As far as technology goes, the construction industry is behind. We’ve done our best throughout the past couple of decades to resist all incoming technological advancements, because who needs some fancy, new-fangled computer machine when you’ve got hands made of steel and a work ethic that could shame an Alaskan sled dog? Well, these times, they are a changin’, and construction companies throughout the world are starting to realize the benefits of using better technology in both the office and in the field.
JBKnowledge, a construction technology company responsible for software such as SmartBid, SmartReality, and SmartCompliance, has recently released their 5th Annual Construction Technology Report, after successfully receiving over 2,600 participant entries. The annual report has grown quite a bit since its humble beginnings in 2012, when 452 industry professionals responded. The survey results highlight some important trends in the construction industry and also reveal some of the most popular programs and applications construction professionals are currently using.
The surveyed group encompassed a wide range of backgrounds and ages, with the majority of participants being male, between 40-55 years old, and employed on the commercial side of construction. Their roles spanned from the executive level (30%), to project manager (20%) to project supervisor/foreman (5%) and everywhere in between. It’s also important to note, for the sake of disclosure, that many of the participants currently use one or more of the JBKnowledge products listed above, so the answers involving specific apps may be slightly skewed.
Below you will find some of the highlights of the technology survey, but we encourage you to read the full report, which you can download for free on JBKnowledge’s website.
The cloud, which is basically just a buzzword for storing information on the internet, has long been a source of anxiety for many businesses, because of the perceived lack of security. Storing data on the cloud does have many advantages for business, however, including increased and ease of access, flexibility, and better collaboration. Data on the cloud is instantly available for employees no matter where they are, as long as they can get an internet connection. Security is still a major factor affecting how the cloud is used, which is why the survey results show that the account department is the least likely to use the cloud.
The top 5 uses for the cloud this year were:
- Invitation to Bid
- Project Management
- Field Data Collection
- Client Relationship Management (CRM)
- Safety Management
The construction industry has seen a recent surge of mobile apps directed their way, as many see an opportunity to grab a piece of the pie in the industry’s emerging tech sector. 97.3% of participants currently own and use a smartphone and 67% own or use a tablet for either business or personal use, according to the survey, which is roughly the same as last year.
Apple iOS is still the leader for mobile operating systems in the construction industry, but the Windows OS is right on its heels. The surge in Windows usage, up 20% versus last year, certainly isn’t a surprise to us here at Construction Junkie headquarters, because we’ve already anointed the Microsoft Surface Pro as the best laptop to buy for those in the construction industry, especially after the release of Windows 10. It’s powerful enough to run all your necessary software, while also remaining extremely mobile and convenient.
The top 5 types of mobile apps construction professionals used this year were:
- Field Data Collection
- Project Management
- Time Entry
- Plan Distribution
The estimating department is the clear leader in avoiding technology, as 28.9% of participants said that spreadsheets are the main form of data collection, followed by 15.1% who are still using a manual process. It’s not particularly surprising that estimates are still widely completed like this, because estimators tend to be very experienced and have developed their personal system and style over a long period of time. The problem is, this form of static data collection lends itself to becoming a huge time commitment and creates many opportunities for human error.
As the JBKnowledge team explain in the report, “There also seems to be hesitation to make the more tenured estimators abandon their manual process for new software, treating their process as more of a “craft” than analyzing it for efficiency and value to the company’s pre-construction process. Companies will soon be pushed into the next era of estimating and takeoff solutions when integrating BIM and estimating becomes more widespread.”
Project Scheduling Software
Microsoft Project and Primavera P6 continue to be the leaders in project scheduling software and they seem to have supplanted themselves as the giants of the category. Microsoft Project is an intuitive tool, because of the many similarities to often used Microsoft Excel. Manual processes and spreadsheets followed behind Project and P6 in the rankings, mainly because there was in increase in subcontractor participants this year.
Project Management Software
The project management category can be the main contributor of the amount of paper used throughout a project, as it includes quotes and change orders, project submittals, and RFIs. Project management software developers’ main hurdle is getting buy-in from all the trades, GCs, and owners that have to use it. It’s possible that a subcontractor could be forced to use 5 different project management programs at the same time based upon which job they’re on. That leads to confusion and a general lack of interest. I believe that’s why 21.6% of participants are still using manual processes and an additional 12.7% are using spreadsheets to manage their projects. Viewpoint, Procore, and Sage are ranked 3, 4, and 5 in this category, respectively.
The plan management category may be the most hotly contested on the bunch. Several leaders have developed over the years, all vying to become THE program to beat. To me, using software for plan management is an absolute no-brainer, because it reduces the chance of contractors using out-of-date drawings, allows markups, punch list creation, and many even offer automatic hyperlinks which will take you to a specified detail just by tapping the screen. Best of all, you reduce the need to lug around a 50 pound set of plans that get completely tattered and worn out by the end of a 2 year long project.
Top 5 Plan Management Mobile Apps
Still, 41.5% of participants said that they do not currently use any type of software for plan review and management. Even though “none,” was the leader, it’s still a positive sign that the other 58.5% of participants are using some type of software to manage drawings. BIM 360 Field and BIM 360 Docs are products to keep an eye on, as they just recently launched their new platforms late last year and were created by industry giant Autodesk.
Again, the full report is definitely worth downloading and exploring further. We only touched on a small amount of the data that was analyzed this year, so if you’re interested in learning more about trends in daily reporting, photo apps, time entry, safety mobile apps, BIM, and more, please download the report. We would definitely like to see this survey continue to grow in response numbers, so we also encourage you to participate in next year’s survey, which is typically sent out around the start of summer.
2016 Construction Technology Report | JBKnowledg