortlessly self-sustain — a construction job site needs assistance to maintain its organizational capacities.
With all the piece points involved in the lifecycle of a construction project, contractors are dealing with an array of individual technologies to help them manage everyday functions. From generating bids to paying their employees, tracking inventory, communicating with management, enforcing a safe environment . . . the list goes on — all while trying to stay within a budget and on a deadline. Without cohesive communication between these moving parts, there is an increased risk for errors and misplaced data. Cue the concept of connected construction.
Connected construction involves digitally transforming the way a construction site is coordinated. The end-goal is to create a centralized network where all information is stored. This is done by using technological tracking tools and integrated software. All the elements of a project become synchronized and interoperable, streamlining and automating the functions of managing a job site. Everything, from the materials to the machines — and everyone, from workers to stakeholders — are digitally connected and able to communicate between each other.
This real-time visibility is moving the construction industry into a new age of construction management, one that involves integrated coordination and data-driven decision-making. Evolving the entire notion of efficiency.
Why is Connected Construction Important?
Construction is a top industry driving the U.S economy with more than a trillion dollars being spent in both residential and non-residential projects. Economists aren’t just expecting a continuation of success, they’re predicting steady, noticeable growth. Global Construction Perspectives forecasts the global volume of construction to grow in excess of 42% by 2030. Furthermore, indications show that only 25% of the infrastructure we need by 2050 currently exists.
The demand for modernized buildings is on the rise. Now is an important time to sharpen your company’s competitive edge by integrating your company’s technological ecosystem. Developing a streamlined workflow throughout every job’s life span will lead to better project outcomes and firmer confidence in product quality.
The Major Benefits of Connected Construction
The intention behind connected construction is to make job sites smarter. By using digital technologies to both monitor and operate all processes from a centralized, multi-user network, projects can be delivered with increased efficiency and maturity. Specific benefits brought about by connected construction include:
1. Real-Time Data Analytics
Contractors are able to work with the latest, most up-to-date data available by using tools such as asset tracking, synched timeclocks and predictive maintenance. Reports involving the statuses of materials, equipment and labor are consistently being updated so that decisions can be more proactive than reactive. Keep in mind that the instruments used to obtain the data — tools such as GPS tracking, QR codes and sensors — are operating non-stop, so frequent data reports are accurate to the minute.
Having access to the most immediate data allows for adjustments to be made without sacrificing extra resources. There is no need for manual involvement as everything is digitally updated and tracked. With a click of a button, a stakeholder or a project manage at the office can analyze the current numbers and decide how to proceed without ever needing to go to the job site.
Timelines are more exact because the pacing of each phase is better projected. Impending problems are better predicted and therefore resolutions can be found quickly. Costs are reduced as risks and mistakes diminish.
2. Safer Work Environments
Integrated safety tracking software within a connected construction environment enables companies to boast better health and safety programs. Certifications, hazard analysis reports, training courses and safety data sheets — among other necessary forms — are all quickly accessible in a shared dashboard, giving foremen more time to focus on enforcing protocols instead of organizing paperwork.
Workers experience a higher standard of jobsite accountability because the apps are able to record who has completed necessary safety tasks and who hasn’t. Any employee that feels underprepared in handling any type of tool, machinery or solvent can quickly find documented instructions to learn proper procedures.
With safety software in connected construction, money is ultimately saved. OSHA penalties are less imposing because all required documentation can be retrieved instantly — helping to limit company liability. As a result, additional savings can be achieved with low insurance premiums as accidents occur less frequently. And, most importantly, your employees are safer and better looked after.
3. Robust Collaboration
Having one centralized network for a project means that there is one space where all information lives. All project members can have access to this singular source of information, allowing for accurate collaboration and decision making. When a change occurs on-site or a solution is made in-office, everyone is made aware in real-time and can shift their actions accordingly.
Delays are reduced since everyone has access to the data, and answers to project questions are more readily available. In turn, stakeholders can make more thorough choices because they have constant, correct data. This eliminates lost time and reworks on a project since everyone involved can see the progress that’s been made and who has accomplished what, as well as what still needs to be done.
4. Integrated Communication
Connected construction creates a unified platform capable of automating and operating all the software needed to run the different processes that successful projects depend on — estimating and takeoff, payroll, accounting, field reporting and project management. Instead of having to manage a patchwork of solutions for these processes, contractors are able to save time and minimize data loss by controlling these workflow functions in this centralized system.
Every process is able to communicate with the other allowing for easy data exchanges. These exchanges reduce administrative burdens as there is no longer a need to complete everything by hand —and accessing that information is as easy as the click of a mouse. Since all the processes are automated, time isn’t wasted because of the accidental duplication of tasks. Legal regulations and compliance reporting are simplified as the automated software is programmed to make sure the data is filed appropriately.
In an environment where connected construction is optimized workers are safer, contractors have more control over the workflow and investors are able to make swifter decisions from wherever they’re at. Lag time is reduced, and resources can go further.
Setting your company up under the connected construction model won’t happen overnight. But there are opportunities to help you start the process and move you forward toward total connected construction.
Here are a few steps you can take.
Consider your Software
- Confirm that the different software used to run your back-office can be integrated, or, when possible, overlay in the same program (i.e., combining estimating and digital takeoff).
- Employ a multi-user system so that all project members can have access to the information and the updated change orders.
- Make sure this network can be stored on the cloud so that your information is both secure and accessible from anywhere.
Adjust in Steps
- When purchasing digital tracking tools for your assets or machines select an app that will best communicate with the unified dashboard you’re building.
- Get your employees acclimated to working in a digitally managed environment by adjusting how you track labor. Consider using tools like geofencing.
- Keep it simple. Be aware of your company’s needs and let that set the threshold for what products you invest in.
Connected construction is more about how to optimize technology than it is about the technology itself. Moving forward, find the spaces that will integrate easily and start there. As you build toward this centralized network, introduce other solutions that fit well into your evolving technological ecosystem — the point is to modernize your job site, not create more patch points. Embrace the integration opportunities offered by your software vendors and experience a whole new way to project manage.
About McCormick Systems:
McCormick Systems — A member of the Foundation Software product family — has been the nation’s leader in electrical estimating and digital takeoff for 40+ years. No matter the size of a business, McCormick Systems helps streamline estimates and save contractors time and money. For additional information, call (866) 396-3512 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Foundation Software, LLC:
Foundation Software delivers job cost accounting, project management, estimating and safety software, along with payroll services, to help contractors run the business side of construction. For information, call (800) 246-0800 or email email@example.com.
 Graham Robinson, “Global construction market to grow $8 trillion by 2030: driven by China, US and India”, Global Construction Perspectives (September 2021): 8.
 Michelle Meisels et al., “Winning with connected construction. Digital opportunities in engineering and construction,” Deloitte (2019): 3.