Construction companies with a robust construction management solution have seen what a connected platform can do to streamline operations. They are able to increase real-time visibility into ongoing projects to mitigate risk and improve profitability. Many construction companies are also starting to generate insights from their data to identify opportunities for improvement and track progress over time.
When information is captured and aggregated on a single platform, the quality of decisions is vastly improved. But how can you engage your field teams who are not sitting at a desk looking at analytics?
Here are seven key ways to close the communication gaps and open the way for the right information to get to your field teams:
1. Make data entry and information access fast and easy
Everyone wins when teams leverage technology to accelerate data collections. That’s where mobile devices can help get the job done. With workers able to access forms right on their phones or tablets, they are more likely to complete them. That includes team members who may not be early adopters of technology.
Willmar Electric is a global operator that worked with their team to overcome skepticism and build trust in the new technology, just as they would when changing over tools used in construction.
“We have some folks who are retirement age, and past retirement age who work for us,” said Misty Lauer, Executive of Operations at Willmar. “When we gave everybody iPads they were a little surprised. They really wanted to stay with their papers. They weren’t very trusting of the system. In the first weeks and months of having Procore, after getting off work they would drive into the office and turn in their time sheets, even though they’d typed everything into Procore. We had to comfort them into trusting the system. It meant showing them that Procore is about helping them do their jobs better. Like changing from a Phillips screwdriver to an Impact Driver. Now they use Procore all the time and wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Higher levels of data entry in the field mean more information is available for analytics back in the office. That was especially true during the pandemic, where health data needed to be captured on a daily basis.
Like other contractors, the Lagassé Group instituted new wellness checks for each worker entering the jobsite – a labor and paper-intensive process. They transitioned the process to Procore integration partner Nyfty.ai’s Health Survey Bot to fully automate the surveys, communicate their access to the worker, and alert the superintendent by text message. This helped them avoid long worker queues outside the jobsite gate and field personnel quickly adopted the process.
In Ireland, Conack uses automation to streamline the process of tracking what is coming and going on-site, such as the number of trucks or deliveries. They capture the information using Procore’s integration with Evercam which provides live views of the construction site and records high resolution images for every second of the construction site process. This makes tracking progress and calculating moves of dirt, for example, much more efficient than doing so manually. It even expands project managers’ ability to stay connected across all activities.
Distribution center owner Uline found that they could access project information via Procore’s mobile app while in the air, to avoid productivity losses.
“A majority of us travel quite a bit so it’s nice to always have that information without having to log back into the main system. The app has just been great,” said Brian Schneider, Construction Project Manager at Uline. Team members don’t lose time when they are on the go, and everyone still has access to information… even at 30,000 feet.
When you’ve got a lot of time in the plane, it’s so much easier to use a phone or iPad than it is to pull out your whole laptop setup. The mobile app has saved us a ton of time and keeps us efficient when we’re away from our desks.”
2. Create a feedback loop for projects and initiatives
When builders implement targeted initiatives to improve quality, safety and productivity, they need a robust feedback loop to gauge what is working and what is not. The insights gleaned from analysis can be shared back with team members to discuss opportunities for improvement. In cases where it has been difficult to achieve compliance, even the act of tracking whether data has been entered can help increase engagement.
Having information in real-time empowers teams to take proactive actions.
“Procore gives us visibility into where the field team is at with their hours,” said Brandon Lopez, Chief Operations Officer, VP of Production at ABLe Communications. “They can watch those numbers throughout the project and say, ‘I only have this many hours left. I really have to push it here.’”
Insights like this reduce the risk of running over budget and cutting into contingencies.
At Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH), teams found that having a central location for project data made effective project management much easier.
“You know, my goal has always been to support the project teams and project managers who are running around with their hair on fire,” Al Nover, BCH Facilities Finance and Contract Manager said. “Now, they don’t have to go anywhere else but Procore to see all their RFIs, submissions, drawings, and photos—the document-management side of the house. And with the integration of financial data, they have a one-stop-shop that’s super user-friendly and truly makes their lives easier. The benefits for us have been efficiency, visibility, accuracy, and control. We’re not chasing paperwork; we know where stuff is. Procore is our single source of truth.”
Whether the user is an owner, general contractor or specialty contractor, feedback loops to internal and external team members help projects go smoothly. As people see the data lifecycle and how it benefits them, they are more motivated to enter data in a timely manner and make sure it is complete.
3. Look for patterns across projects
As organizations look for opportunities to improve their operations, information sharing and aggregation can inform initiative prioritization. Moreover, teams that are outliers in performance can provide examples of best practices that the rest of the organization can learn from.
Whether at the project or portfolio level, data can be used to generate insights that lead to continuous improvement.
“As an owner, we can always look back and refer to our KPIs or lessons learned,” says Tim Allsopp, Director of Construction, Seasons Retirement Communities. “The information is there for us to see. It’s not held in Dropbox or on the computer of someone who no longer works at the company.”
That makes knowledge transfer easier so the organization as a whole can get stronger over time.
At E.J. Electric, evaluating patterns means higher quality bids.
“Over time we will be able to use our historical data to help us bid better, know our strengths, and know what we need to improve,” said Mike Rascona, E.J. Electric’s Technology Director. Applying this knowledge can lead to higher margins and lower risk.
Green Mechanical found that harnessing the power of data insights leads to higher quality decisions.
“The data that we’re getting now makes us so much more dangerous, especially financially,” said Green Mechanical’s CEO and President Wes Simpson “With a rolling forecast, we can make better decisions about billing and cash flow, so we can go out and get more work at the margins we need. We’re able to make better decisions about the jobs that we’re going after.”
General Contractors are highly dependent on the quality of work of their trade partners. As Jim Cimbalista, RA, Vice President of Construction at Ingerman Construction found, collecting data on punch items and throughout inspections to show real reporting helps illustrate patterns. Giving this information to trade partners can lead to process improvements that make future work go more smoothly.
“It’s one thing to say we think we have a problem with XYZ contractor when we don’t have anything to back it up, versus saying, look how many times these punch items have come up with this sub, or on this framing inspection,” Cimbalista said in an industry panel on “How Industry Experts Mitigate Profit Loss.” “If we can go talk to these subcontractors and show them where they need to improve to do good business with us, it benefits our superintendents.”
The result can be a stronger working relationship and more successful projects over time.
4. Take actions that benefit project teams, using leading indicators
Rather than using data only to gauge compliance in the field, some builders are turning the model on its head by using data insights to create a safer work environment. One way to do this is by conducting analysis on leading indicators of safety incidents. Once these are identified, leaders are able to take action to mitigate the risk. Workers see the responsiveness of management and have increased motivation to collaborate on data collection efforts because they see them as beneficial, not punitive.
McCarthy rolled out its McCarthy Vital Processes (MVP) initiative, which benefits their projects and provides a safer work environment. For example, they created policies and best practices based on leading indicators in their research. They promote and share this information companywide and that transparency increases participation with the MVP process as their project teams see and understand the value it provides. That commitment and buy in reinforces just how important their safety inspection process is for eliminating hazards and preventing future injuries.
TRIO Electric uses similar leading indicators to prevent incidents.
“The inspections are really helping us with visibility into near misses that happen on projects so we can address them before they turn into something bigger,” explained Hassan Tabatabayee, Business Intelligence Leader at TRIO.
Safer, more efficient work environments are compelling reasons to adopt new technology.
“Teams know that Procore is going to make their job a lot easier—they’re going to be able to communicate better and do more. That makes our field team want to adopt Procore,” said Jessica Harrison, Employee Development Manager at DCO Commercial Floors.
Owners’ teams benefit from streamlined workflows.
“Listening to people, providing them with the tools to learn and grow—of course that helps with retention,” said Terrance DeGray, Associate Vice Chancellor, Physical Plant Development and Operations at San José-Evergreen Community College District. “They’re spending less time doing mundane entry tasks and more time actually solving critical problems. It really boosts morale, and makes a happier and more engaged staff—one that is more productive and more knowledgeable.”
Using data insights to prioritize improvements that benefit project teams allows them to spend more time on higher value activities.
5. Use statistics like sports pros do
Who says data needs to be boring? Innovative builders are sharing analytics with their teams to generate friendly competition on who has better performance in a targeted area. The dashboards created in the office can be shared with internal and external teams to help drive productivity improvements. In turn, this makes project milestones and outcomes more predictable.
Leaders at McCarthy wanted to go beyond compliance to establish a strong safety culture marked by full transparency and positive reinforcement. To promote their safety inspection process, many of their job sites have developed a friendly safety competition to see which project team completes the most Procore Safety Inspections each month. The top project receives a traveling “Championship Belt” that it proudly displays in the office trailer. They also provide spot recognitions to employees who have completed the most Procore Safety Inspections. The result is high levels of participation and comfort talking about and reporting leading indicators.
CSM Group focuses on safety observations utilizing behavior-based processes to proactively prevent unsafe conditions. They engaged a behavioral science coach to work with leaders as they built out a safety culture program. His focus has been on helping CSM Group understand how to remove barriers to effective safety leadership, remove traps that project teams fall into that can cause unsafe work environments, what to do about those obstacles, and how to understand why people do what they do so that they can make improvements.
They use weekly wellness checks to determine levels of reduced-risk vs at-risk work performance, and communicate and discuss findings at weekly foremen and safety committee meetings. Their safety and logistics plans are baked into their bids and kept up to date and available to teams through Procore in the Drawings and Specifications tools. As a result, safety is reinforced throughout the project lifecycle.
6. Shift to collaborative decision making
With lengthy, expensive building projects, the stakes are high. The complexity of projects and volume of moving pieces can make it difficult to stay calm. Analytics play an instrumental role in getting stakeholders on the same page and on the same side of the table so they can work together for solutions. They provide more accountability and transparency, which means less opportunity for conflict. Having a single source of truth means misunderstandings can be cleared up instantly.
HITT Contracting uses dashboards built in Procore to involve owners in the construction process and facilitate decision making. Over time, the construction industry has shifted toward information sharing and collaborative decision making to construct innovative designs.
“Giving access to these different portals in Procore allows owners and partners to not only be involved with the construction process, but then more intimately involved with the decision-making process, which has been very impactful,” said Karl Sorensen, HITT’s Director of Project Solutions.
Shared information from a common, single source of truth means that everyone is looking at the same information to reach common goals.
These reports also provide a built-in feedback loop for project teams, with on-demand data and real-time reporting so they can get ahead of issues before they become problems.
“I call it on-demand data and real-time reporting,” Sorensen explained. “We gather data and metrics in real-time or near real-time to create a reporting structure that is a feedback loop to our project managers and our business unit leaders.”
HITT gives stakeholders visibility into project status and surfaces early indicators of potential problems so they can mitigate them.
Maria Russo, Customer Experience Manager for BW: Workplace Experts, confirms how building close contacts creates a virtuous cycle.
“Relationships are very important, especially those created on-site between contractors, subcontractors, project managers, commercial managers, and the client team,” Russo said. “I believe if we all work together collaboratively with one goal in mind we can deliver quality projects, quality projects lead to better relationships and repeat business.”
7. Execute handoffs with ease
Throughout the course of construction and after project closeout, teams need a way to transfer knowledge for future reference that could outlast the tenure of employees. Before construction starts, the estimating team builds out schedule and budget assumptions and gets clarifications from designers. The project team needs that information as they build to help with planning and execution. Having a paper trail also helps the discovery process if margins come in below expectations or there is a disagreement over the way the project was executed.
After the construction process is complete and the owner begins operating the asset, they need information on locations and specifications of mechanical systems and more. This helps ensure property managers and facilities teams can keep up with general maintenance and respond quickly if any problems come up over time.
As these construction management companies have found, information exchange between the field and office creates a flywheel effect. Seeing the results of analytics incentivizes teams to be better about collecting data. In turn, office-based teams have higher quality data for analysis, leading to better and more informed decision making.