App Integration In The Construction Industry
Mobile apps are everywhere these days – including on-the-job. Although apps are relatively new to the construction site, they (thankfully) come ready to work, providing much-needed resources for project teams and work crews. Apple and Google’s respective app stores offer prospective customers access to over hundreds of these pint-sized programs that are free to download for any project. These construction project management apps range from a full suite of applications available for a fee, to free applications, to “freemium” apps that are initially free to download but require additional money to unlock certain features.
Yet, while construction apps have provided the AEC industry with a far simpler way to keep various project teams apprised of the latest developments of a joint venture, having to switch between multiple apps to get the job done can be tedious, and sometimes counter-productive.
It is an all-too common scenario to have each project team member relying upon a different app.
For instance, document managers can use a separate file sharing service like Microsoft Sharepoint or Box to securely share contracts and similar documents with other members of the team who can edit these files at their leisure.
Superintendents can use another different app to monitor an RFI from start to finish limiting the need to use paper-based plans.
And yet another suite of digital project management programs lets subscribers create PDF’s with sophisticated desktop-based markup and editing capabilities too.
There are an endless array of choices out there, but having multiple apps as part of your construction project can lead to numerous issues.
Common Issues That Stem From Using Too Many Apps
Many apps and construction software programs come with different pricing tiers that each have different features for different tasks. Training may be required to help other members of the team learn how to use these different apps too.
While training is crucial to ensuring AEC professionals are able to use these apps most effectively, a 2015 Construction Technology Report by JBKnowledge revealed that 33.5% of those surveyed cited “lack of staff to support the technology” as a barrier to adopting technology. The more programs and construction apps a team uses, the more time and resources it will take to train them.
Even after key personnel have been trained to use these construction apps in their day-to-day work, there are still hurdles to scale.
There is no way to guarantee a client will sign off on a document by a specified deadline when using a file sharing service in the cloud, or to ensure a Document Manager sees an update to a digital blueprint, although approval on any final changes could take hours.
The Importance of Construction App Integration
The key to avoid any redundancies and increase efficiency is to embrace the idea of app integration, moving as many programs as possible under one, unified banner.
Essentially, project managers should use a program that incorporates all of these important tools in one location. An all-encompassing solution like BIM 360 can help solve some of the problems that stem from switching between separate applications.
For instance, when using two different applications, users may need to add information that did not transfer from a second app. This is an extra step that may be required to successfully transfer and annotate recent changes. Otherwise, those changes may not appear in the same version of a document opened in a different app.
As an example, a general contractor may switch between one construction punch list app to set schedules for the day, and then have the added work of transferring that list to a separate daily report app, recapping the work that was completed and items that are still in-progress.
A unified hub cuts down on several risks, chief of which includes the risk of having key project personnel look at the wrong version of a document and work from an outdated plan. This can result in a disastrous scenario if a subcontractor or other critical stakeholder begins work on their part of the project while working from an older version of the document. Building using the wrong plans could lead to building either the wrong thing or incorrectly placing a crucial element in the wrong place. Having a centralized hub of information helps to make sure all parties are (quite literally) on the same page.
Working from a unified hub of information helps ensure a clean hand-off of data so any issues are resolved and deadlines are completed in a timely manner, lessening the risk of a costly rework on a project. Rework costs can account for a 10% to 15% increase on the cost of a contract’s price – which can be substantial when you are dealing with projects that already cost millions to execute.
Also, when the entire team has access to the same resource instead of having to chase down the same information in multiple systems, it can be easier to make changes. For instance, a schedule can clearly indicate a due date when a signature is needed, or a include notation that a new update to the project is coming soon.
Working from an integrated platform can help contractors spend more time building and less time trying to keep several different systems in sync with the constant stream of changes that occur on a typical project. Although one integrated platform can be a boon for completing a building as scheduled, it’s also a matter of working smarter – not harder – to adopt a strategy that encourages sensible time management for all involved.
How Many Construction Apps Do You Use?
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