3 Ways Construction Businesses Can Modernize With No-Code Dynamic Work Management

Ten years ago, I wrote an article for Engineering News Record on how construction businesses underspend in technology. I referenced Gartner’s survey of technology spending by industry, showing construction dead last, which was the same ranking it held the previous year.

Construction No-Code Dynamic Work

Back then, the construction CIOs I collaborated with were moving from 2D CAD technologies to 3D building information models (BIM). Some more advanced CIOs were improving their ERP workflows and investing in analytics. Many other construction companies, especially midsized general contractors and smaller subcontractors, were just getting started in their digital transformations.

Have construction companies transformed enough over the last decade where technology, analytics, and now AI are driving efficiencies and a source of competitive advantage? The industry is still playing catch-up, ranking as one of the least digitized.

The gray work in construction drives inefficiencies

The hard part of modernizing technology in the construction industry is that while projects have common workflows, they also have many project-specific distinctions. Sometimes, this forces people at the jobsite to use a one-size-fits-all workflow, which is often inefficient and may create quality or safety risks. Other times, superintendents, project managers, forepersons, and others with managerial functions resort to using spreadsheets, documents, and ad-hoc communications to address project-specific needs.  

I’ve just described a construction business’s gray work, the hidden, unoptimized work that’s inefficient and can be dangerous on jobsites. Digital trailblazers in construction recognize the importance of dynamic work management, where processes and tools require flexibility, automation, mobile capabilities, real-time analytics, and machine learning to enable a smarter and safer jobsite.

The key to dynamic work management in construction is building semi-standard workflows that allow project managers to configure and customize them to their project and job site’s requirements. Some are simple integrations, like automating the integration of cost codes from the ERP and filtering them to the ones needed for the project. However, the bigger opportunities lie in creating and configuring dynamic work applications that span the full lifecycle of managing a construction project.

Digital trailblazing construction companies utilize a no-code application platform built for dynamic work to reduce gray work and empower developing and customizing workflows. Below are three examples of dynamic work applications for construction businesses.

1. Simplify health and safety management at the job site

Consigli Construction, one of the largest employee-owned construction managers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, knew that “safety isn’t just checking a box.” Their challenge was that each job needed its own safety orientation, requiring workers to sign physical safety documentation and comply with required and frequently changing OSHA-required safety lessons.

Digitizing the paperwork wasn’t a sufficient solution. Consigl’s dynamic work management solution included building a low-code safety application with a mobile interface. Field teams scan a QR code at the front of each site, which pulls up a form workers fill out in their car instead of forming a line at a job-site office. Site supervisors track the necessary safety requirements and can easily approve or reject if a person is qualified to be on site from their mobile device.

A second example is Harvey Building Products, which developed an environment, health, and safety (EHS) management application. The app manages first aid safety observations, job hazard assessments, and other recordable incidents and includes a compliance calendar to meet OSHA and environmental regulations. This dynamic work application drove a 30% reduction in reportable safety incidents, enabled a 70% reduction of lost time, and saved an estimated $300,000 on workman’s compensation payouts.

2. Smart tracking equipment at jobsites

It’s common to have more demand than supply at job sites for specialized equipment such as concrete saws, welding machines, surveying instruments, and hydraulic tools. Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as respirators, flame-resistant clothing, and chemical-resistant gloves may be at a site for use by workers when required.

Tracking construction equipment and other job site assets can be simplified, smarter, and optimized for the project when treating equipment check-out-and-in as a dynamic workflow. For example:

  • Workers can photo QR codes on their mobile apps to check out and in equipment and report on maintenance needs. 
  • Forepersons can inquire about who has the equipment they need and where it’s located.
  • Project managers can track equipment utilization, wear and tear, and maintenance needs, and machine language models recommend when to order more, service, or perform other proactive measures.
  • Safety managers can define rules, ensuring only the right people with the completed training and safety credentials can check out specified equipment. 

A dynamic workflow should help project managers proactively address job site-specific issues. For example, there may be more equipment theft precautions for city jobs, while they may need to order more equipment for jobs spanning large areas or in challenging weather environments. In addition, US states have different OSHA and other compliance requirements that can be added as required. 

3. Onboarding subcontractors and freelancers

Some of the most important dynamic work occurs when subcontractors and freelancers are onboarded, from when contracts are signed to when workers are cleared to work at a jobsite. If the onboarding communications with subcontractors are done via email and every project manager has their own onboarding checklist, then there’s an opportunity to convert this gray work into smarter, more automated dynamic work.

Subcontractor management can start with the estimating and bidding pre-construction steps and end with tracking performance and payments. Onboarding is one of the mid-step workflows where building a no-code configurable process can reduce scheduling delays, decrease pre-mobilization meetings, help acquire the necessary submittals, and address other pre-construction compliance requirements.

A related issue is when construction companies utilize different subcontractor management tools across their projects or have separate SaaS tools for bidding, onboarding, and performance management. The result can be significant gray work managing the subcontractor’s lifecycle on a project, and the tool sprawl creates more data integration issues when trying to develop analytics across projects.

Construction businesses looking to accelerate their digital transformation can address both types of gray work by integrating enterprise systems like Procore and Autodesk with a construction dynamic work management platform. These construction businesses optimize workflows across multiple domains, including contracting, onboarding, and job site management. Efficiencies are created by having a centralized approach but project-specific configurations. Construction companies also recognize other important benefits in safety and compliance by reducing gray work and taking a more company-optimized technology approach to developing dynamic workflows.    

This post is brought to you by Quickbase.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Quickbase.

Isaac Sacolick
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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld, CIO.com, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.