Digital Adoption on the Jobsite
Catch Up or Cash Out: Interpreting Digitization’s Impact on the Jobsite
Since the rise of the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), consumers have craved seamless experiences. Courtesy of our smartphones—the catalyst to connectivity—we’ve been able to monitor and control everything from our smart thermostats to our home security systems.
Unsurprisingly, this same desire for digitization at home has spilled into every industry, with media organizations churning out digital content and manufacturers automating their production processes in support of improved consistency and efficiency.
Meanwhile, the construction industry, on the whole, has been reluctant to adopt digitization. Despite the challenges involved in digitizing the construction industry, its importance is undeniable. With that in mind, answers are needed for the most important question: How can construction managers seamlessly adopt digitization to efficiently regulate how work gets done on the jobsite to achieve more with less?
The Challenges of Digitizing the Construction Industry
As a contractor, digitization is a hard dilemma to face. Typical profit margins for a job run razor-thin, at 2-8%. Those who can operate within these constraints still need to find the time and budget to innovate, adding extra risk to any project that becomes a test site.
In addition, while the need for digitization is abundantly clear, for most companies the budget for putting it into effect is nonexistent. As summarized in Digitalist magazine, “…Companies find themselves trapped between shrinking profit margins and stagnant productivity, unable to generate the profit necessary to invest in critical technology” (Leeds, 2016).
Help is on the way, but with it comes a new problem: new tech startups are popping up faster than budgets can afford, offering point solutions in every conceivable niche of the industry—from design management to document management to field productivity to equipment GPS/telematics. With each solution a custom system, the monthly license fees start to quickly stack up.
When objectively approaching the problem, we can see that there is a way to thread the needle of profitability without overcommitting on every point solution or turtling back to what worked in the past. The demand in the market changes at an increasingly rapid pace, so the solutions that make the most sense are those that offer unified focus.
Smarter Inventory Management Systems for Increasing Efficiency and Productivity
Reported in Digitalist magazine, 63% of direct labor time on big projects is spent waiting for materials and equipment, traveling to the worksite, taking breaks, and planning work (Leeds, 2016). The waiting—in particular—is the worst, with the average contractor spending 80 minutes a day unable to work because they don’t have what they need.
Just like collaboration in an office requires open communication and efficient processes for filesharing to get everybody on the same page, driving productivity on the jobsite involves effective project management. Being able to increase visibility to all your jobs—to know where your equipment is, confirm it arrived as deployed and is working at capacity—can be the difference between a job well-done and a wasted day.
Attempts to eliminate this problem of wasted time on the site has led contractors to employ whatever solution they can, usually taking the form of tedious spreadsheets or cumbersome folders. Once “tried and true,” these processes are disjointed, and can easily result in missing or undocumented equipment. Time spent looking for equipment is wasted, impacting labor costs and your bottom line.
Entrusting this information to digitization gets your crew and equipment on the same page. At Milwaukeeâ, we first launched One-Keyä as a centralized asset management system. You can locate assets and automate your inventory deployment from one central, paperless portal. This means, no more ripping through binders trying to find the most up-to-date records on who has what.
Often, it’s not the cost of replacement that hurts the most, but the cost of waiting for the replacement to show up. Integrating community Bluetoothâ tracking and now geofence technology, we’re equipping One-Key™ to be the solution that makes it easier for tradesmen to get full visibility to their jobs and equipment, to better manage their inventories so tools end up where they’re needed, and ensure the job gets done on time.
Finding Missing and Stolen Tools without Mobile Hotspots
Contractors estimate 5-10% inventory churn due to theft. That’s lost profits from shrinkage that that can be prevented. Being able to track your tools is important, especially as bigger jobs require costly heavy equipment to be efficiently deployed and accounted for.
What’s more, over 75% of contractors are looking for newer, better technologies in equipment tracking. 5G wireless connectivity looks to revolutionize the way that data is shared, and many in the industry are at the forefront of actually building America’s 5G infrastructure. While the benefits of 5G remain several years out, laying the groundwork for viable alternatives is warranted.
Tremendous work has been done in BLE tracking to allow smartphones to locate misplaced items, like misplaced keys, nearby, and paired with the devices of friends and loved ones to find your phone if you leave it somewhere while out. The same technology can be applied to tool tracking when paired with users on the job, creating a lost and found community that generates greater visibility to your tools across jobsites. Breakthroughs in geofencing technology have produced the ability to assign tools and equipment to specific jobsites and see when items travel elsewhere, whether in error or due to theft.
Connected Solutions for Electrical Contractors
With the rise of smart tools, connected solutions created specifically for the needs of electrical contractors are emerging to streamline processes and increase productivity. Practical utilization data is attainable from connected smart tools, like smart crimpers, to help electrical contractors better execute jobs; including visualization into the success and fail rates to help judge the longevity of equipment, and usage history to help crib managers better plan which items are available to be deployed in the field.
Connect to a Smarter Jobsite
As we face technological change and the impending arrival of 5G wireless connectivity, it’s important for contractors to rethink processes that, while “tried and true,” are quickly being eclipsed by more productive and seamless digital experiences.
You can build visibility to your jobs and eliminate downtime by connecting to a smarter jobsite.
But you need to act now to end the waiting around for materials that’s causing jobs to go over time. And you need to act now to end overspend caused by missing or stolen tools.
It’s time to stop accepting razor-thin profit margins as “the way it is” in the construction industry. Shrinkage may be an inevitability in the retail industry. But with tool tracking, there are smarter avenues to inventory management worth exploring that yield higher profit margins.
Are you ready to grow a more productive crew, built for the 21st century jobsite?
Read more about what we’re doing HERE!
About Stephen Matson
As program manager for Milwaukee Tool, Stephen Matson is an integral player in the overall strategy, development, and delivery of new-to-world disruptive innovation for the skilled trades. Currently overseeing the development of ONE-KEY™, Matson works with the most talented engineers, software developers, and marketing leaders in the industry to provide a new level of control and access to information that will fundamentally change the way users improve their workflows across their operations.