How field-based construction apps improve project transparency and reduce risk

September 9, 2021 | 5 minute read
Rebekah Veldhuizen
Content Writer, Raken
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Construction companies are increasingly looking for time-saving solutions that improve project efficiency and productivity to remain profitable and competitive in the industry. Often this means choosing from best-of-breed software categories and leveraging their pre-build integrations. This is the case with Oracle Aconex and Raken.

The trend toward leveraging technology to streamline processes, effort, and documentation will only grow as companies are steering away from time-intensive pen and paper documentation. A 2021 survey by Software Advice found that 53 percent of construction companies tried a new construction management software product within the surveyed 12-month period.

Some companies embrace these changes to digitization seamlessly, while other organizations are more hesitant—largely due to solutions that are overly complex or time-consuming for the field. 

Field-first construction software

Some construction apps are designed to be used in the field to streamline communication with the office. Field-focused apps solve communication issues between the field and office that are caused by lost or damaged paper notes, errors caused by manually entering data, or paperwork piling up and processed too slowly.

These apps collect real-time data to provide more accurate, timely, and complete updates while improving project transparency and insights.

John W. Danforth Company, one of the largest mechanical contractors in the northeastern US, has more than 120 foremen actively using a field-based app to manage more than 110 projects. With field-based tech, Danforth is eliminating time-consuming manual data entry, receiving real-time production insights, and improving project documentation.

What are additional benefits of using field-focused technology?

Better safety and documentation

Safety is—and always will be—the main priority in construction. Not properly following or documenting protocols can be costly. There are many ways tech can enhance safety documentation in the field—from digital toolbox talks to safety checklists.

By using a field-based app to document safety, workers don’t have to stop what they’re doing to scribble notes or track down loose papers. Instead, workers can take a picture, type a few notes, save a PDF version, and continue with their job.

The best part: all the documentation and notes are sent to the office in real time. Organizations can also refer to the documentation to protect themselves in case of potential litigation.

“You don’t know what’s going to be important three months after you input it the day it happened,” says Todd Follis, Danforth’s vice president of pre-construction planning. “But because everything’s time-stamped electronically, it’s proof we couldn’t have recreated or altered it.”

Greater production efficiency

Digital production tracking includes logging workers’ hours, tracking and recording equipment usage, and tracking materials installed. Valuable data can be immediately available in the office thanks to providing an easy way for workers to digitally record the data.

Having real-time data on production takes the guesswork out of a project's progress and fosters more timely decision-making.

The addition of insights includes an extra level of visibility into production. “If we have a bad week on a labor code, we’ll see the projected productivity start to drift away from the budget,” says Follis.

Without a field-based solution, many companies must wait until the project is completed to run the numbers or try to see any areas for improvement. Companies can access more valuable data across the business by making it easy for field crews to enter information as they go.

Production insights give companies the time and foresight to make any necessary changes in the middle of a project. As Follis puts it, “Most people who don’t have this level of insight will just keep on doing the same thing again and again until someone sees it on a financial statement … and by then, it’s too late.”

More time back in the day

Digital technology improves the quality of reporting, ensures documentation doesn’t get lost in a pile of papers and saves time (and manpower).

Payroll is streamlined with the ability to digitally track workers’ hours. Superintendents no longer need to spend an hour or more copying information over to a computer at the end of the day because daily reports are digitally submitted from the field.

Employees no longer need to crunch numbers to know how well a project is progressing, thanks to the ability to immediately see production efficiency and spend on each cost code. 

By implementing field-based technology, Danforth eliminated time-consuming back and forth communication.

“The most important thing we have is the power of our people, and [field-based technology] provides our field leaders with a clear and concise method of communication with management,” says Follis. “If we’re not listening to them and can’t react to what their needs are, we’ve really missed the boat.”

Technology presents a world of opportunity for the construction industry. Yet many companies are still holding off on digital transformation since implementing technology can take time.

Minimal time to implement

The best technology is technology that is used regularly. Technology that is field-focused is great for construction teams looking to improve project transparency but are having trouble getting construction crews on board with improving documentation.

Even with more than 120 foremen, Danforth implemented field-based tech in three weeks.

“They picked it up no problem,”  Follis says about incorporating the technology. “Whether they were inexperienced, young, old, it didn’t matter. It was easy for our field staff to grasp since the app was so intuitive.”

How Oracle Aconex works with field-based tech

Once you have buy-in from the field, you still need to make sure the collected data is utilized in the office. Integrating a field-based app like Raken with software that focuses on things like workflows, documentation, and finances can make the data come to life on the business side. 

Raken integrates with Oracle Aconex construction documents management software to share files with project teams and eliminate time-consuming switching between applications. Oracle Aconex stores documents, projects, and models.

Raken’s daily reports, subcontractor reports, photos, videos, and other project documents will automatically transfer into Oracle Aconex project folders.

Teams know their project progress updates are standardized and visible in their Oracle Aconex instance. This not only means enhanced real-time project visibility and communication, it allows for better collaboration throughout projects, and establishes a single source-of-truth for all project documentation.

Finding the right technology that moves your company forward often means incorporating multiple types of software. Integrations can provide the best of both worlds—from collecting field data to managing workflows.

This means you have a central location to find everything you need to make educated, real-time decisions.

Learn more about Raken’s involvement at the Oracle Industries Innovation Lab.

Oracle Construction and Engineering, the global leader in construction management software and project portfolio management solutions, helps you connect your teams, processes, and data across the project and asset lifecycle. Drive efficiency and control in project delivery with proven solutions for project controls, construction scheduling, portfolio management, BIM/CDE, construction payment management, and more.

 

 

 

Rebekah Veldhuizen

Content Writer, Raken


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