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Best practices in construction

The New Best Practices in Construction: 5 Lessons from Other Industry Success

What Construction Can Learn From Healthcare, Manufacturing, Fast Food, Education and Banking 

Construction is one of the oldest industries known to man, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the most progressive. For many years, the “best practices in construction” have been far from just that. Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that productivity in the construction industry has remained stagnant for the few decades. By some accounts, productivity has even fallen by half in the last 50 years.

Disjointed workflows, communication gaps and outdated systems like paper and Excel, have all played a significant role in making projects inefficient. While the building industry is beginning to make positive strides in the right direction, there’s so much more work to be done on a technological front to catapult businesses into modern looking workflows of the 21st century.

One way to embrace the new best practices in construction is to look at examples of success in other industries with technology and innovation. By stepping outside traditional methods, the industry can start to make real progress in improving efficiency. Below, we’ll look at 5 industry successes that the construction sector can adopt. From healthcare to fast food, learn about new ways the construction industry can move from flatlining to flourishing.

Healthcare: A Model for Tech Implementation for Construction

Any modern project manager knows that integrating the right software can be an ultimate best practice in construction to increase productivity. Nonetheless, construction companies face many implementation and adoption hurdles when it comes to new technology, simply because field teams aren’t keen on using it. Nonetheless, productivity will only increase if your staff is actually using the technology you are purchasing.

If you want to look at an industry that’s shifted swiftly and massively to digital integration, look no further than the US healthcare system. What you need to understand first about this massive transformation is that it was necessary. Healthcare is highly regulated, and reforms meant that healthcare organizations were required to update their protocol. These upgrades included Electronic Health Records (EHR) and many other aspects which span beyond what the patient sees.

Another thing that the construction industry should note here–physicians were possibly the only professionals more reticent to use technology than contractors. The technology for electronic records and other upgrades was available for more than 20 years but still a large portion of practices and organizations refused to upgrade to modern tech. Physicians were more interested in staying up to date on treatment protocols, and they felt that the added technology might hinder their work. They didn’t want to be computer experts. Needing to log into a database to update charts seemed challenging and took away from their ability to consult directly with the patient.

While the implementation of new technology took some convincing, the result is that organizations are now reaping the benefits that include better revenue cycle management methods, increased patient satisfaction and better outcomes for patients. Today, nearly 96% of hospitals use certified EHRs, and 87% of administrative staff believe that they have seen improvements in financial and operational capabilities as a result.

What can the construction industry take away from this? Although it’s unlikely that tech will be federally mandated on construction projects, a similar mindset to digital tools can be established on jobsites. Most importantly, a sweeping cultural change in the way technology is viewed is integral to better productivity in the future.

Instead of asking staff to embrace technology on projects, require it. At the same time, provide ample support and guidance on how to get there. Contractors may be reticent to embrace these changes, at least right off the bat, but you can find ways to make the transition easier. For instance, many physicians’ offices offered hands-on training on new applications. Training for contractors can be implemented to help them acclimate and gain confidence in new methods, too. Most importantly, select a digital documentation platform that is easy to use–otherwise, it won’t be used, and that’s money down the drain.

Initially, there may be some growing pains in integration. But the end result will bring an excellent return on your investment, increase in productivity, a reduction in costs and better communication throughout your projects.

Manufacturing: Embracing Automation in Construction

When compared to the flatlined productivity in construction over the last several decades, the manufacturing industry is seen as a shining example of what works–nearly doubling their efficiency.

Manufacturing vs construction increase in productivity - McKinsey

Source: McKinsey & Company

Overall, the manufacturing industry offers a number of examples of best practices construction can benefit from instituting. The industry, of course, has always been on the cutting edge of automation. Construction sees the lowest profit margins of any industry. Utilizing similar methods from manufacturing could help construction companies see exorbitant growth.

For instance, implemented correctly, prefabrication can increase productivity for construction companies. Borrowing from manufacturing’s model of having individual jobs completed by experts who only perform one set function in production, you get optimal results with the shortest turnaround time. This method also helps to address the growing concern over fewer tradesmen entering the field.

The physical building isn’t the only thing that can be automated in construction. Compiling, organizing and distributing data has typically been an intensive manual process for construction professionals. However, automation can help minimize the administrative burden of data entry. For instance, contractors can integrate better applications to automatically generate submittals logs, allowing for less error and keeping all of the different service providers organized and on schedule.

The construction industry is only beginning to tap into the potential of automation for business models. If you’re looking to truly scale your operations and maximize efficiency, start automating wherever and whenever possible.

Fast Food: Standardizing the Jobsite

When you think of your favorite, “fast food,” you know what you’re getting–every time. That’s the benefit to the fast food model. You’ll get the same Taco Bell Chalupa in Texas as you would in Vermont and the same McDonald’s Big Mac in California that you would get in Hong Kong, or anywhere else that chain restaurant can be found. Basically, you know what to expect.

For a fast food restaurant, standardization offers a number of great benefits. Production is the same each time, so any new restaurant already has their method mapped out for them–the products, equipment, staff needs, management and production are already set in a protocol that works. There’s no re-inventing the wheel in these business models. You have an accurate view of costs and profits before the enterprise even begins.

In construction, standardizing isn’t as simple as cooking fries. Nonetheless, standardizing even a small portion of construction methods, documents and workflows can benefit projects and teams in much of the same way. By standardizing methods and organization with construction software, it helps maintain budgets and enhance efficiency. Adding better applications to organize the process, keeps each of your staff members and subcontractors on track with a preset schedule for completion. Instead of working to set standards after a project begins, prioritize standardization as the first thing you do when you start work. Establishing standards from the very start will help keep your project on a successful foundation improving productivity as a result.

As an extra benefit, standardization also helps maintain brand recognition, especially if you’re an enterprise construction company. For contractors especially, your clients will always know what to expect when they work with you and are more inclined to give your repeat business and referrals.  

Education: Improving Field Communication and Collaboration

Education is yet another industry flourishing with advances in technology. Today, students use the internet readily in their classrooms, but not just to look up educational materials. Most school districts today offer a variety of platforms for their education portals so that students and parents can log in to their own account, view grades, communicate with teachers and staff and even access class notes. This well-rounded and integrated communication approach allows for better contact between educators, students and families for increased visibility and insight into academic progress.

Communication on the jobsite in construction is a major pain point. Without excellent communication between all parties, mistakes and rework are bound to happen. Consider the amount of time and resources that might be lost if just one subcontractor is working from outdated specifications. Likewise, scheduling difficulties can domino throughout the job without optimal communication between all of the different companies and tradespeople on site.

Adopting applications and software to increase communication between each of the parties working toward completion means that you’ll streamline processes and form a more cohesive working unit among your staff.

Banking: Cloud-Based Project Software

Using cloud-based technology is considered a best practice in construction to truly enhance collaboration. In basic terms, if you’re using cloud-based technology, it means that you can access your data from anywhere, at any time. Not only that, but updates to client files and information will be stored in real time. So, if one contractor makes a change in scheduling, every other contractor who logs in will see it immediately.

One traditional industry that is ahead of the game when it comes to adopting cloud technology is banking. Primarily, companies have been utilizing the technology as a method to reduce costs. Today, certain bank giants like Capital One consider themselves a cloud-first bank, with many more major institutions trying to jump on the bandwagon.

One common misconception about cloud technology is the perception of lack of security. The only issue with cloud-based technology was that people were afraid that it was less secure than an on-site server. That’s no longer as much of a concern security wise and many argue cloud-based software is even more secure. Even the banking industry, the most highly regulated industry with regard to cybersecurity issues, has embraced cloud technology as a secure platform.

For contractors, cloud-based technology and cybersecurity can and should go hand in hand, especially if you’re embracing single-sign-on (SSO). Paper and storing files just on a hard drive is dramatically less secure than cloud technology.

When it comes to embracing new technology to enhance security, the construction industry can look up to the banking industry in other ways than just the cloud. Financial companies now appear to be heavily investigating and investing in blockchain technology to increase security. While there are currently limited opportunities for the building industry to embrace the technology at this time, there’s a huge potential for the technology to tighten up on security for construction companies in the near future.  

Embrace the New Best Practices in Construction for a Brighter Future

As an industry, construction has been slow in adopting technological advancements. But that doesn’t mean that it’s without hope. On the contrary, take a look at all the other industries that managed to come out on top once they embraced and applied technology to their business models. Even in construction, just take a look at how individuals projects have managed to increase their collaboration and productivity only by implementing new software.

Growing at an exponential rate, there’s no bigger gamechanger than integrating the right technology. Nevertheless, to begin this change, it will take leadership from forward-facing firms. So become the new face of best practices in construction and start embracing tech today.

Grace Ellis

As a Content Marketing Manager at PlanGrid, Grace is the managing editor for the PlanGrid Construction Productivity Blog. With over eight years of experience in marketing, communications and PR for technology companies, she is specialized in high-quality content creation across both traditional and digital media platforms.

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