Duncan Ward explores communications within the construction industry

The construction sector’s inherent complexity and fragmentation have always been a pain point for working processes. Now, it is facing economic challenges including high interest rates, reduced commercial occupancy, and declining property values, intensifying pressure on delivery schedules. With a retiring workforce, skilled labour shortages, a plunge in activity, and declines in worker productivity, there is a pressing need to change complex project management, aggressive deadlines, and supply chain issues, pushing productivity pressures to the top of agendas.

Pointedly, outdated communication methods on construction sites lead to persistent issues such as dropped calls from poor connectivity and missed calls due to a lack of mobile collaboration tools. These challenges can amount to broader inefficiencies such as wasteful spending, reduced productivity, and project delays. Addressing communication gaps is not just a matter of convenience; it is imperative to support construction professionals on and between sites. Reforming working processes and streamlining project management will synchronise teams in real time, and ultimately serve as a boost for productivity rates.

Encouragingly, 76 percent of engineering and construction executives are eager to invest in digital technology to drive better building practices and improve productivity. Steady progress is underway, with 56 percent of leaders expressing confidence in the ongoing transition towards a smarter, digital future. It’s imperative mobile calling isn’t overlooked as a digital transformation priority.

The nuts and bolts of on-site communication needs
Over the past decade, office-based and remote workers who can perform their day-to-day roles without leaving their homes or places of work have experienced a notable communication revolution, leveraging Unified Communication (UC) tools encompassing call recording, instant messaging, CRM integration, and live document editing. However, mobile communication innovation has stagnated for out-and-about workers like those on a construction site – arguably when it’s needed most.

The UK’s major network providers offer standard basic telephony services over dedicated voice-only channels. This is because voice communication is uniquely a real-time application. If it is to be resilient and reliable, the voice service cannot compete for scarce bandwidth with other data-hungry applications such as video and music.

However, mobile phone apps with UC features typically require the voice stream to travel over a public data internet connection shared with other greedy bandwidth applications. These data channels cannot provide a guaranteed delivery in real-time. As a result, voice communication inevitably suffers from variable quality and frequent call drops when the user is out in the field on construction job sites. So, how do we solve the communication problem for construction workers and professionals?

Fundamentally, traditional phone calls will remain the backbone of communications within construction. What’s needed is a solution where calls over the dedicated mobile voice network – which surpasses the unpredictability of internet call quality – are coupled with advanced calling features to enhance collaboration. The likes of call recording, call transfer, ring groups, interconnected staff networks and shared contact directories are all invaluable for keeping track of comms, collaborating and, ultimately, improving efficiency. Via a traditional mobile call, surveyors, property developers, architects, and engineers alike, should have access to rich calling features that connect to a wider network of colleagues working on the same project, without compromising on quality. So, for example, the next time your Quantity Surveyor is on-site and receives an urgent supplier call, they can transfer it to a remote colleague to manage the enquiry, instead of having to let it ring through.

Fortify your foundations
This approach to communications will be pivotal for boosting productivity, especially for integrating single project-scoped professionals such as contractors, architects, engineers, and builders. However, a mobile phone solution should not only harness the dedicated mobile voice network for unparalleled call quality and boast advanced calling features, but should also prioritise GDPR compliance.

Construction businesses employ a diverse range of mobile devices, including SIMs, eSIMs and BYOD (bring your own device). This diversity can introduce challenges such as inadequate security compliance, concealed costs, and administrative complexities for IT teams – especially where there is a complex supply chain including contractors, quantity surveyors, architects and more. In particular, the use of a BYOD model elevates risks associated with GDPR compliance as it intertwines personal and professional aspects of individuals’ lives. For example, both personal and work contacts are saved in the same directory.

With a separate mobile number, data, calling and SMS plan, workers will benefit from having all business calls, contacts, and messages separate from confidential information. Even better, a solution that empowers IT managers to clear confidential information from mobile phones at the end of the project will ensure a greater level of compliance, keeping employee, partner, and customer data safe.

Construction’s digital renaissance
All this being said, construction leaders don’t need to conduct a radical overhaul of existing communication methods. These days, all this can be found in a mobile app. As the industry continues to brace itself against economic strains, now is the time to be strategic. Integrating the right business mobile calling solutions will be the cornerstone for enhancing productivity. By streamlining communication channels, and fostering collaborative workflows on and off-site, teams can eliminate bottlenecks, reduce delays, and enhance overall project efficiency.

Not only will this move accelerate industry recovery in challenging economic times, but it also lays the groundwork for creating agile technological infrastructures fit for the future. This is the end to compromising on the basics. 

Duncan Ward is CEO at PiPcall. PiPcall has combined decades of experience in telecoms with fresh innovation to develop Mobile+. Built for out-and-about workforces, Mobile+ provides businesses with access to the best mobile communications with HD voice and reliable calls integrated with state-of-the-art Unified Communications and calling capabilities like hold and transfer functionality, all in one mobile app.

https://www.pipcall.com/industry/construction