Last week I was honored to join Lucas Acosta on the FooJee Show to discuss evolution of Apps for Construction. The FooJee show is dedicate to educating Apple device users about new product updates, uses cases for mobile devices and apps, and how to better use Apple products in the work environment. Mr. Acosta asked me to join him for a episode to discuss “The Digital Transformation of Apps for Construction“. This is a topic that I have presented on over the past few years all around the country. The focus of our discussion was how the intro discussion of Apps used on Mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad have transformed several paper based workflows on Construction projects.

Construction professionals have to review and manage a tremendous amount of information in order to make multiple decisions everyday. The landscape of the construction industry has changed drastically over the past few years. Today in the Construction industry, project schedules are being accelerated and changes to design during work seem to be new industry standards.

In order to keep up with today’s fast paced projects, field staff need easy access to construction documents and the ability to quickly communicate changes with the main office. Tablet devices such as the iPad allow construction professionals in the field to do this faster than ever before. In order to leverage these amazing devices, companies should develop a Technology Committee to research, develop and implement a Mobile Device Program. The goal of this program is to help field staff better accomplish tasks such as…

  1. Safety Documentation
  2. Plan File Management
  3. Progress Photos
  4. Daily Reports
  5. Time Entry

Safety Documentation

Properly documenting safety activities on Construction project sites is very important. Unlike other workflows, certain safety events such as accidents or OSHA inspections can have significant long term effect on companies. The traditional method of documenting safety items on a paper form that can be faxed or scanned take took long.

One great app to manage safety is SafeSite. This is web based works on desk top computers and mobile devices (tablets and smartphones). The SafeSite app users can complete basic safety workflows such as safety inspections,  safety observations, or log a project hazard such as a missing guardrail at a elevator shaft. A few advanced features include logging a safety observation ( such as employee not wearing the proper PPE), entering maintenance information for equipment (ex. a broken ladder), or filing out a incident reporting: record worker labour statistics for Lost Time Injury Reporting. One new unique feature is the OSHA 300 log exporting function.

Plan File Management

The Construction industry has been slow to adopt new technology to improve quality and make them more efficient. Many Construction firms are still locked into the traditional processes for project management,i.e. paper plans and documents. The idea of carrying around a heavy set of rolled up lans on a project site seems like a crazy idea now that there new apps that can be used on tablets. Through the power of apps on mobile devices construction professionals can share, view, and mark up plans in real time. They can now stay on the project site longer and answer questions, ensure work in being installed properly and do what they were meant to do… Supervise!

One great app to manage plan files is PlanGrid. The PlanGrid platform allows users to share project drawings through a cloud based server. Once the drawings are posted they can shared with other team members. The app will alert you when new drawings are posted to the system. One of the hidden system items is automatic hyper linking of documents. Users can add notes, photos, and take measurements with the app tools. You can also create a punch list of items and assign them to collaborator members. One new unique feature is the plan comparison feature that allows uses to compare new revisions of plans to old plans in the app.

Progress Photos

Another daily task is that superintendents must take progress photos of the job site. Back in the old days (I.E. 2011) when construction Superintendents and Project Engineers had to document project conditions with digital cameras. They had to walk a project to take progress photos of work installed, or damaged work, or safety items. Once they had finished the site walk they then had to go back to the field office and download the photos to their laptop and either try to upload them to a server over a land line internet connection or upload them to a thumb drive to send to their office to get uploaded to the server.

One unique app to take progress photos with is FotoIn. This ground breaking app allows users to take, tag, annotate and sync field photos in real time. FotoIn uses cloud connections to move photo files from mobile devices to your server for storage and archiving. The FotoIn web portal to allow users to create custom tags, custom reports and set up geo-fences around project sites. Photo files are tagged and saved in the app that is connected with cloud servers automatically. The files are even named in such a manner than you can tell the map coordinates that the photo was taken. This allows users to find an old photos fast and can search by the photo name, date, location or even trade.

Daily Reports

Do you remember in the old days (I.E. 2013) when construction Superintendents had to document project work, delays and conditions with written forms and notebooks? Do your crews still use the old green log books or spiral notebooks? Do you want a way to have daily reports saved in a cloud based platform or emailed to you everyday? One of the most important workflows a project Superintendents completes everyday is a solid Daily Report. The question every company must ask to determine which Daily Report app is best for them is a simple one: What is the goal of documenting project activities? Some apps are great at labor stats, some are great at adding voice notes, and a few are great at adding daily photos. What is the workflow you are trying to improve?

One unique app to take progress photos with is Raken. The Raken app allows users document site activities easily each day on a mobile device. Users enter project data such as deliveries, manpower, and weather. After completing the reports these items are synced to the Raken server and can be converted to a PDF and emailed to the office. Project Managers back at the home office can access the reports through a web portal and look at all the reports and run metrics on the data.

Time Entry

Do you remember in the old days (I.E. 2013) when construction employees used punch cards and time clocks to clock in and out of their shift? Keeping accurate employee time is another important workflow a project Superintendents completes everyday. The traditional method for companies to document their employees daily hours worked has been the paper based approach where employees signed in an out on a printed log. This basic method at least was trackable and provided employers to document how may hours and employee worked. In todays fast paced setting, construction companies need a more agile approach to documenting the hours employees work. On many project employees are working on several tasks each day that need to be tracked by different phase codes. In order to keep the numbers straight, it may be best for field staff to use a mobile app on a mobile device to keep up with the constantly changing work assignments.

One unique app to take progress photos with is BusyBusy. The BusyBusy is a mobile app allows construction companies to track their employees labor, time and productivity from any smartphone or tablet. The app allows field users to enter employee time each day and code it to the proper phase code. Office staff can export timecard data for payroll, and filter by cost code and type.

Bonus Apps

RICHO Theta S camera

The RICHO Theta S camera is a very easy to use device that allows users to take 360 degree photos of a project work space. The camera can also create high resolution 1080 HD videos! This new camera will allow field Construction staff to better document a project sites by taking better photos, capture more details, and make it easier to share photo files.

Seek Thermal CompactPRO

The CompactPro, is a thermal image camera designed to attach to a smartphone such as the iPhone or a Android model. This amazing little add on camera allows users to take photos and videos of various installed work elements on construction sites. The accompanying app allows users to document inspections of items such as exterior walls, HVAC system components and more.

To watch my appearance on the FooJee Show (CLICK HERE).

What other types of apps would you like to hear about on a future episode of thee FooJee Show or on the ConTechTrio podcast?