Even as Australian lockdown restrictions are gradually lifted, technology remains crucial to helping maintain and support remote working environments. Procore recently sat down with three of its App Marketplace partners to talk about how they are connecting with workers around the globe during COVID-19.
The Challenges Ahead, and Tools That Can Help webinar was hosted by Procore’s Director of Business Development Kris Lengieza. He sat down with Chris Jervey, the director of business development for StructionSite, Mitchell Harmer, founder and CEO of SignOnSite, and Peter Nghiem, commercial account director at Zoom. They discussed the challenges of working through the pandemic, and how technology is helping overcome obstacles by connecting workers and making processes more manageable and efficient.
Eyes On-Site, For When You Can’t Be
Physical presence onsite is key for management and stakeholders. However, the world of social distancing and other lockdown restrictions has made it impossible. StructionSite hopes to fill that gap with photography and video tools. For Chris Jervey, director of business development for StructionSite, the priority during the COVID-19 crisis is to reduce a user’s need for site visits—and the potential spread of the disease.
“Ultimately, we are looking to minimise the amount of time you have to get in your car, drive to the job site, walk from the trailer to the job site,” said Jervey. “If you’re able to leverage our VideoWalk tool, you’re very likely to be able to use virtual site walks to perform virtual meetings.”
With sites experiencing sudden closures or staffing cuts, StructionSite recognised early on how useful their technology would be during the lockdown. They chose to offer a two-month free trial service.
“We want to make sure that you have a before picture so that you can document anything that might’ve been happening while you had limited or restricted access,” explained Jervey.
Visual site documentation is not only used by the workers but also by the insurance industry and the lending institutions, an important part of the construction industry.
“We’re trying to provide certain transparency and openness,” said Jervey.
StructionSite’s lo-fi approach to site documentation makes them a standout tool during the crisis. All you need is a smartphone to create detailed images that might just be the key to your projects continuing during the lockdown. However, it’s also crucial to ensuring workers are getting paid—particularly since stakeholders are unable to complete on-site visits.
Ensuring the Safety of Your Workers, From Afar
With face-to-face interaction greatly limited by social distancing, SignOnSite has become an important tool. It allows for paperless, contactless sign-in, online ‘toolbox briefings’, and simple paperwork storage. Founder and CEO Mitchell Harmer recognises that ‘contactless’ is one of the buzz words of 2020 and is promoting that feature of SignOnSite—contactless tracking that truly enables distancing controls on job sites.
SignOnSite had an existing focus on safety long before COVID-19. Harmer gave a recent example from a project in Canberra.
“Guys were cutting their hands, and cuts and lacerations had gone up,” he said. “Their Safety Manager was able to use the daily briefing tool to communicate to everyone, ‘Hey, guys. Don’t forget to wear gloves.’ They then went and measured the results post-fact and were able to report a downwards trend in injuries.”
The Safety Manager was then able to take these findings and report back to the ACST Construction Industry Safety Reference Group.
“They were able to share their results with their peers and colleagues, and then they saw an effect across the wider industry,” added Harmer.
This kind of instant action has become a necessity during the pandemic. While construction workers on site are the ones keeping jobs moving ahead, they also are at high risk of ‘cluster zones’ for COVID-19.
“Those guys swinging the hammer is what moves the industry forward,” Harmer said. “Keeping that in mind, we have to remind ourselves that workers are both our greatest asset and our biggest liability. They’re the ones out there in the cold, facing the risk day-to-day.”
The ability to share files using the ‘Toolbox Talk’ application has also become a slick management tool during social distancing. Forms and other information can be sent to workers directly and be certified by a tracked record of acknowledgement.
“Some people may just simply put up a covert acknowledgement. Others will put up essentially their identified risks for the day and the controls in place for that, as well as communicate what’s happening on the project,” said Harmer. “It’s as flexible as you need it to be.”
Bringing the Office to Your Living Room
Almost overnight, sites and offices were closed. All of a sudden, people had to find a way to reliably communicate, instantly. And so the ‘Zoom Boom’ occurred. Rather than managing various applications to juggle meetings of varying sizes, Zoom manages them all.
“Many companies are overwhelming their users by deploying too many apps and creating complicated workflows, which typically result in additional costs and resources to both manage and maintain,” says Commercial Account Director Peter Nghiem. “In comparison, our goal is to allow Zoom to integrate easily into a firm’s environment.”
Nghiem gave an example from a construction firm based in New Zealand, which had five offices and about 500 staff.
“Most of their video calls were limited to only one or two people, and they wanted to utilise their Polycom equipment—but also enable their newer sites with a cost-effective solution,” explained Nghiem.
The company opted for a combination of their conference room connectors to integrate with their existing Polycom equipment as well as the native ‘Zoom Rooms’ solution for their smaller conference rooms and temporary site offices.
“We certainly saw a spike in their usage over the last 12 months, that their staff have really embraced video calling. They now host on average over 2,700 meetings per month,” Nghiem said.
Video has replaced a variety of standard interactions in the construction industry. Nghiem said one great example of tech innovation was the use of video conferencing as a ‘walk through’ on display homes.
“A home builder had some home display sites, and their sales staff were really reliant on showing people the display homes face to face,” recalled Nghiem. “So they actually deployed Zoom to be able to give virtual tours of their display homes, which was quite intuitive and innovative.”
Intuitive, people-first technology has been instrumental in keeping many industries connected during the COVID-19 lockdown. Procore is proud to partner with three of the leading tech providers who have helped to support the construction and building industry.
If you would like to know more about how our tech solutions can help you during COVID-19, check out our website here.