Technology is finally starting to make a big difference to the construction, landscape and building industry, so let’s take a look at what is available and how it can benefit your bottom line.
Many people are reluctant to invest in tracking devices for their staff and vehicles, because of backlash from staff who feel that it is ‘big brother watching’. This may be the case, but there are so many benefits to tracking devices, that it is worth convincing your staff to accept.
- Accurate time tracking – Many sophisticated timesheet apps have location tracking. This makes it far easier to accurately know how much time was spent on a project, and who was there at the time
- Trust – You no longer have to guess where someone is or take their word for it, you can trust that the tracking software will show you accurately. This reduces paranoia and stress in senior management and builds trust with the team because you are no longer relying on their word
- Reduces time wasting – Many, many man hours are wasted on Bunnings runs. They really do cost your business a lot of money, because for every hour they are off site is an hour you aren’t making money from them. It’s surprising how much more efficient people are at the Bunnings run when the know their route is being tracked
Keep an eye out for new tools for doing old jobs. A few years ago, a pointing and grouting attachment for your drill came out and it was a game changer. This $400 tool quadruples the amount of pointing you can get done in a day, drastically reducing the cost of installing paving and walling. It is tools like this that make you competitive in the market. If you are an early adopter, you’ll be making good money, and if you’re a late adopter you’re going to find yourself too expensive. So, keep an eye out for new tools and machinery that will make the job easier showcased in BCM.
If you’re not measuring your plans up with a PDF reader already, you’re missing a massive time saving trick. Yes, you need to invest a little cash (around $550 one off payment) but you will never print plans out again for quoting purposes. No, the PDF reader won’t replace a hard copy on site (unless you invest in a large laptop), but it will save you a lot of trips to the printer at the pricing stage.
A PDF reader like Bluebeam, Adobe Pro or Planswift allows you to quicky, clearly and accurately measure up plans. It’ll allow you to collate and export the measurement, making it easy to work out quantities. The best bit is that these PDF readers will compare one set of drawings to another, highlighting changes so you don’t miss any. That alone is worth the outlay!
Estimating and project management software
Can you imagine quoting a project and it automatically generates a construction schedule, budget, and handover notes for the field staff when you won it? The hours saved on handover alone makes it a no brainer to invest in an integrated estimating and project management system. But integrated estimating and project software should save you a tonne of cash in other ways too because it should systemise your business processes and show you where you are making and losing money. Here are some standard benefits you should experience:
- Communication – Automated and smooth communication between the estimating team, office and field staff. Everyone is working from one true source of information
- Improved pricing – Feeding back real site date to the estimator so he/she can see where they are pricing too high and too low
- Budget – Easily compare the budget with the actual costs on site
- Reduces mistakes – When everyone is working from the same set of information there is less chance of mistakes
- Identify unexpected costs – Clearly see costs that were not allowed for in the quote
- Standard management features – Capture valuable data, such as: purchase ordering, timesheets, meetings, variations, scheduling, staff messaging, works ordering, handover notes, down time tracking
Reports should be used to identify the following, so you can decide which direction to take your business to optimise profit:
- Which type of jobs are more profitable for you
- What size jobs are more profitable for you
- Which of your teams are more/less expensive to run
- Which of your teams are more/less profitable (if the expensive team is more profitable then they’re worth the money)
Customer Relationship Management systems are now used by almost every type of business in the world to manage their clients and leads. The good news is that because there is such demand, there are a lot of good free options available. If you’re running social media or google ad campaigns then you may need to upgrade to a paid CRM, but if not, one of the free ones should work well for you. I personally have used Zoho, Hubspot and Salesforce and found pros and cons with them all. Have a hunt around until you find one that suits your business. A CRM will save you time managing and tracking your leads and clients, and at the same time spit out a load of reports so you can analyse the quality of your leads.
This list is a small example of the technology available to all in the construction industry. Everyone should embrace it, because those who don’t will be left behind being uncompetitive and unable to attract staff. The younger ones know the value of technology, and they expect it to make their lives easier. They want to work for a progressive company that wants to do the same. If you’re planning to run a construction business into the future, then it is worthwhile investing some time to explore the options available to bring your business into the technological future in building, landscape, and construction.
Anna is a professional landscape estimator and cofounder of Gauge PM. With 22+ years’ experience she’s built up a wealth of business, estimating and project management knowledge. For loads more tips and tricks follow Anna the Estimator on Facebook and Instagram.