Tag Archive for 'construction'

Nonresidential Construction Spending Falls Modestly in May, Says ABC

National nonresidential construction spending declined 0.9% in May, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of data published today by the U.S. Census Bureau. On a seasonally adjusted annualized basis, spending totaled $812.5 billion for the month. Private nonresidential spending declined 2.4% in May and public nonresidential construction spending increased 1.2%. 

“Certain aspects of today’s data release are precisely what was anticipated, while other elements are rather surprising,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “For instance, the precipitous 5.3% decline in health care-related construction spending is hardly shocking, as many elective surgeries, dental appointments and wellness checkups were postponed, resulting in billions of dollars of losses among medical systems. In addition, many medical systems have experienced large-scale layoffs in an effort to preserve cash balances.

“Other segments negatively affected include lodging, manufacturing and power, which was expected,” said Basu. “A general lack of travel and occupancy has slowed hotel construction. A shrunken global economy and disrupted worldwide supply chains have pummeled industrial construction. And the energy sector has taken a hit from commodity prices that remain significantly lower than pre-crisis levels, truncating demand for new construction. 

“What is surprising is the overall stability of construction spending,” said Basu. “In May, nonresidential construction spending declined by less than 1%, which represents a level of stability not enjoyed by much of the balance of the economy. Spending in a number of categories, mostly public, was higher for the month, including highway/street, public safety, transportation and water supply. Moreover, certain construction segments may experience rapid recovery going forward, including health care, manufacturing and power. For now, construction spending data and ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator, which stood at 7.9 months in May, show that the industry has managed to remain a bulwark of relative stability in the face of ongoing pandemic-induced economic dislocations.”

Visit abc.org/economics for the Construction Backlog Indicator and Construction Confidence Index, plus analysis of spending, employment, GDP and the Producer Price Index.

Associated Builders and Contractors is a national construction industry trade association established in 1950 that represents more than 21,000 members. Founded on the merit shop philosophy, ABC and its 69 chapters help members develop people, win work and deliver that work safely, ethically and profitably for the betterment of the communities in which ABC and its members work. Visit us at abc.org  

How Technology is Advancing one of the Most Dangerous Jobs in America

By Stokes McIntyre, President of MindForge

Construction was recently listed in the top 10 most dangerous jobs in America by CNBC. So when it comes to day-to-day operations, what can construction managers do to ensure workers receive the information they need to produce quality work and stay safe on the job? One company, MindForge, is doing just that. Its platform is designed to unite construction organizations, simplify workforce communication and maximize performance quality with tools that keep job sites safe, efficient, and connected. By studying behavioral, motivational and systematic issues related to serious injuries and fatalities on construction jobs, MindForge has developed a mobile-based communication platform that supports safety, quality, and productivity. Its browser-based technology platform communicates with desktop, web, and mobile devices in order to bridge the disconnect between the home office and front-line workforce, equipping workers with the knowledge, skills, and information that empower them to avoid hazards and do great work.

Engaging Training

In order to take command of construction projects and reach the next level in safety and quality, it’s critical to engage the front-line workforce. Firms must deploy engaging training that makes a lasting impact and deliver information in ways that workers will respond positively to. MindForge provides a framework, inspired by the OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act), that workers can apply when facing an unusual situation or uncommon issues. MindForge specifically targets relevant hazards a worker will encounter while they perform tasks on a job.

Firms should also consider the importance of timing. If you learn something that you can’t put into practice right away, it may be difficult to recall that information when you finally need to use it. MindForge places training within the context of the job site, which helps the material come alive and allows workers to see the direct application of that material. The digital platform also allows for “just-in-time” content, delivered either close to when the workers will perform related tasks or as a refresher right after a worker has experienced the task.

In order to deliver the most value to construction professionals, MindForge has created training modules that are succinct and specific. Breaking training down into smaller pieces makes it easier for workers and teams to select courses that apply to their work each day. With short, direct lessons, you give workers the opportunity to digest information quickly so that important material isn’t lost within hours of training that is delivered all at once.

Immersive Experiences

One of the best tactics to ensure your training is effective is to make it as experiential as possible. You should place workers in controlled situations they might eventually face, doing the tasks expected of them while facing potential job hazards they could see on the job. Using specific job site videos or 3-D simulations can help you create these immersive experiences without putting anyone in danger. For example, the MindForge platform offers a 3-D simulation of a scissor lift safety “hazard hunt” which tests the workers by having them identify all of the potential hazards on a job site, such as tilt, unsafe conditions and proximity to power lines, and how to mitigate those risks. Rather than using a slideshow, MindForge trains using immersive experiences, like having the workforce identify the proper fire extinguisher based on the type of simulated fire. This technique allows workers to actively engage while learning necessary techniques like P.A.S.S. (Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep).

Moreover, offering a variety of training styles gives workers the opportunity to learn however they learn best. Similarly, offering the same material in different ways can make repeated instruction more interesting and help the material reach trainees in new ways each time. Our material is offered in the form of relevant stories that resonate: practical, real-life scenarios. For example, the Construction LifeSaver (CLS) is MindForge’s series of digital training, delivered via the CLS desktop or mobile application. CLS courses focus on interactive, hazard-based training that highlights the tasks, exposures, and scenarios workers encounter in their day-to-day jobs on a construction site.

Key Communication

Perhaps the biggest benefit of the MindForge platform is the establishment of a solid line of communication to the front line that allows project leaders to efficiently send timely information and training to the workforce. The comprehensive communication hub simplifies the communication process and allows for consistent messaging and expectations for everyone involved in the project. The fact is when it comes to safety and quality, everyone needs to be on the same page from top to bottom.

Further, investing in tools to help support safety initiatives shows that a business cares about its workers, enforcing a stronger safety culture within the company. This can improve your recruiting ability, as well as your bottom line.

MindForge facilitates the management of this highly fluid workforce, and is designed to integrate the entire organization from the home office to the front line by capturing and storing records for orientation, training, certifications, equipment inspections, toolbox talks and more, indefinitely. One function of the platform allows you to quickly deploy important announcements, messages and alerts to the entire workforce with the push of a button while another function manages employee profiles and teams. Quality, speed, and safety all increase when workers get to do the things they are confident in doing. Having a system to track workers’ skills and preferred tasks goes a long way in making sure everyone is operating at their highest level. It can be difficult to engage construction workers due to localized environments with constant deadlines. Content that is engaging, relevant and enjoyable helps make construction projects more efficient, profitable and ultimately safe.

MindForge offers a new and safer way to work. The holistic communication and training hub helps protect a company’s bottom line through various efficiencies and improvements across quality, culture and time and ultimately, saves lives. As we look ahead, we recognize the potential of technology to significantly decrease the rate of serious injuries and fatalities within the industry while making construction projects more efficient and profitable, benefiting the industry as a whole.

This material appeared in the June 2020 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor, Western Builder

Cloud-Based Employee Time Tracking

Scalable Solutions That Build the Bottom Line

By Sarah Broome

There’s no doubt that technology has increased project management efficiency and safety in the construction industry. Case in point: construction worker illnesses and injuries went from 10.9 incidents (in 1972) to 2.8 incidents (in 2017) per 100 people, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But, there are some things technology hasn’t improved in this field. 

Take productivity, for example. Other industries have seen dramatic increases in productivity thanks to technology, but productivity in construction has remained flat for decades. This isn’t because construction is already as efficient as it can be; it’s rather the result of a lack of proper data collection and usage. The Dodge Smart Market Report detailed how improving data collection affects the contractor that receives the information. The top three outcomes were: increased ability to complete projects at budget or under budget, greater productivity, and greater profitability.

Construction has been slow to adopt cloud computing and is missing out on the productivity that comes with it. Even if the industry sees the value in having more information that is also more accurate, there are many misunderstandings and misconceptions about this tech that need to be addressed before widespread adoption will occur. So let’s zero in on how project managers and contractors can increase their productivity by using real-time cloud-based software that tracks time, production, and job costs.  

Misconceptions of Cloud-Based Software Costs 

In the past, changing from one on-premise technology system to another was very expensive and labor-intensive. Known as legacy systems, older technology required complicated and expensive physical equipment. Most legacy systems use a paper or spreadsheet-based time tracking system that requires human input and confirmation. Legacy systems are an all or nothing implementation that could take months, cloud-based systems take days. Those familiar with the older systems may assume that cloud-based software carries with it the same issues and costs, it doesn’t. So, let’s discuss the cost-based misconceptions about cloud-based software:

Devices

Any tracking or time management software based in the cloud can run on any smart device like a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Given that 99 percent of people between the ages of 18 to 49 own a cellphone, 96 percent of which are smartphones, access to the software is everywhere. This extensive ownership of personal smart devices and the ability to run cloud-based software on existing computers and tablets eliminates the requirement to purchase any type of hardware for those out in the field.

Initial and Ongoing Costs

It is a misconception that cloud-based software has high initial and ongoing costs. The reality is that cloud computing is a cost-cutting measure. Not only does the cloud remove the waste of unused software licenses, thereby cutting 7.4 million dollars worth of waste for a business, but it also cuts down on the opportunity cost of all employees’ time. As an example, implementing a cloud-based time tracking software will eliminate up to 50 percent of the time and cost associated with payroll management. Additionally, the Dodge Smart Market Report found that 43 percent of contractors were able to cut costs by switching from an on-premise legacy system to a cloud-based system.

Labor is always a top cost for projects, and it becomes even more significant for specialty contractors. Late arrivals, long lunches and early departures cost the company time and money. Place those costs on top of the cost of running paper timesheets or spreadsheets and the costs add up fast. 

The American Payroll Association (APA) found that going from a spreadsheet or paper-based time card to a real-time capture time tracking software eliminates up to 8 percent of the total cost of payroll. The average weekly loss of time is four hours and five minutes per employee, per week. For every 10 employees making $20 per hour, this equals a loss of $816 per week.

Requires a Full System Overhaul

Switching from one legacy system to another typically required an entire overhaul of all of the hardware and software within a company. This demanded a large financial and time investment from the company and its staff. Even with all of the right planning, an overhaul can lead to software outages that can cost the business $8,600 an hour in revenues. 

Cloud-based software can be implemented and scaled very easily. A typical cloud-based implementation takes less than a week, compared to the months it takes for a legacy system. A perfect starting point is to implement time tracking software that can capture real-time data. On top of saving the company payroll expenses and time, the system can be implemented on the right scale for the business. It can start small with just a single group and work its way up to the entire workforce if needed. In the cloud, a company has the flexibility to pick how many users it has at any time, whether seasonal, project-based, etc. 

Misconceptions of Cloud Functionality and Use

On top of misconceptions about how much a cloud application will cost are the misconceptions of how functional a cloud application will be. There are three common misconceptions about cloud-based applications that stop companies from implementing the upgrades they should.

Difficult to Integrate with Current Systems

Legacy systems were built to function on their own with limited interactions with outside software. The opposite is true for cloud-based programs. The cloud assumes that your software will be talking to – and exchanging data with – other pieces of software. In fact, the Dodge Smart Market Report found that 71 percent of contractors use the cloud to access job site data from the office and 70 percent access data from the office while on the job site. Overall 61 percent of contractors found that being able to input and access data from anywhere on any device was practical and useful. While it used to take time and programming to attach data from one application to another, sometimes causing even more downtime, cloud-based programs are built to integrate and work with other programs and software packages seamlessly. 

Instead of having to manually fix data to and from an ERP system into any ancillary software in a legacy system, cloud-based software is integrated with the ERP system and will update itself to continue to match the ERP. That level of integration means no downtime for the systems to communicate with one another. The cloud-based software matches the ERP and is easily lined up to communicate more useful information such as current cost or project progress. Even if this seems overwhelming, it’s not because the best-in-class cloud software for time tracking will show employees only the relevant projects and tasks/cost codes from the ERP specific to that employee. 

Cloud-Based Software Requires a Continual Internet Connection to Work

Many cloud-based software systems require an internet connection, but that doesn’t hold true for all employee time tracking solutions. The app on a smartphone, tablet or computer can continue to gather and store data while out in the field where an internet connection or cell service isn’t possible. The data is still collected in real-time and will store the information locally on the device until the device regains an internet connection. Once a connection is re-established, the stored data can be immediately shared with the cloud based system. Cloud-based software with an off-line capable mobile app to collect data, will allow the business to function as intended no matter the quality of data connection at the work location.

Employees Aren’t Technically Skilled Enough

Switching to a new piece of software can lead to the fear that employees won’t be able to use it due to lacking technical skills. There’s also a fear that unskilled employees may cause the software to fail by improper use. But, the reality is that new time tracking software is as easy to use as a banking app. The average smartphone user has 2.5 mobile banking apps installed on their phone, according to Bankrate. With 96 percent of those 50 and younger having a smartphone, each employee has the skill set already to log in and use time tracking software. 

In fact, time tracking software is easier to use and handle than any paper version. The software will not allow a crew member to inaccurately clock in or choose from the wrong site or project list if you have robust permission profiles set up that mirror the project cost structure from your ERP. A cloud-based timekeeping system can be flexible and can allow a mixture of real-time tracking by employee or crew clock in and out by their supervisor.

The cloud is the present – and future – of technology. By adopting cloud-based software, the construction industry can transform how worksites and crews are managed. Now is the perfect time to up your competitive edge by investing into time tracking software that can be scaled at the right speed for the company. If done correctly, along with many other benefits, it can bring significant relief and add substantial new revenue to any company’s bottom line.

This material appeared in the June 2020 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor, Western Builder

ADEACA: Why Productivity in Construction is Flatlining

By Daniel Bévort

Let’s face facts, the construction industry does not do well when it comes to completing projects on time and within budget. Approximately 98 percent of megaprojects suffer cost overruns of more than 30 percent and 77 percent are at least 40 percent late, according to a McKinsey & Company report. 

Unfortunately, construction companies that fail to identify as a project business (a company that provides products and services for their customers through projects) can face many problems that impact business performance, productivity, and profitability.

However, if you take a step back, look at the fundamentals and recognize your business as a Project Business, you can start to see: 

  • Why your business isn’t running as well as it could
  • Where the problems are
  • What you need to do to solve them

By structuring your project business processes, you will be able to analyze what systems need to change and what solutions are possible. 

Business management

Why are Construction Companies Not Optimized for Success?

Why do construction companies suffer from low productivity? Compared to other industries where productivity has steadily increased, productivity in the construction sector has remained stagnant and even declined. 

One of the main reasons stems from poor project management and the lack of technological innovation. The inability to utilize technology to improve processes and information flow is a major reason why construction companies lag in productivity and are often faced with budget overruns and project delays. 

Poor Organization

Construction companies tend to have separate systems and databases for each stage of their projects. This disjointed structure not only causes delays, but also hinders insight. In addition, most construction businesses lack standardization and integration. Processes aren’t uniform, and they often rely on individuals who take extreme liberties with them. As a result, it’s difficult to control the business functions and create standard metrics to measure performance.

Insufficient management

Inadequate Communication

When managing projects, establishing the right communication strategies ensures that all stakeholders are on the same page. It’s important to create the right sequence of processes and proper networks across the organization so everyone who needs to be informed has access to the data at any point during a project’s life cycle. Inconsistences in reporting mean that stakeholders don’t have a common understanding of how the project is doing in real time. 

Flawed Performance Management

Oftentimes, construction companies run their business units and projects as independent entities, without consistent project management. This leads to the “silo effect.” Project Businesses that don’t standardize their operations and project reporting across the company aren’t able to manage their risks as well as they could. In addition, they cannot apply the best practices discovered from one project to the next. Let’s face it, if you can’t measure performance, you can’t improve it. The key to operational excellence is scalable and predictable business processes. 

Project business structure

Missed Connections 

There are different levels of planning, from high-end preparation to day-by-day programs. Schedulers need to know if the daily work isn’t done so they can update the priorities in real time. However, they often don’t have this information. Today’s real-time economy demands visibility into what’s going on inside your company. Failure to integrate all project functions into one system leads to organizational inefficiencies, delays, budget overruns, and poor performance. 

Poor Short-Term Planning

Project businesses are good at understanding what needs to happen in the coming two to three months, but they aren’t so good at figuring out what must happen in the next week or two. 

Insufficient Risk Management

Although project businesses pay considerable attention to long-term risks, they tend not to give the same attention to the kinds of risks that might crop up on the job. In order to manage milestones and deadlines to ensure the successful delivery of projects, it’s important to be aware early on when project plans slide. A lack of real-time insight into your operations will result in increased risk and ultimately, decreased profitability.

Insufficient project business management

The Way Forward

When you recognize that the bulk of what you do is projects and you are a project business first and foremost, you develop a new way of thinking and the ability to recognize new solutions. Project businesses need to operate with similar transparency and control as traditional industries. As projects get bigger in size and complexity, it’s critical to implement a project business structure that improves the chances of success of those projects. 

For more information: http://www.adeaca.com/ http://www.adeaca.com/

Watch case study: https://youtu.be/SVrHoqePjeI

This material appeared in the June 2020 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor, Western Builder

Be Safe — On-the-Job Safety is More Important Than Ever

By Andrew Wilson

As construction workers, we have essential jobs that help keep businesses running and homes safe enough to live in for people. As we get up and ready for work every day, we’re taking risks, and due to that we should be very careful and take as many safety precautions as we can. With that in mind, here are a few tips that construction workers should follow in order to stay safe when doing their job. 

Follow Social Distancing Rules as Much as You Can

Social distancing is one of the key ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While it’s understandable that some construction workers may have an easier time doing this than others, it’s important to be doing as much as we can. One way that employers can help with this in industries where social distancing is difficult like drywall or painting is simply reducing the number of employees at each job. As a home improvement contractor, who runs ContractorAdvisorly.com, what I’ve been doing is reducing the number of employees at job sites by at least 25% even if that means the job takes longer than usual. 

Job site safety is critical. Always be aware of others in your immediate vicinity.

Research COVID-19 Symptoms 

It’s important to stay informed of the symptoms that COVID-19 causes. This can help you decide when you’re showing symptoms and need to stay home, or when you notice that somebody else close to you is showing symptoms. Staying up to date with the latest news and best practices can help you figure out if you’re being as safe as you can at your job. The CDC has a great resource here to stay up to date and learn more about the virus. 

Wear Safety Equipment 

Due to the dangerous environments that some of us work in, safety equipment is something that some of us already use. However, this sometimes leads us to forget just how important it really is and take it for granted sometimes. Remember that apart from wearing gloves and masks to keep us safe during the pandemic, we shouldn’t forget the equipment like safety glasses and vests that keeps us safe while doing our jobs. Which then leads us to our next point. 

Some situations are more hazardous than others. Take every precaution possible to be safe.

Remember the Basics

Sometimes when trying to follow new rules, it’s easy to forget the old rules that have always been there. You should remember to continue doing the same thing you should have been doing before this whole thing even got started. This means avoiding touching your eyes or mouth when you haven’t washed your hands, especially those of us who work in environments with a lot of dust around. Always covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze. Washing your hands with soap often.  

Avoid Sharing Tools 

Every worker should have their own set of tools that only they use. While this isn’t always possible, then you should at least be wiping down the tools with alcohol wipes after each use. COVID-19 is easily transmittable, hence you should be careful with who you are sharing the tools with and be on the lookout for symptoms to keep you and your coworkers safe.  

One other thing that should be noted is that workers with medical conditions should be taking even more precautions and be making serious considerations about their current work status. As the CDC has explained, people with previous medical conditions are at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. While this pandemic is going on, we must be on full alert and continue taking safety precautions in order to keep ourselves and our families safe. I hope these tips help you stay safe while doing your job. 

Andrew Wilson has been working as a home improvement contractor in the Chicago area for over 5+ years. He has experience doing kitchen, bathroom, and home remodeling and all types of home repairs. 

You can reach out to him or learn more about him on his blog ContractorAdvisorly.com

This material appeared in the June 2020 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor, Western Builder