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Technology in the Construction Industry: Out of the Office and Back in the Field

Technology in the Construction Industry: Out of the Office and Back in the Field

The construction industry is synonymous with work boots, hard hats, and tools. It’s men and women working together on jobsites, building buildings and bringing communities to life. At least that’s what most people picture. Reality is it used to be people gathering in conference rooms looking at plans, sitting around a table solving a curve ball, worrying about contractors having the right version of blueprints, and waiting to connect with people for answers.

The new reality is that technology has changed the construction industry. Technology is not always associated with construction, but it has made a huge difference. Not that long ago things used to be very different.

In the 1990s, the internet was just getting started, few people had email, and a small percentage had mobile phones. Fax machines and voicemail were the height of technological connectivity. Computers were just finding a place in offices and homes. There was a lot of patience needed and reams of paper to get things done.

Now almost everyone has a smartphone, email, clouds to store information, tablets, and software that can track projects, manage jobs, and automate the most complex processes. More is done in a shorter amount of time, with great accuracy, minimal paper, and immediate results are expected.

So, what’s the impact of technology in today’s construction industry? We asked some of the LandSouth experts: Dana Webb, Vice President of Finance, Josiah Jackson, Business Intelligence Analyst, and Ron Seagraves, Superintendent. The three of them shared the changes they’ve seen during their careers, the difference technology makes, the benefits it provides, and even a few of the pitfalls.

The biggest benefits and changes have been speed, efficiency, accuracy, and connectivity. Prior to the current technological advances, people had to leave the job site to come to the office, fax documents, make countless landline phone calls, and leave messages. People had to rely on the mail to communicate correspondence and send and receive checks. Dana shared stories of the old LandSouth walkie-talkies on Nextels – used to keep people on the job sites connected with the office.

Today connecting with people is simple and efficient – whether it be co-workers, contractors, developers, or clients there are multiple ways to communicate. From a text to an email or using some of Josiah’s favorite platforms like Microsoft Teams, Asana, or Procore, people can share information, upload latest plans and documents, and completely track deadlines and progress anywhere from a parked truck in a parking lot or on a job site. The result is quicker problem-solving, more collaboration, and transparency to move goals forward.

Speed and accuracy are also great benefits of technology. Someone can make a change to a project’s plans or schedule and the rest of the team, no matter where they are located will immediately have the correct information. Ron shared how quickly blueprints, designs, and documents are now approved. Everything is shared electronically, and questions are answered in real-time.

Dana gave an example of technology and efficiency. She talked about financial audits of the past and how everything was paper driven. Internal auditors would arrive at the office and browse through paper files for a week at a time, making copies of documents they needed. Today they show up for field work mainly to ask questions after they have already received the documents and information electronically ahead of time.  The audit process has been completely transformed.

The changes in technology also impact the people and skills needed to do the jobs. Technical skills, aptitude, and experience are more important than ever. When the right people with the right skills are hired, LandSouth can utilize their experience and expertise immediately. Onboarding can be done in advance, on a computer and in a much shorter timeframe.

Naturally, there are pitfalls and risks with technology. Things break or don’t always work. When a system or program crashes, everything comes to a halt, and no one gets anything done. There is occasionally too much reliance on technology. People still need to know how to do things the old-fashioned way and realize technology can’t be the solution for everything.

Still, the benefits greatly outweigh the pitfalls. But what is the main benefit? Is there something that all this speed, accuracy, efficiency, and connectivity delivers that’s greater than any single benefit?

Ron summed it up, “Technology brings us together, so we can get out of the office and back in the field.”