General Contractor, Innovation & Technology, Subcontractor —

Transforming Your Construction Teams for the Digital Era

RhumbixJune 21, 2023 • 7 min read

Technology is significantly impacting the construction industry, transforming various aspects of the process from design and planning to construction and maintenance. In today’s digital landscape, it is crucial for construction teams to adapt and embrace technology to stay competitive and maximize efficiency. Here are some key steps to forge your construction teams into the digital world: 

  1. Building Information Modeling (BIM): BIM allows for the creation of digital representations of buildings, which enables designers, engineers, architects, and trade contractors to collaborate more efficiently. BIM facilitates better design visualization, clash detection, and coordination among different trades involved in construction.
  2. Drones: Unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) are increasingly used in construction projects for surveying, site inspections, and monitoring progress. Drones can capture high-resolution images and videos, providing accurate data on project status, site conditions, and potential safety hazards.
  3. Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR): VR and AR technologies are employed for immersive design visualization, virtual walkthroughs, and training simulations. These tools help stakeholders visualize the final structure, identify design flaws, and improve communication during the planning and construction phases.
  4. Prefabrication and Modular Construction: Technology has advanced prefabrication and modular construction techniques. Off-site manufacturing of building components allows for greater precision, improved quality control, and faster assembly on-site. This approach reduces construction time, minimizes waste, and enhances project efficiency.
  5. Construction Robotics: Robotics and automation perform repetitive or dangerous construction tasks. Robots can handle bricklaying, concrete pouring, and material handling tasks. These technologies enhance productivity, reduce labor costs, and improve safety on construction sites.
  6. Internet of Things (IoT): IoT devices, such as sensors and connected tools, are increasingly integrated into construction sites. These devices collect and transmit real-time data on various aspects, including equipment performance, worker safety, and environmental conditions. IoT enables better project monitoring, predictive maintenance, and optimization of resource utilization.
  7. Sustainable and Green Technologies: Technology is vital in promoting sustainable construction practices. Innovative materials, such as recycled and eco-friendly alternatives, are being developed. Additionally, energy-efficient systems, renewable energy solutions, and smart building management systems help reduce the environmental impact of construction projects.
  8. Production Tracking Software streamlines scheduling, tracking costs, document management, materials, labor, and collaboration processes. These tools improve project transparency, facilitate efficient communication, and enable better decision-making.

Overall, technology in construction enhances productivity, reduces costs, improves safety, and enables more sustainable practices. As advancements continue, the construction industry is poised to benefit from further innovations and digital transformations.

How Can Trade Construction Teams Implement Technology to Improve Field-to-Office Productivity?

Trade contractors can implement technology in various ways to improve field productivity. Here are some examples:

  1. Mobile Apps and Field Management Software: Utilize mobile applications and field management software specifically designed for trade contractors. These tools allow for real-time communication, task management, and progress tracking. Field workers can access project information, submit updates, and receive instructions directly on their mobile devices, streamlining communication and reducing delays.
  2. Digital Timecard Tracking: Construction digital timecards, also known as electronic timecards or digital timesheets, are a technological solution that replaces traditional paper-based timecards used to track and record employee hours worked on construction projects. These digital timecards leverage mobile applications to streamline and automate tracking and managing employee time and attendance.
  3. Digital Documentation and Collaboration: Replace paper-based processes with digital documentation and collaboration tools. Use cloud-based platforms for sharing project documents, plans, and specifications, enabling easy access, and eliminating the need for physical copies. This promotes efficient collaboration among team members and reduces the risk of miscommunication or errors.
  4. Wearable Technology: Equip field workers with wearable devices such as smart helmets, safety vests, or wristbands embedded with sensors. These devices can monitor vital signs, detect hazards, and provide real-time data on worker location and safety. Wearable technology enhances safety measures. It allows for immediate response in case of emergencies.
  5. GPS and Fleet Management Systems: Install GPS tracking systems on vehicles and equipment to monitor their locations, optimize routing, and improve fleet management. This helps minimize travel time, reduce fuel consumption, and enhance operational efficiency.
  6. Tools and Equipment Automation: Embrace automation technologies for trade-specific tasks. For example, robotic systems can perform repetitive tasks like pipe cutting, welding, or material handling, reducing labor requirements and increasing productivity. Similarly, automated excavation or concrete pouring machinery can improve efficiency and accuracy.
  7. Internet of Things (IoT) Sensors: Deploy IoT sensors on construction sites to collect real-time data on various parameters, such as equipment performance, material usage, and environmental conditions. This data can help identify inefficiencies, schedule maintenance proactively, and optimize resource allocation.
  8. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR): Utilize AR and VR technologies for on-site training, troubleshooting, and visualizing complex installations. These immersive technologies can provide step-by-step instructions, overlay digital information on physical objects, simulate scenarios, enhancing worker productivity and reducing errors.
  9. Data Analytics and Predictive Maintenance: Implement data analytics tools to analyze historical and real-time data for predictive maintenance purposes. By monitoring equipment performance, contractors can schedule maintenance proactively, reducing the risk of unexpected breakdowns and optimizing equipment uptime.

Trade contractors must assess their needs and workflows to identify the most suitable technological solutions for their field productivity goals. Additionally, providing training and support to workers during the implementation process is crucial to ensure successful adoption and maximize the benefits of technology.

How Can Trade Construction Teams Overcome Industry Challenges?

Trade contractors in the construction industry face various challenges that can hinder productivity and profitability. Here are some strategies to overcome these challenges:

Skilled Labor Shortage: The construction industry often needs more experienced workers. To address this challenge, trade contractors can:

  • Invest in training and workforce programs to upskill existing employees.
  • Collaborate with trade schools, vocational programs, and apprenticeship initiatives to attract and train new talent.
  • Implement mentorship programs to transfer knowledge from experienced workers to new hires.
  • Foster a positive work culture and offer competitive compensation and benefits to attract and retain skilled workers.

Project Management and Coordination: Efficient project management and coordination are crucial for successful execution. To overcome these challenges, trade contractors can:

  • Adopt project management software and collaboration tools to streamline communication, document sharing, and task tracking.
  • Enhance communication channels among trades and stakeholders, facilitating timely decision-making and issue resolution.
  • Embrace Building Information Modeling (BIM) to improve coordination and clash detection during the design and planning stages.
  • Promote and build a collaboration culture and open communication among project team members.

Cost Control and Profitability: Maintaining profitability is a constant concern for trade contractors. To address this challenge, they can:

  • Implement robust cost estimating and budgeting practices to forecast project costs accurately.
  • Project management software tracks real-time expenses, labor hours, and material usage.
  • Leverage data analytics to identify cost-saving opportunities, optimize resource allocation, and improve productivity.
  • Regularly review and negotiate supplier and subcontractor contracts to ensure competitive pricing.

Technological Adoption: Embracing technology can challenge trade contractors due to various issues, including, but not limited to resistance to change or budget constraints. To overcome this challenge, they can:

  • Stay informed about industry trends and emerging technologies through conferences, trade publications, and networking.
  • Start with small-scale technology implementations and pilot projects to test feasibility and benefits.
  • Provide training and support to workers to build their confidence and competence in using new technologies.
  • Collaborate with technology vendors and consultants specializing in the construction industry to identify the right solutions for their needs.

Regulatory Compliance and Safety: Meeting regulatory requirements and ensuring a safe work environment are paramount in the construction industry. To address these challenges, trade contractors can:

  • Stay updated with local, state, and federal construction and safety standards and regulations.
  • Invest in safety training programs and implement comprehensive safety protocols on job sites.
  • Regularly conduct safety audits and inspections to identify and address potential hazards.
  • Foster a safety culture by promoting awareness, providing the necessary safety equipment, and encouraging worker participation in safety initiatives.

Market Volatility and Economic Cycles: The construction industry is subject to market fluctuations and economic cycles. To mitigate the impact, trade contractors can:

  • Diversify their portfolio by targeting projects in different sectors or geographic locations.
  • Establish strong relationships with general contractors, clients, architects, and other subs to obtain referrals.
  • Monitor market trends and adjust business strategies accordingly.
  • Maintain a healthy financial reserve to withstand economic downturns.

By proactively addressing these challenges, trade construction teams can enhance their competitiveness, improve project outcomes, and achieve long-term success in the construction industry. Enhancing productivity, collaboration, and overall success in the ever-evolving construction industry should be your top priority.