Assemble Systems | How Technology is Changing Communication on the Job Site

by TIM KELLY, Assemble Systems

This article was originally published to the Assemble Systems blog on May 05, 2016.

The advancement of technology is spreading like wildfire across the construction industry, taking root in everything from software advancements to self-driving equipments to enormous 3D printers.

I love thinking about how many mobile devices there are on a job site these days and how many systems are leveraging them. You’ve got things like Procore (project management software), PlanGrid (plan viewer), BIM 360 Field (mobile/cloud job site management) all in action on the site on smartphones and tablets, and it allows a lot of documentation to take place without paperwork or even a visit to the field office.

You really see it when you’ve got a guy walking through the job site and he sees a spot where there needs to be a paint touch-up. He snaps a picture, uses the software to assign it to someone, and the communication automatically goes out. From there, the painter comes out and takes care of it, the status is corrected and the automatic notification is sent back when the task is completed. In earlier days, it was a really manual process where you were looking at a printed list of highlighted items and having to account for them one by one, checking them off.

Another aspect where technology is changing how we function at the job site is the additional accountability it brings to project management. When issues are communicated but go unaddressed, it is easier to track down the life of an item to see when it was created and to whom it was assigned. That audit trail can do wonders in successfully tracking down performance issues and can also serve as evidence in future litigation.

Besides the obvious use of applications that are primarily meant for the AEC industry, we are seeing construction professionals gravitate towards more informal mainstream technologies such as texting, Snapchat, and other instant messaging to communicate on the job site as well.

Snapchat is a photo messaging app that allows users to take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to multiple recipients. The images/videos get automatically deleted once the intended viewer opens the message or within 24 hours of it being sent (based on user settings). So instead of waiting till the huddle to go over site issues, a superintendent could right away send out a message to the whole crew concerning a specific issue without delay or oversight.

In the past, when I was staffed on construction projects, on any given day I might receive a few hundred emails, half of which I was just copied on. Think about your own email inbox on a given day, and how many messages are there for you to sift through, things that are stripping away your precious time and ability to be productive. Systems like Snapchat could be a great alternative to keeping your message from getting lost in someone’s inbox.

So if you are walking a job site and you see a guy in a backhoe who’s clearly in the wrong place, you don’t want to clog up the superintendent’s inbox with an email when you can take a short video of the backhoe, send it to the superintendent with a message saying, “Get this guy in the right spot,” and know that the video will play once and be deleted.

Effective jobsite communication is essential for a successful project and technology is playing a key role in keeping the channel of communication open among the project team for improved project outcome.