How to improve construction efficiency with new technology and clever processes
Many business owners think you need to reduce the time it takes to do jobs to save time.
That is not the case.
Fast-tracking construction project timelines can be a dangerous undertaking.
For example, the owner could ask contractors to reduce the project time by weeks. They could ask the plumber to work faster or work longer hours. Asking people to work longer hours or to work faster is not a mere adjustment. The owner should hire project managers, who specialize in efficiency improvement, to oversee construction projects. The right project manager can boost construction efficiency and increase productivity.
Custom home builders can reduce the time for a build at construction sites by 10 or 20%.
A significant time saving – yes. But at what cost? It takes critical skills and tools to boost construction efficiency. The combination of construction project managers and construction management software will help boost construction efficiency.
Hammering through a build faster increases the risk of cutting corners in the construction process:
- Lower quality of workmanship
- Higher risk of compliance issues, which can hinder operational efficiency
- Poor delivery
- Lower customer satisfaction
- Safety issues
The business owner saved time on the build, but did they create sustained efficiency? No. It is the root of many project management nightmares.
1. Tighten the screws on takeoffs
Find what is slowing down takeoffs and look for opportunities for improving efficiency in the process.
Builders despise the time it takes for practical quoting steps. These time-consuming tasks include measuring and scaling plans, blowing them up, printing, adjusting, blowing them up again and re-printing. One dodgy printer can throw a solid time management plan into disarray.
Construction software can reduce takeoff times.
Buildxact’s simple construction estimating software lets you measure and price jobs digitally. Takeoffs are automatically linked item costs to save you from going back and forth with costings.
Faster takeoffs mean more quotes, which mean more jobs.
2. Keep up with clever accounting
We see far too many construction businesses grappling with piles of accounting paperwork.
There are easier ways to do tasks. Builders can do most purchasing, invoicing, accounting and banking tasks through apps and websites.
New technology in job management and accounting help you:
- Save labor costs of manual data entry and admin
- Know where you stand with a job
- Save time on purchasing, invoicing and banking
- Secure digital records of transactions
- Reduce mistakes
Do not pay an accountant to comb through invoices when you can store data in the Cloud. Investing in job management and accounting software will save your accountant and admin staff hours of data entry (and save you the cost of paying them for it).
Software services like Xero, MYOB and QuickBooks can do the work for you, and they integrate with most construction job management software. It is worth investing in estimating, job management and accounting software to do:
- Tracking sales and purchases
- Payroll and taxes
- Purchase orders
- Cashflow management
- Jobs, bills and expenses tracking
- Budgets and reports
- Management of clients and suppliers
3. Integrate your apps and software
An integrated, Cloud-based system saves you flicking between spreadsheets and manually inputting data into multiple systems.
Stop wasting time checking different places to get the needed information.
For builders and trades in construction, having an integrated solution for estimating, job management, timesheets and accounting will cover 90% of what most companies need. Builders can save hours by making better software choices.
Some things to consider:
- Look for technologies that sync with other systems. Tools and software websites should have a list of apps, tools and technologies they integrate with
- Ensure your tech is Cloud-based for easy data backups
- Search for new tech designed for construction as they will have a better chance of integrating with your other programs.
- Look for mobile-friendly programs
- Check for a wide range of functionality such as costing, quoting, scheduling, etc.
- Find technologies that capture as many of your data sets as possible, such as client details, employee details, invoices, etc.
Remember: more technology does not equal better technology. Having fewer (but smarter) integrated tools is more efficient.
4. Embrace the e-form
Embrace the e-form
Paper = inefficient.
Email = slow.
Data entry = costly and error-prone.
E-forms help you get the information you need more efficiently and cut out double handling between paper, spreadsheets, and other tools to free up hours in the day.
Sidestep email and paper handling by:
Building an inquiry form into your website
Use drop-down boxes to ask readers specific questions about what they are looking for at any given time. Drop-downs save time by eliminating back-and-forth emails to get the necessary information.
Using the built-in e-forms on your job estimating software
Going back and forth with a supplier to get a quote is wasted time. Streamline communication with your suppliers by using the “Request for quote” functions built into your job estimating software.
Buildxact’s supplier forms give you check-box options to construct your form before it is sent to the supplier. Once the supplier fills out the form and provides a quote, the information is fed directly into the system. No third-party apps, data entry or photocopying is required – it is an all-in-one system.
- Using free form building tools to collect information
Most online form-building tools feature customizable fields so you can collect the specific data you need. Online e-forms are handy for collecting details from new employees, gathering client details and storing data. (A word of caution: be sure to check for import/export functions so your data does not get stuck in an online system.)
Choosing software that has e-form functionality will save you from copying data across platforms.
5. Automate processes you could be wasting time on manual processing
Falling behind technology trends can spell the death of many construction industry businesses that do not realize how important it is to keep up with new technologies.
Automating simple business processes can:
- Cut labor costs
- Ensure (and prove) tasks are completed correctly
- Ensure consistent correspondence
- Prompt workflow
Construction businesses can improve efficiency by automating:
- Forms and correspondence
- Bank feeds and reconciliations
- SMS notifications
- Social media posts
- Marketing campaigns
Look at the features section of your primary software providers’ websites and consider which features can save you time.
6. Make an impact online
‘Presence’ is all about your online visibility. We get it; figuring out how to get your message to the masses can be tricky.
Focus on a few quick actions that have a lasting effect.
Three essential tips to boost your online presence and land more jobs
1. Build Trust
- Reassure your online visitors by including information relevant to your business, like:
- Master Builders Association, HIA, and other industry association badges
- Guarantees you offer (e.g., years of structural warranty)
- Testimonials from real clients
2. Build links
Google can be a mysterious beast, but we know having quality ‘backlinks’ from other sites to yours improves your site’s search result rankings. Improve your site’s backlinks by:
- Ensure your listings are up-to-date with industry bodies
- Be listed on trustworthy online directories
- If you have partnerships, ensure your partners’ websites link back to yours
3. Talk to a web agency about search engine optimization (SEO)
Digital marketing involves elements that work together to make your site visible. If you are unsure about your SEO, ask a marketing agency to check for things like:
- Keyword performance: how well the phrases on your site match the words your customers are searching
- Copy and conversion rates: is the copy on your website converting readers into customers?
- Content marketing: keeping your online content fresh and relevant
- Social media: improving engagement (likes, comments and shares)
BONUS TIP: For the more web-savvy, log into your Google Analytics account and check the stats. If you do not have an analytics account, set one up for free to measure your website’s performance.
7. Use new technologies to manage client relationships
It might be time to transfer your contact data into a more sophisticated database.
- For small and micro businesses
Spreadsheets are great for storing contact information. Set up filters to compare the value of your clients and suppliers and use columns to track which correspondences need following up.
Leverage new technologies to manage your data better.
- For small and medium-sized businesses
A web-based job management system is ideal. Capturing contact details in an online system makes it easier to manage data in one place. Consolidated contact data in one system makes it easier to identify opportunities.
- For larger construction businesses
If your business has hundreds of thousands of contacts, it is best to invest in a more sophisticated client relationship management (CRM) plan. A CRM plan is a holistic approach to contact management. CRM addresses client relationships from marketing campaigns to leads to storing details, correspondence, sales, and job delivery.
8. Streamline your induction process
Sitting down to collate lengthy induction documents is not appealing. Sourcing and putting together safety information can take hours. Collecting all the required documentation from all of your staff members can be very time-consuming.
Taking the time to create a thorough, well-planned induction process will save you from repeating the process each time you sign up a new staff member.
Here are a few more tips for refining your induction process:
Schedule time in your calendar to regularly update safety and induction documents
A monthly or bi-monthly review of your documents will save you the yearly overhaul.
Capture and store new employee data digitally.
Data has to be secure. Find (or create) a system that lets you store employee information securely on the Cloud, safe from tampering and disaster.
Use an online induction management tool.
New technology lets you manage inductions online. Automatically collect documentation such as insurances, licenses, trade cards, etc. and be alerted when expiry dates are nearing.
Improving construction efficiency is not about cutting corners.
It is about building ongoing systems and processes that will make your projects run smoothly every time. It is about keeping up with trends in the industry and embracing technologies that help you:
- Streamline processes
- Reduce your administrative task list
- Avoid errors
- Facilitate workflow
- Manage contacts and opportunities
Discover more ways to improve efficiency and reduce overheads
If you’re interested in learning more about how construction efficiency can be improved with new technology, take a look at our features page.
Buildxact is one tool for your construction project needs from quote to completion; including takeoffs, estimates, job management, and invoicing. Our software streamlines processes and reduces admin time by up to 80%.