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By John Biggs
January 16, 2018
For construction companies, very little work is done from the confines of an office. Much of the in-the-trenches work gets done remotely, with many companies juggling multiple projects on construction sites scattered throughout the country or even the world. With so much fragmentation of the workforce, keeping everyone in regular contact is an essential component of working productively and efficiently.
For now, project managers can still only physically be in one place at a time, but technology enables them to keep track of job progress and communicate changes or problems with workers irrespective of geographic boundaries. Real-time chat platforms, video voice call capabilities, and cloud or screen sharing all facilitate unified communication across teams and projects, and harnessing that technology is enabling managers to streamline communication like never before.
According to Software Advice, a recent survey of IT employees shows implementing unified communication systems in construction is actually among the cheapest compared to other industries, at an average cost of $17,500. This is compared to more than $300,000 for manufacturing and just under $1.5 million to implement similarly functioning systems for the health care industry. That means a considerably smaller up-front investment is required in construction compared to other industries. In that same survey, construction was one of the only industries polled where 100% of respondents placed either “significant” (60%) or “moderate” (40%) value on unified communications.
These days such communications methods can largely be seamlessly integrated into devices already carried by every worker. Almost everyone has a cell phone, so by utilizing apps or platforms on those devices, you’re ensuring workers are using devices they’re already comfortable with, which cuts down on a learning curve figuring out the complexities of all new hardware. Since they’re using familiar devices, workers can usually troubleshoot them on their own without relying on an IT department for easy fixes, which greatly improves self-sufficiency in maintaining each link in the communication chain.
Between a daily barrage of emails, text messages and voicemails, the volume of inbound communications from workers in the field and other project stakeholders can be overwhelming for managers. Utilizing a software-based communications solution, those messages can be organized in a way that makes them easy to digest and respond to, cutting down on responses that go by the wayside buried under the ceaseless torrent of messages. Lengthy email threads and text exchanges are inefficient, and require multiple touches before actionable instructions can be communicated. By unifying and simplifying the process, communication becomes more effective.
Not all communication is spoken, and the internet of things has added a layer of passive communication via data-collecting sensors, which continuously collect information, analyze it, and ensure it gets to the proper decision maker. This helps keep track of equipment and workers, re-organize workflows where needed, and allocate resources appropriately, all without any verbal communication needed, freeing up workers to stay on task rather than keeping one eye on a phone or laptop at all times.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a rising force in project-wide communication, literally bringing collaboration into a whole new dimension. Using unified, augmentable 3D models, managers, architects and planners can tweak even the smallest detail of a design and comment in real time, enabling everyone viewing the model to collaborate on any changes made over the course of the project. Everyone working from the same model and receiving all changes and feedback simultaneously greatly improves accuracy and reduces the chance for miscommunication.
Time is one of the most valuable assets to construction companies, and by cutting down on time spent waiting for responses, and in some cases eliminating the need to directly communicate issues, real cost savings can be realized through the improved efficiency of unified communications methods.
If you liked this article, here are a few eBooks you may enjoy:
How Construction Technology is Saving Time, Money, and Jobs
Keeping Your Technology Up to Date
A New Frontier: Construction OS
Using Tech to Win More Business
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