Why going paperless could supercharge construction’s productivity By Colin Yates

A lack of productivity has been a known issue in the construction industry for some time now. Over the past two decades, productivity growth in UK construction has averaged just 0.4 per cent per year, compared with 3.2 per cent in manufacturing, according to the ONS.

Management consulting firm McKinsey has suggested this could be because the sector has been particularly slow to adopt process and technology innovations. So, the question is, what technologies can companies in the construction sector be implementing right now to improve their own productivity?

Mobile data capture solutions, such as apps, allow data to be collected digitally and stored remotely. This is done via the use of electronic versions of forms and reports, instead of relying on paper-based systems. Here are a few of the ways that implementing this type of technology could help the construction industry to boost its productivity:

More accurate data management
Employees working between sites, and without regular access to a desk, can often find managing physical paperwork a challenge. Documents can easily be lost, damaged or incorrectly filed. And when document management is poor, this can mean incomplete audit trails, time wasted on searching for information, miscommunication, and even the ultimate failure of the project. It can also lead to endless compliancy issues that put the business at risk of legal action. This could result in potential penalties or mean that they are unable to invoice for completed work.

By replacing traditional paper forms, field workers can easily collect, monitor and share data via their mobile device, such as job report forms, timesheets, time stamps and locations, photos and signatures. Some data capture apps can also give organizations live updates of when the status of a job changes – such as whether a specific task has been completed. This can help to digitally record the exact progress of a project, making it easier to report back to clients or project managers.

Improved communication between workers
In an environment where construction businesses are under increasing pressure to cut operational costs, whilst maintaining a high productivity level, adopting cloud technology is a great way for firms to become more agile and improve employee communication. A major project will often involve people from several disciplines with differing skill-sets – from engineers to admin teams, collaborating together. With the development of cloud technology, it is now easier than ever before for front facing operatives working at different locations, and without regular access to a desk, to stay in contact with colleagues from other sites.

For instance, workers who have been tasked with updating a building’s interior can digitally record updates on the status of an individual job, and take photographs and videos to show progress. This data can then be uploaded to a platform hosted on the cloud and instantly accessed by head office; so, work can be actioned straight away, and results recorded and signed off quickly enabling speedier invoicing.

Remaining competitive is an important focus for any construction firm, particularly given the current economic climate, so businesses need to keep their eyes open for opportunities that can help to drive the company forward. Adopting new technology, such as mobile devices, data capture services and cloud technology, clearly provides great cost-effective and efficiency benefits for construction companies and now is the time to take advantage and stay ahead of the competition.

Enhanced business intelligence
Perhaps most importantly of all, digital data capture solutions allow businesses to collect and have access to much higher quality data quickly.

Information is gathered more consistently, as all data captured in the forms or reports is then saved automatically. They can also help businesses to access data that it would otherwise be almost impossible to collect, allowing operatives, for example, to GPS tag and time stamp documents.

Businesses should look for a front end data capture solution that can be connected to back end business intelligence tools, because this means that this high-quality data can be analysed quickly and easily, helping to identify patterns that will influence important business decisions. As a result, digital data capture can enable plant hire companies to be more agile, responding to customer needs in a more informed, intelligent and ultimately profitable way.

With productivity likely to be a priority for all businesses operating in the construction sector in the coming years, a willingness to embrace digital technology could prove crucial. Offering a host of invaluable benefits, mobile data capture solutions should form a key part of any plant hire firm’s digital transformation plans.

Colin Yates
Colin Yates is Chief Support Officer at WorkMobile, an award winning mobile data capture service that replaces paper forms. Using the API, data captured may be integrated into back-office or ERP systems and further extended into a bespoke workflow solution that includes a variety of management information reporting options.
WorkMobile® was founded in 2001 as eSAY Solutions Ltd and rebranded as WorkMobile® in 2015.