In 2009 at Autodesk University the Keynote speaker (then CEO Carl Bass) gave a presentation regarding the evolution of technology. He described what he called the technology spectrum in which technology flows from an impossible state to a required state. The analogy he gave was Leonardo Di Vinci’s inception and design of a flying machine for man back in the 1400s. At the time that invention was far left of the spectrum, considered an “impossible” technology. Fast forward to today, we have made our way clear to the right side of the spectrum because it is now a “required” technology.
Bass’s key point was that we should start adopting new technology somewhere in the middle of the spectrum when it is considered to be in a “possible” state. The “possible” state is where cutting edge technology lives, and leveraging the technology there is what can differentiate your organization from the rest. This is because, according to Bass, 85% of the world lives in the mindset of “required” technology while only a fraction of the world is truly being innovative in terms of seeing the use and benefit of certain tools and application as they emerge into that cutting edge, “possible” state.
It wasn’t that long ago that Kodak, Nokia, and Blockbuster Video were the kings of their respective industries. Social media and websites like Flickr have made Kodak no longer a necessity. Video stream has put Blockbuster out of business. Nokia has been made irrelevant by two companies that weren’t even in the cellphone business up until about 10 years ago (Apple and Google). The common theme here is not necessarily poor business choices by the former, rather the ability of the latter companies thinking in the “possible” instead of just mainstream.
In my youth cellphones did one thing really well…. make phone calls. Cellphones today do literally hundreds of things for you that just 12 years ago you would’ve needed dozens of devices to accomplish. On my first job site we had 87 employees and 1 digital camera to document the job, now you can create a feature film with your phone. I used to make several trips back and forth to the trailer to get information about the project and now construction professionals walk around with an entire repository of human knowledge in their pockets. Communication today is largely accomplished via data and not voice. No one has phone conversations, everything is data…Tweets, Slack, Instagram etc. project information is in digital form and available on a mobile device. It is important that you evaluate what your staff is using out in the field and arm them with the right tools to be more efficient on site. Smartphones are a must; they are affordable, and they enable your workforce to be effective and efficient if used properly. Tablets are also extremely useful, and the new lightweight Microsoft Surface style laptop is becoming more popular on project job sites.
In terms of applications I see six major categories that are key to the day-to-day life of a construction professional.
- Drawing Management
- Daily Reporting
- Punchlist/QA QC
- Progress Photos
- Safety Inspection
I’m sure a case could be made to support other categories, but these six are essential. There are also some key attributes these apps should have in order to be the most effective on your project. When deciding which application to use you should be thinking of the following:
- Will it work offline?
- Is there version control?
- Is there any ability of reporting?
- Can you copy the previous day? (Daily Reporting)
- Will it auto hyperlink sections and details? (Drawing Management)
Here is a list of either inexpensive or free applications available to you for most mobile devices:
- Google Sheets- Cloud collaboration and lists
- Good Reader- PDF reader mark up (Drawings)
- Sketch – Photos and mark up
- Box- Cloud collaboration (Files/Drawings)
- Evernote – Cloud collaboration for notes and lists
- Onenote – Cloud collaboration for notes and lists
There are also many project management solutions out there that offer tools for specific use on the project site. Here are a few:
- BIM 360 Field
The bottom line is that there are a variety of mobile solutions at your disposal. Devices, both tablet and phone, are practical and affordable. Take the time to look at how your employees can use technology living in that “possible” space to empower your staff to be better, more effective builders and to keep your company relevant in this constantly changing sector.
What are your thoughts about job site technology? Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let’s connect on linkedin.