The Secret to Better Construction Data Collection

By katie simpson on March 14, 2014

Being a contractor or small construction business owner isn’t easy. All day you’re on site making great work. As the sun sets, you turn back to the office pouring over forms and numbers. When your eyes start blurring or the coffee runs out, you hit the sack for a few hours, only to do it again the next day.

As the owner or leader, long hours fall on your plate more than anyone else. But there’s a secret construction businesses are discovering. They’re finding a faster and more accurate way to collect data than with paper. A simple switch to mobile apps allows construction companies to collect time cards, inspections or purchase orders more quickly, and have more accurate data.

How Mobile Apps Work

Previously, all businesses collected their information on paper. Written by hand, they would then be carried back to the office. If the paper survived, someone would have to enter the information into the database. Delivery confirmations, product inventories, and equipment inspections all took hours if not days to be gathered and made available to the office. Knowing the status of a construction project’s financials would take longer as well.

Mobile apps make this process faster. All of these forms are filled out on a smartphone or tablet. Businesses can collect new forms of information such as photos, and scan barcodes for quick look up of equipment. With checkboxes, and drop down value lists, firms have found that mobile apps can cut down drastically on the time spent filling out this information.

Data Available in Real Time

Mobile apps provide data instantly. After each submission, the data goes immediately to the cloud. There the office can access it in multiple forms including a PDF or excel file. Construction companies with mobile apps enjoy information in real time on labor, product, and equipment.

Mobile apps also remove the need for data entry. With data in the cloud, it’s easy to integrate into a backend system such as Quickbooks or Salesforce. Every submission can be downloaded as a csv or xml file. By getting rid of data entry work, one small plumbing company was able to save $45,000 a year in labor costs.

Better Accuracy , More Transparency

Anticipating costs isn’t easy for businesses, especially in construction. Yet accurate estimates are crucial for long term success. But if you don’t have accurate data, how can you estimate your work properly?

Paper forms allow for errors making accurate estimates a struggle. Time cards can become fudged, messing up labor estimates. Numbers can be entered incorrectly either on paper or when re-entering the information into a database. Suddenly 100 pounds of cement turns into 700! Paper forms are also easy to lose, giving businesses blind spots in their work. Without accurate information, knowing the cost of a project becomes incredibly difficult.

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Worse, there are costs that businesses shouldn’t have to deal with. Weather events delaying construction, or worse, theft from work sites. Individual contractors lose as much as $18,500 a year in equipment theft. Collecting data on paper is no longer adequate for construction.

Construction companies enjoy more accurate information with mobile apps. Calculations can be done in the app, reducing human error. Clear text also removes any ambiguity that could arise from bad handwriting. Automatic time and date stamps allow businesses to calculate labor costs easily. You can ensure delivery confirmation with GPS location as well as photos with your submission. And with all information made available for integration, construction companies focus on using their collected data.

More accurate information allows construction companies to easily track their costs and plan ahead for the future. With real time access to information, if something goes missing businesses can deal with it that day, not hours or days later.

This simple switch for businesses means huge savings in both time and money. See how The Austin Company saved hundreds of hours with this simple switch.