How construction efficiency can be improved with new technology and clever processes
Many business owners think you need to cut down the time it takes to carry out jobs to save time in your construction business.
But that’s not usually the case.
In fact, fast-tracking construction timelines can be a dangerous undertaking.
Take, for example, an owner of a small construction business that manages a handful of builders and tradespeople.
The owner could ask the builder to reduce the build time by a number of weeks. He or she could ask the plumber to work faster and the electrician to get started earlier or work longer hours.
Overall, the time for a full build might be reduced by 10 or 20%.
A big time saving – yes. But at what cost?
Hammering through a build faster puts you at risk of:
- Lower quality of workmanship
- Higher risk of compliance issues
- Poor, rushed delivery
- Lower customer satisfaction (and possible damage to reputation)
- Work safety issues (if working faster than what is safe)
Yes, the business owner has saved time on the build, but has he or she created ongoing efficiency in the business? No.
As soon as the build is complete, it’s back to square one. It’s the stuff management nightmares are made of.
There are easier, more effective ways to improve construction efficiency that actually work job, after job, after job.
1. Tighten the screws on takeoffs
Take a look at what’s really slowing down your takeoffs.
Many builders we speak to are frustrated with the time it takes to get through the practical steps of quoting. Measuring and scaling plans, blowing them up, printing them, adjusting them, blowing them up again, printing them again. It’s a paper handling nightmare. And one dodgy printer can throw a solid time management plan into disarray.
If this is the case in your business, something’s gotta give.
Luckily, modern technology in the construction industry can significantly reduce your takeoff times.
At Buildxact, for example, our simple construction estimating software lets you measure and price jobs digitally. Takeoffs are automatically linked to the item costs to save you going back and forth with costings.
Faster takeoffs mean more quotes, which mean more jobs.
“The more quotes we produce, the more jobs we get.” Lauren O’Grady, L O’Grady Constructions
2. Keep up with clever accounting
Got a folder full of unlogged invoices sitting on the shelf? You wouldn’t be the only one.
We see far too many construction businesses grappling with piles of accounting paperwork. Invoices, costings, client information, contractor information – it piles up quickly.
But there are easier ways to do things. Most (if not all) purchasing, invoicing, accounting and banking can be done through easy-to-use apps and websites.
New technologies in job management and accounting help you:
- Save labour costs of manual data entry and admin
- Always know where you are at with a job
- Save time on purchasing, invoicing and banking
- Secure digital records of all transactions
- Reduce the risk of mistakes
Don’t pay an accountant to comb through boxes of invoices when all your data could be stored in the Cloud. Investing in decent 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).
Cloud accounting software services like Xero, MYOB and QuickBooks can do all the hard work for you, and they easily integrate with most construction job management software. It’s worth investing in estimating, job management and accounting software to take care of:
- 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, chasing information around your PC and manually inputting data into multiple systems.
If you find yourself wasting time checking different apps, spreadsheets, websites, etcetera, to track down the information you need, then perhaps your technologies are not serving their purposes as well as they should.
For builders and trades in construction, having an integrated solution for estimating, job management, time sheets and accounting will cover 90% of what most companies need. Making better, more informed software choices can save you (and your admin and accounting teams) hours in the day.
Some things to look out for include:
- Look for technologies that sync with other systems. All good tools and software websites should have a list of apps, tools and technologies they integrate with
- Make sure your technologies are Cloud-based to ensure all your data is backed up
- Look for new technologies specifically designed for construction businesses as they’ll have more relevant functions and a higher chance of integrating with your other technologies
- Look for technologies that you can use on your mobile device.
- Check that there’s a wide range of functionality (that you’ll actually use) such as costing, quoting, scheduling, variations, accounting, etc.
- Find technologies that capture as many of your data sets as possible, such as client details, employee details, invoices, etc.
Keep in mind that more technology doesn’t equal better technology. Having fewer (but smarter) integrated tools is far more efficient.
4. 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 enquiry form into your website
Use drop-down boxes to ask readers specific questions about what they’re looking for. This saves you receiving an email then sending emails back and forth to get all the information you need.
- Using the in-built e-forms on your job estimating software
Time going back and forth with a supplier to get a quote is time wasted. Streamline communication with your suppliers by using the request for quote functions that are built in to your job estimating software.
Buildxact’s supplier forms give you tick-box options to construct your form before it’s sent directly 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’s an all-in-one system.
- Using free form building tools to collect information
Most online form building tools feature customisable fields so you can collect only the specific data you need for your business. Online e-forms are handy for collecting details from new employees, gathering client details and storing mandatory data. (A word of caution: be sure to check for import/export functions so your data doesn’t get stuck in an online system.)
Choosing software that has e-form functionality will save you copying data across platforms. #eforms #constructiontechnology #constructionnews #constructiononline
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 don’t realise how important it is to keep up with new technologies.
Automation – though it is sweeping through the construction industry – is one trend that’s here to stay.
And why wouldn’t it?
Automating simple business processes can:
- Cut labour costs
- Ensure (and prove) tasks are completed correctly
- Ensure consistent correspondence
- Prompt workflow
We’ve talked about automating accounting, integrating systems and automatically storing data with e-forms. But, specifically, construction businesses can improve efficiency by automating:
- Forms and correspondence
- Bank feeds and reconciliations
- SMS notifications
- Social media posts
- Marketing campaigns
How do you get started?
Look at the features section of your primary software providers’ websites and consider which features can save you time.
6. Make an impact online
Clients won’t find you by looking in the yellow pages.
In 2019, ‘presence’ is all about your online visibility. But, we get it, figuring out how to get your message to the masses can be tricky. (And finding the time can be even trickier.)
If you’re overwhelmed with the glut of information about online marketing, it helps to focus on a few small actions that don’t take too long and have a lasting effect.
Three key tips to boost your online presence and land more jobs
1. Build Trust
- People need to know they can trust you. 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 guarantee)
- Testimonials from real clients
- Number of years’ experience of your key staff members
- Number of years in business
- Awards you’ve won
2. Build links
Google can be a mysterious beast, but we do know that having quality ‘backlinks’ from other sites to yours pushes your site up the search result rankings. Improve your site’s backlinks by:
- Making sure your listings are up-to-date with industry bodies and associations
- Be listed on trustworthy online directories (such as Find My Tradies and GetQuote)
- If you have partnerships, make sure your partners’ websites link back to yours
3. Talk to a web agency about search engine optimisation (SEO)
Digital marketing involves a range of elements that work together to make your site seen. If you’re not sure your SEO is up to scratch, ask a marketing agency to check for things like:
- Keyword performance: how well the phrases on your site match the phrases your customers are typing in the search box
- Copy and conversion rates: is the copy on your website converting your readers into customers?
- Content marketing: keeping your online content fresh, relevant and up-to-date
- Social media: improving engagement (likes, comments and shares)
BONUS TIP: For the more web-savvy among us, try logging in to your Google Analytics account and checking out the numbers. Is there room for improvement? If you don’t have an analytics account, you can set one up for free online to measure your website’s performance.
7. Use new technologies to manage client relationships
Some construction businesses we meet are still recording quotes on post-it notes stuck to the office computer. We also see small business tradespeople that only store business contacts in their mobile phones. For micro businesses – and those with incredible memories – this might suffice. But, if you’re ready to step up it might be time to transfer your contact data into a more sophisticated database.
- For small and micro businesses
Spreadsheets (e.g. in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets) are great ways to store your contact information. You can set up filters to compare the value of your clients and suppliers and use columns to track which correspondences need following up.
If your spreadsheet is getting out of hand, it might be time to leverage new technologies in the construction industry to better manage and store business information.
- 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 (not to mention the security benefits of Cloud-backed systems). When your contact data is consolidated in one central system, it’s easier to compare and analyse the details to identify opportunities.
- For larger construction businesses
For businesses where contacts range in the hundreds of thousands, it may be time to invest in a more sophisticated client relationship management (CRM) plan. A CRM plan is a holistic approach to contact management that includes not just software but a range of modern technologies, tools, and processes. CRM addresses all aspects of client relationship from marketing campaigns to leads to storing details, correspondence, sales and job delivery.
If you’re ready to refine your client relationship management, but not ready to take the leap to an expensive CRM software suite, here are some basic tools that can help:
8. Streamline your induction process
The prospect of sitting down to collate lengthy induction documents is not an appealing one for most business owners. Sourcing and putting together all the necessary safety information can take hours. And collecting all the required documentation from all of your staff members can prove just as time-consuming.
But taking the time to create a thorough, well-planned induction process will save you having to go through the same ordeal each time you sign up a new staff member.
We’ve talked about how builders can induct new employees before. Here are a few more tips for refining your induction process:
- Schedule time in your calendar to regularly update safety and induction documents
A quick monthly or bi-monthly review of your documents will save you the yearly overhaul.
- Capture and store new employee data digitally
Some data just 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 technologies in the construction industry let you manage inductions online. You can automatically collect documentation such as insurances, licences, trade cards, working with children checks, police checks, etc. and be alerted when expiry dates are coming up.
Less paperwork, fewer compliance issues and most importantly, a process that’s effective every time a new employee joins the team. How’s that for efficiency?
Improving construction efficiency is not about cutting corners.
It’s about building in ongoing systems and processes that will make your projects run smoothly every time, not just once off.
Largely, it’s about keeping up with technology trends in the construction industry, and embracing modern 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
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%.Contact Us