How to Use Technology to Streamline Construction Workflows

Adrian A.
Dec 12, 2022

The construction industry has a reputation for delays. One notable example is the Berlin Brandenburg Airport which suffered a 10-year delay and was over €6 billion over budget.

The Berlin Brandenburg airport isn’t an exception. From small to large-scale projects, inefficiencies in construction workflows are commonplace. 

Bent Flyvbjergy, a project management expert at Oxford University, said that over 90% of the world’s infrastructure projects are either late or over budget.

If you’re working in construction and you’re interested to know how to mitigate project delays and minimise budget increases, you need to start by optimising the most common inefficiencies in construction. 

One of the ways you can achieve this is by using project management, mobile inspection, and incident reporting software.

In this article, we’ll explore the main reason behind construction delays and why investing in these technologies is the solution to mitigate delays and minimise the risk of going over budget. Then, we’ll explore how you can apply these technologies to minimise inefficiencies and improve productivity across six construction workflows.

Low productivity is the main reason behind construction delays

The Economist reported that productivity in construction has plunged by half since the late 1960s in America. 

Over the same period, Germany and Japan have seen nearly no growth in construction productivity despite improving manufacturing productivity. While in France and Italy, productivity in construction has fallen by one-sixth.

McKinsey’s consultancy firm acknowledges these trends by giving the construction industry the dubious honour of having the lowest productivity gains of any industry. Lower productivity inevitably leads to construction delays and going over budget.

Why has productivity gains in construction fallen behind other industries, and how can this trend be reversed? The rising prices of building materials are often cited as a convenient scapegoat, but they cannot be the single factor to blame since rising costs can affect all industries.

So what are the other factors that cause the construction industry to have lower productivity gains? One factor that often needs to be addressed is the widening gap between project complexity and the technology to manage these projects.

Construction projects have become increasingly complex over the decades. New technology and improvements in building materials have made it possible for buildings and megaproject infrastructures to become taller, bigger, and better.

The increasing complexities of building infrastructure mean everyone has more to handle, from construction project managers to inspectors and workforce management. 

Yet, the lack of investment in project management or workflow technology to address these increasing complexities has created massive inefficiencies. 

Why it’s high time for construction to invest in project management, inspection, and incident reporting software

A 2018 industry research report conducted by PlanGrid and FMI Corporation revealed that a lack of communication and technology has led to many inefficiencies in construction. The key issues highlighted include:

  1. Construction workers lose almost two full working days each week solving avoidable issues such as fixing mistakes, searching for project information, or managing conflict resolution.
  2. Almost 50% of all rework to fix mistakes is due to poor communication or poor project information.
  3. A mid-sized construction company loses an estimated $2 billion annually due to the time lost on non-optimal and rework activities.

Construction companies can streamline data management, improve communication, and minimise these inefficiencies by investing in project management, inspection technology, and incident reporting software.

Let’s now look at how these technologies can help companies optimise six key workflows in construction.

#1. Optimising preconstruction workflow 

Preconstruction consists of various phases and work schedules such as designing, design review, project planning and scheduling, and cost and timeline estimations for tasks at each stage.

Traditionally, communication would happen over countless meetings and email threads with multiple file transfers. A lot of miscommunication and inefficient reviews happen this way because it is challenging to keep track of comments, revisions, and tasks. 

By centralising preconstruction tasks with a project management system that supports preconstruction planning, all key stakeholders can collaborate on a single platform. 

With a project management system, stakeholders can access the latest revisions to review a design, comment on digital mockups of Building Information Modeling (BIM), or keep track of the budget allocated for general contractors and subcontractors.

Bottom line: Communication is smoother and faster for more accurate planning. 

#2. Optimising resource management workflow

Managing resources can become one of the biggest nightmares for construction project managers because of various uncontrollable market forces.

For example, project managers need to quickly find alternative sources while managing the budget if the supply chain for materials falls apart. 

Labour shortages or lack of skilled workers are just a few other issues that can cause project delays or increases in the budget.

While project managers have no control over these market forces, they can use a project management system that allows them to modify their current workflows easily. 

Having this function makes it easier for them to create emergency plans for the unexpected. A proactive rather than reactive approach to market changes can significantly save time and resources.

Bottom line: Keeping a database of alternate suppliers and creating contingency plans for as many situations as possible can help minimise the impact of lost time or budget increases if something goes wrong.

#3. Optimising warehousing workflow

Warehousing plays a key role in construction. Warehouses are responsible for keeping stock of construction materials and transporting them to the construction site when needed. 

Using project management and mobile inspection software to organise and keep track of warehousing tasks can help project managers become more efficient in:

  • Organising items to mitigate wasted time searching for items and delivering them to the construction site.
  • Streamlining communication of pick up and delivery with vehicle fleet management.
  • Managing inventory management with supply chain management on an integrated project management software.
  • Real-time inventory management through project management technology.
  • Efficiently completing audits and inspections of warehouse facilities, such as humidity levels, mould inspections, and refrigeration, to uphold the quality of supplies in storage.
  • Handling inspections for product damage and managing corrective tasks on one single platform.

Bottom line: Alongside project management technology, mobile inspection software improves inventory management by alerting managers of issues in real-time.

For example, a platform like Workflows makes it easy for employees to complete audits and inspections using a mobile phone or a tablet. Managers will then be alerted of any issues in real-time, so you assign corrective tasks and make sure they are followed through.

Having this capability helps construction companies minimise delays due to damage or low inventory supplies. 

#4. Optimising safety reporting workflow

In 2021, the construction sector’s workplace injuries and work-related ill health exceeded £1.29 billion. By improving hazard and safety reporting on construction sites, companies can reduce the lost time and costs associated with avoidable incidents. 

Utilising mobile technology to streamline hazard and incident reporting systems instead of traditional pen-and-paper reporting methods can help optimise safety reporting workflow by:

  • Making it easy for workers to report safety issues on the spot
  • Simplifying how workers report safety issues with the ability to take and upload photos of hazards into the mobile reporting system
  • Giving safety managers a real-time view of hazards and incidents reported and preventing incidents caused by a delay in corrective actions
  • Allowing safety managers to assign and follow up on corrective tasks for faster preventive and corrective action resolution
  • Automating reports for safety managers to discover trends and key areas of risk that need to be addressed

Bottom line: When safety reporting is optimised, safety managers can resolve safety issues faster to minimise incidents and their related impact on time and cost.

Incident reporting software helps construction companies improve their safety reporting workflow by eliminating paper-and-pen safety reporting systems.

#5. Optimising quality control workflow

Manual quality inspection systems are inefficient and error-prone. On a large scale, these avoidable errors caused by manual quality systems can lead to massive losses. 

Poor quality in construction can lead to high costs and time spent on reworking, replacing building materials, or safety incidents. 

Using easy-to-use mobile inspection software to complete quality control inspections can reduce the risk of poor quality and help construction companies conform to their Quality Management Systems by:

  • Making it easy for workers to conduct quality control inspections in real-time on a mobile or tablet.
  • Simplifies how workers report quality control issues with the ability to take and upload photos or files and add comments to provide context.
  • Alerting quality control managers of any issues so they can quickly implement corrective actions and reduce construction wastage.
  • Providing managers with historical reports to evaluate the effectiveness of corrective actions and further improve the assurance process.
  • Helping construction project managers identify quality issue trends associated with suppliers, contractors, or subcontractors so they can make informed partnership decisions.

Bottom line: Poor quality control can cause issues that inflate costs and cause project delays, such as having to rework and replace building materials. Whereas the poor quality of safety equipment can cause injury and labour shortages that cause further delays.

By using mobile inspection software such as Workflows to improve quality control, managers can minimise the issues that can potentially cause delays and inflated budgets.

#6. Optimising communications and data management workflow

A large amount of data is involved in the construction industry: design plans, plumbing and electrical information, budgets, quality control inspections, safety inspections, fleet management, and more.

It’s easy for miscommunication of this data to happen when there are hundreds of people involved and multiple moving parts. The effects can be detrimental. 

As mentioned in the research report referenced earlier, poor communication causes almost half of reworking in construction, while construction workers waste up to two days per week looking for project information. 

Project management software and mobile inspection tools with threaded discussion features keep communication organised within a recorded task or issue. 

When all project data is stored in one place that workers can easily access via mobile, they can save a lot of time discussing urgent issues and finding the correct information they need.

Bottom line: Utilising the tools that optimise your communication, such as threaded discussions within mobile inspection tools, can help to prevent costly miscommunication.

Build Better Profits

By taking the first steps to adopt project management software and mobile inspection technology within these six critical construction workflows, construction companies can:

  • Reduce the inefficiencies and errors of manual processes
  • Streamline processes and boost productivity
  • Improve quality and the process of meeting ISO compliance

For more information on how Vatix can help your construction company become more efficient, talk to our sales team here

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