Any business has its fair share of risks associated with its operations, but managing risk in construction is a whole different animal. This is largely because there are so many different variables at play for a construction company that requires proper management.
Failure to adequately assess, manage and mitigate risk, and you could place projects in jeopardy. But with a comprehensive construction risk management plan, there’s a high chance that you’ll grow and prosper with each project you complete.
Construction Risk Management: An Introduction
So just what types of risk need to be properly managed in the construction industry? Here’s a look:
- Financial: While money is a big part of any company, fluctuation in areas like material costs, market changes and cash flow play a significant role in the difference between profitability and bankruptcy. Not to mention that construction operates on low margins in general, meaning contractors need to be vigilant about monitoring financial risk constantly.
- Environmental: Though Mother Nature does pose a risk, we’re not just talking about the weather when it comes to environmental threats. There are also natural disasters, safety issues and other conditions that need to be accounted for and managed.
- Logistical: Completing projects on-time and on-budget is the goal, but not always the reality. Hence, scheduling issues, procurement issues and communication issues can all hamper a project team’s efficiency and effectiveness on the jobsite.
- Design: Design changes should be expected on any construction job, but improper management of such can be a considerable burden, possibly leading to extensive rework and extending timelines.
- Labor: Last but not least, labor-related issues are a big challenge in construction. The current shortage of skilled trades workers can lead to quality and productivity issues on work sites. Furthermore, in addition to hiring challenges, another common obstacle is labor disputes.
What’s one way to help manage all the variety of risk in construction? Technology.
According to Dodge and Data Report, ease of use and costs are the two top factors that influence a contractor’s decision about technology. Yet when it comes to construction risk management on proposals and work sites, sometimes you have to spend money to make money.
And consider that many of the benefits of technology far outweigh the cons of it—you need to make sure it’s the right type of tech that you’re administering for risk management. What’s more is that Dodge and Data Report says contractors overwhelming prefer the ability to collect and assess safety and risk data digitally, yet more than one-third of contractors currently still rely on conventional methods.
If you’re among this one-third still relying on outdated systems, it’s time to adopt the technology to streamline construction risk management and improve operations and profit in the process. Here’s a look at 10 tech tools that can help get you there:
1. Mobile Technology
If you’re not using mobile technology out in the field, there’s no better time than the present. That’s because mobile technology does more than streamline communication and collect data; it can significantly reduce risk—and it does this by making data more accessible to team leaders and project team members.
By using mobile technology, teams can access documents and other information that they need within seconds. They can also update any documents or other information on the go as they work. This, in turn, helps lead to better jobsite accuracy and better overall decision making on project sites. As a bonus, using mobile technology on the jobsite can even help reduce insurance premiums, and if this occurs, it’s a critical indicator that overall risk has been reduced. As a bonus, reducing insurance premiums will only go to benefit your bottom line and overall profitability, as one of your vital overhead costs is trimmed.
2. Cloud-Based Technology
Mobile technology is one thing, the cloud is another—and you can’t go mobile on project sites without also being in the cloud. Cloud-based technologies allow users to make changes on the fly in real-time, as documents and information are stored in one spot that all users have immediate access to.
Here’s a look at some of the benefits of cloud technology and how it can reduce risk on your work site:
- Visibility: The entire team, and not just one or two individuals, have access to plans and other documents. They can make and see updates occur as they happen.
- Security: It’s secure, so your documents are always protected.
- Accessibility: As long as you can connect to the server or get an Internet signal, the cloud is there for you. Cloud technology is ideal for project teams working in remote or hard-to-reach locations.
And finally, when it comes to construction risk management on project sites, the cloud is especially helpful because it permits easy documentation. Meaning potential construction disputes and even litigation can be avoided by simply ensuring that information is being documented properly.
3. BIM Models in the Field
Building Information Modeling (BIM) has already left its mark on the design of projects, but bringing BIM models to mobile devices is still largely a work in progress at many construction companies. Think about it this way: If BIM software isn’t easy to access in the field, then it can be difficult for teams to have the information they need to build correctly. The lack of this rich information can potentially lead to errors on the job, which can extend deadlines and blow up a budget.
Bringing BIM software to mobile devices can go a long way toward streamlining operations on the jobsite, eliminating rework and keeping projects on time and budget. Mobile-friendly BIM software, such as the PlanGrid BIM product, can help teams build more effectively and efficiently. It’s estimated that only about 40% of all contractors currently use BIM in the field. This number should be much higher to streamline efficiency and reduce risk.
4. Collaboration Tools to Manage Documentation and Communications
Don’t underestimate the power of good, transparent communication when it comes to risk management. We’d suggest investing in some good collaboration software in your company, as these tools allow teams to come together to connect on plans, information and workflow to reduce many labor risks. These tools also allow for increased visibility for stakeholders to improve accountability and, ultimately, productivity.
5. Task and Schedule Tracking
Getting behind schedule or off track is never ideal with any project, especially when you consider how it can open up companies to significant labor and financial issues. That’s why we strongly recommend investing in apps and software designed to aid collaboration and maintain tasks and project schedules. Not only does doing so help construction risk management, but it also helps teams make better decisions about how to carry out certain parts of the project, especially if they need help getting back on schedule. What’s more, is these tools also aid in improving accountability.
6. Automation Tools
Conventional manual data entry isn’t just time-consuming and tedious—it also leaves project teams open to significant risk from human error. It doesn’t matter how detail-oriented your staff is or how many times you cross your “t’s” and dot your “i’s,” mistakes are still bound to happen when data is entered in this manner. It’s why you should never rely on manual data entry, as just one seemingly minor mistake could lead to a slew of problems in the future.
The good news is there are a variety of quality construction tools to help automate operations and support data-driven jobs. Automation can also help improve workflow and lead to higher levels of efficiency and effectiveness.
7. IoT and Wearables
We’re sure you’ve heard the Internet of Things (IoT) before, but have you embraced it? The same goes for wearable technology and sensors. According to the Dodge and Data Report, nearly 75% of all construction workers think that IoT technologies, wearables and sensors can help improve occupational risks. So has your company invested in them yet? While there’s an upfront cost associated with these technologies, the savings you can experience has the potential to be significant.
For instance, wearables work to collect key data from the workers on a project site, relaying this essential information to team leaders to ensure proper protocol is being followed, and that workers are physically healthy on site. If any irregularity is detected, team leaders are immediately notified and can take prompt action to ensure a safe jobsite. Gilbane is an excellent case study on the value of this technology, which you can read more about here.
8. AI and Machine Learning
Can you predict the future of project risk? Being proactive—and not reactive—is a big part of construction risk management, and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can help identify jobsite risks that humans might not be able to assess. While the construction industry has yet to see the technological advances of many other industries, these advances are coming, and AI and machine learning are two that are certainly going to shape the future of the industry.
9. Subcontractor Prequalification
With the current shortage of trades workers and the variety of subcontractors able to help on a project, it can be a challenge to get the right workers on a jobsite. But it’s imperative that the right steps are followed so that only qualified workers are performing tasks on site. One thing you should absolutely be doing as it pertains to subcontractors is prequalifying them before hiring. This essentially means you’re “interviewing” them before bringing them on site, enabling you to weed out the unqualified. One great solution to help do this is TradeTapp, from BuildingConnected.
We probably don’t need to tell you this, but we will anyway: Taking the right steps to bring on the right subcontractors will lead to a better quality of work and a safer jobsite. Make sure you’re doing your homework in this area, or else it could cost you big time—in reputation, budget and schedule.
10. A Connected Tech Ecosystem
So you’re ready to begin the job, and all of your software tools are in place. This might sound like a weird question, but are your software tools talking to one another? Yes, talking to one another. Don’t silo your data on different platforms, as this can create more confusion than unison. That’s the big value of a program like PlanGrid Connect, as it can help you connect your data dots to ensure a more efficient and safe jobsite. PlanGrid Connect is explicitly designed to help project teams quickly access data, communicate with team members and automate daily tasks.
Get Proactive About Construction Risk Management
We strongly suggest you take a proactive approach to risk management, as the alternative has the potential to not just slow project progress, but cripple a construction company altogether. It’s why risk management shouldn’t be left as an afterthought but adequately managed with the right plan and tools. While some risk management technologies do come at an upfront cost, the long-term savings in insurance premiums, efficiency, worker’s compensation payout and stress is sure to make any investment in technology worth it in the long haul.