By Mike Merrill
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic downturn sparked transformative and essential change for the construction industry, shining a light on the importance of technology to streamline critical business processes. Companies increasingly relied on mobile workforce platforms to conduct their health and safety check ins, risk management assessments, time reporting, and other critical functions. And now, even as the pandemic’s severity wanes, companies have recognized the benefits to their business and have decided there’s no going back.
During a recent interview on the Mobile Workforce Podcast, JBKnowledge CEO James Benham advised companies to not fight change—especially when it comes to implementing technology. “Embrace change for what it is—the potential to dramatically improve your life and your business,” says Benham.
Here’s a look at the construction industry’s pandemic-forced changes, the building world’s increased use of technologies to survive recent challenges and how tech will help companies thrive moving forward in a post-COVID world.
HEALTH, SAFETY CHECK-INS
Safety regulations at many levels of government required construction companies to screen workers for COVID-19 symptoms upon arrival and departure from their projects. Running through a list of symptoms and temperature checks meant safer jobsites for everyone. With the help of a mobile workforce platform, many performed screenings digitally, allowing them to track employee symptoms and potential exposures in the event that a positive case arose. Armed with this verifiable information on who was on a jobsite, where they were working and who they were working with, helped companies effectively perform contact tracing, inform workers of the situation, and make on-site adjustments accordingly.
This specific live field data wasn’t as critical on a pre-pandemic jobsite. However, live field data’s ability to enhance safety is something the industry needs to take a closer look at moving forward, and well beyond when COVID restrictions are lifted. Especially since this ultimately means safer, healthier workers overall.
Consider the flu season. The same pre-shift health and wellness screenings can be used to keep sick employees at home and off of jobsites, both preventing the spread of further infection and keeping projects fully staffed and on track. Beyond flu season, a mobile workforce platform allows employees to quickly report safety issues and enables a company’s leadership to easily share detailed videos and instructions on safety procedures with their entire workforce. The result? Safer, less risky jobsites across the industry.
RISK MANAGEMENT ASSESSMENTS
The pandemic eliminated any elbow room construction companies had when it came to risk—and that’s not a bad thing. With projects shelved and budgets tight, companies didn’t have the luxury of taking risks without it being potentially catastrophic for their bottom line. However, those who did take a calculated and financially sound risk to invest in the right technology for their business are today better for it. With the ability to harness live field data, data management solutions have helped construction leaders mitigate previously challenging field risks.
“It’s about becoming more productive and also becoming safer and less risky,” says Benham. “My hope has been for construction companies to understand they have to invest to get a return. They have to take risks to get a reward.”
Equipped with more information on project scheduling, safety, and productivity, construction companies can make smarter, more strategic decisions about their existing projects and the future projects that they will also take on. Mobile workforce solutions have placed vital data in the hands of leaders that allow them to better understand the risks and potential profits for each and every project. And with the ability to track employee time and safety, perform real-time earned value calculations, and give up-to-the-minute budget analysis, decision makers can accurately track a project’s progress and ensure its not going off the rails.
REAL-TIME REPORTING, TRACKING
With zero room for error, the pandemic highlighted a top concern for companies: inaccurately paying employees for their time. This might seem like an afterthought, but it shouldn’t be. Inaccurate time tracking is an issue that can balloon a company’s labor costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars or more a year depending on the size of the labor force. The critical need to tighten up worker time tracking in the field was further magnified in the midst of the pandemic as companies simply couldn’t afford to over pay for these mistakes and “guesstimates” any longer.
Those who implemented mobile workforce technology to track employee hours in real time will continue to leverage the clarity of live field data to save administrative time, prevent human error, increase job cost accuracy and ensure that workers are being paid for actual hours worked and not just an estimate. This practice saved a substantial number of dollars during the pandemic, and that’s not a practice those companies will ever turn away from now.
The pandemic shed light on many of the construction industry’s pain points and weaknesses. Fortunately, effective technology has been, and will continue to be, readily available to address health and safety concerns, mitigate risks and tighten up operations. As the world opens back up and returns to a pre-pandemic normal, construction tech is one area not moving backward. With the benefits provided by these powerful accuracy solutions, we’ll see a boost in construction best practices that will mean safer, less risky jobsites in a post-COVID world.
About the Author:
Mike Merrill is co-founder and chief evangelist of WorkMax by AboutTime Technologies and host of The Mobile Workforce Podcast. Mike has been an entrepreneur and business owner in the construction and technology industry for nearly three decades.
Modern Contractor Solutions, August 2021
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