Contractors embrace technological lifesavers during recession, and cling to them after


By Amy Bourne
Marketing Copywriter, ExakTime

It’s no secret that the construction industry went through some tough times at the end of the last decade and the beginning of this one. With the real estate bust, new construction slowed to a trickle and, during the downturn, contractors were forced to slash their workforces to the tune of 30%, according to FMI, a construction industry research and investment firm. Projects became much more competitive, and keeping a close eye on the bottom line more critical than ever.

Luckily for those who were flexible and open to adapting new technology, the economic collapse of 2008 and the ensuing years-long downturn was impetus to take advantage of a more positive development: the rise of technological aids for fields like engineering and construction.

The still-shaky courtship between technology and construction became much stronger in the new millennium. Obviously, some degree of technology has always gone into the hardware tools and equipment used in construction. But, during the first decade of this millennium, software was invented or augmented to more adeptly help contractors map out their projects, as well as to handle meat-and-potatoes tasks such as tracking workers’ time more efficiently and accurately than ever.

Contracting tasks that have been aided by new or more robust software options include, but are not limited to, estimating, bidding, and budgeting; 3D building information modeling (BIM); employee tracking with GPS and biometrics; equipment and cost code tracking; and telematics-enabled or fuel-conserving equipment software.

Along with tablets themselves, which have become a must-have at any construction site, mobile apps for smartphones and tablets have exploded onto the jobsite scene over the last seven years as the new kid on the technological construction block.  

Now, contractors -- and anyone else who has a vested interest in a project -- can use apps that run on tablets, as well as remote data storage, to collaborate as work progresses on blueprints, contracts, schematics, and other vital documents in the BIM process in real time. Simple things are also accessible through apps, such as watching video from jobsite cameras, making home improvement calculations or unit conversions on the fly, creating and using your own mobile forms for field service management, and much more.

Nearly anything that can be done on a personal computer can also be done on a tablet or smartphone on the jobsite—and sometimes more.

For this reason, mobile apps have quickly become the loudest (and smartest) kid in the room when it comes to remote labor tracking and workforce management. This means mobile, digital “time clocks” that can collect time and cost code job records with razor sharp accuracy and deliver them to the office in an instant, plus do a whole lot more.

These technologies enabled flexible and pragmatic contractors to stay afloat during a topsy-turvy decade, whether they were among those who had to lay off one-third of their workforce or simply needed to tighten their purse strings and count every minute and penny.

Remote management apps that are developed by companies with intimate knowledge of the challenges of the construction industry—who expand their product base strategically to address those pain points -- sold exceptionally well during the economic slump. The new technology they offered was a huge boon to contractors trying to trim costs during tighter times and stay afloat.

Most contractors will tell you that labor is their biggest expense. And anyone with a realistic outlook knows that employees tend to hour-round, or bump their time up by a few minutes every day. This may seem innocent, but when you look at it, a few minutes per employee per day adds up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars every pay period, and tens of thousands every year (and that’s not even taking into account those one or two less-honest employees who may round up a couple of hours every week). Using apps to track their employees’ time more accurately helped lots of contractors in lean times keep that expense in check.

Digital time tracking that also eliminates buddy punching with some type of biometrics system can save employers more money. Another plus is that employers can now have the peace of mind that they’re getting what they pay for in terms of a hard-working workforce who will be there and do their best to keep the business performing at top capacity -- no matter how generous or unforgiving the current market.

Between accurate hour tracking that eliminates buddy punching and digital time records that integrate with their payroll program, contractors can save thousands of dollars every pay period.

Even as the construction industry returned from the abyss, contractors who had adopted digital time and labor tracking methods to stay in the black when they had no choice found that they were much happier with mobile app workforce management.

They saw correctly that digital time tracking and mobile app workforce management were the wave of the future. They also saw the value in being able track workers’ hours, locations, and cost codes accurately from a remote site, not only saving money but also helping to keep projects within their predetermined budget and giving the ability to make better estimates in the future.

Now, as the construction industry comes bounding back, companies that embraced new technologies during the lean times are sticking to their newly-established practices after seeing what those new systems can do to improve their business.

Building back up from a tight spot teaches you that keeping your records straight and thorough and your management sound is simply a better way to run a company—better for both the owner and his employees. Everyone knows what is expected of them, work is done correctly in an efficient manner, and both contractors and workers are satisfied...which inevitably leads to happier customers and more business.

ExakTime is construction’s #1 mobile time tracking system. For over 15 years we have been developing mobile workforce management solutions that help contractors get control of workers and payroll. Our mobile app delivers time tracking with GPS and biometric accuracy plus workforce management features that let you get signoff in the field and oversee your whole team or multiple job sites in real time. We also offer rugged time tracking solutions that are at home in the harshest environments.

Tags: More, Construction Management

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