Any construction company will have lots of data sloshing around, and many still rely on archaic methods of logging, filing and using that data, typically in the form of mountains of paperwork or overstuffed file cabinets back at the office. Slowly but surely, as the potential efficiency gains realized by digitizing the capture and storage of that information become clear, more companies are relying on smart apps to do the heavy lifting, at least when it comes to their data.
The industry’s heavy reliance on paper-based methods of logging activity or even site-to-office communication has been a factor in the industry lagging behind in productivity, a trend that was examined in great detail by McKinsey&Company a few years back. Even compared to parallel industries like manufacturing, construction’s productivity has been relatively flat “for decades,” according to McKinsey.
“In the industry there have been rumblings over time about how productivity and efficiency are at a much lower threshold than they should be. There are a few factors happening, including the labor shortage contributing to lower than expected performance and productivity. Apps and Smart Apps help in two ways, one they’re making current work processes more efficient by digitizing them. The second part is they’re helping the construction industry rethink certain models of doing components of the actual construction process,” says Ashir Badami, Senior Product Marketing Manager for the platform at Procore.
Smart apps operate with at least some degree of autonomy, such as machine learning or predictive analytics, which quickly analyze and gather data, presenting it in an actionable form for the end-user. By implementing such apps, companies can leap over many information gathering steps that are mission-critical, but can ultimately be done much more accurately and efficiently by a computer. They also facilitate the connection between the field and the office in the case of inspections or other quality assurance tasks.
“A lot of that would have to be done visually, manually on the site walking the floor. Work would be done on paper, which would be brought back to the office and transcribed into some kind of electronic system. Or not. In most cases the industry is very heavily reliant on paper and documentation to show that something has been done. So in an example like that, smart apps are completely transforming that process by allowing people to digitize it or really speed up the flow of information. That’s at the work process level, apps are changing this mentality that we have to do everything with paper,” Badami says.
But there’s no single Swiss Army knife app that can handle all elements of a construction project, such as bringing data into a unified environment accessible by all, schedule optimization, and team and risk management, which is why a platform containing a suite of multiple apps (like Procore) is especially useful.
There’s never going to be one killer app, which is why we started building a platform. . . , says Badami.
“If you talk to a general contractor, they’d say a great app would be able to have this AI component to be able to help detect anything that would put the project at risk before it happens. Things for schedule optimization, to identify ways to build a better schedule, manage teams and communicate between them. But that’s a lot of things to compress into one application. At the other end of it you might hear folks at the more innovative end say they’d like things that run autonomous machinery and be able to help me deploy robots and drones to my jobsite for site management or looking at it from a perspective of quality and safety,” says Badami.
“There’s never going to be one killer app, which is why we started building a platform, because there’s not going to be one that does it all. Instead there’s going to be a lot of different what we call “point solutions” out there, so you have to configure a series of them into one system so you can unify and augment one baseline product with all of these other capabilities.”
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