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How the Construction Industry Should be Using Mobile Technology

By Mike Henstridge

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Mobile technology has been a hot topic in the construction industry for a few years now. Mobile comes with the promise of improved job site efficiency. Thanks to smartphones and tablets, construction professionals are no longer tethered to their desks or the job site trailers, running back and forth from field to office. But it hasn’t all lived up to its promise. The simple communication tools provided by mobile devices emails, calls, texts, instant access to documents and photos should make the day so much easier. Project teams should be connecting better than ever before. But they aren’t.

Despite taking advantage of mobile technology, collaboration and efficiency haven’t improved at the same rate that mobile has been adopted. The problem isn’t the technology, it’s how it’s being used. Simple in theory, emails, calls, and texts have become a complex way of dealing with hundreds of issues that come up on a typical job site every day. Contractors often arrive onsite with a tablet for taking notes and accessing documents, a smartphone loaded with various apps that perform a whole host of functions, and sometimes even a clipboard for good measure. All these devices and software might sound good, but if they can’t get a handle on the flow of communication, then all that other technology doesn’t do much to improve efficiency.

Construction professionals might be more mobile than ever before, but with a smartphone and/or a tablet hardly ever out of arm’s reach, the influx of information about multiple projects is nonstop. It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of dealing with incoming communication while productivity in the field slips. Distributing communication on construction projects serves two purposes: to make sure information is understood and to make sure it’s not misunderstood. Making sure information is understood ensures tasks get done. Making sure it’s not misunderstood helps prevent expensive mistakes. Keeping information accessible is only part of the equation to optimize efficient collaboration. Information also needs to be trackable and easy to locate, and it should promote two-way conversation. It sounds good in theory, but a typical project using standard modes of communication rarely goes that smoothly.

Technology solutions claiming to improve efficiency rarely start with effective communication as the baseline. Construction is a mobile industry, with most construction professionals moving all day from job site to job site, or to different locations within the same job site. FiveSixTwo takes the mobility of construction workers into account and we do more than just replicate job processes or try to bring everything into the cloud. We account for existing tools like texts, emails, and phone calls, but use technology to make them a productive part of the job rather than a time suck. Once you get communication flowing the right way, the job site becomes more effective and technologies actually do start to improve efficiency.

Communication and collaboration will never improve in construction by just using emails and text messaging as the primary method of connecting project teams. Construction professionals need to work smarter in order to build better, and that starts with making everyday processes of communication more effective. FiveSixTwo can build the tools that mimic the workflows construction professionals are used to using to ensure technology is working for the industry and not against it.