The Importance of Digitization For Improving Efficiency In Construction

February 11, 2020

Construction in the U.S. is expanding due to a growing population requiring more infrastructure. The complexity of these jobs is also growing, which is putting pressure on construction companies to adopt new technologies to keep pace—like IoT fleet management platforms, GPS asset trackers, and AI dash cams.

But old habits are hard to break and many construction companies struggle to adopt the latest technologies and advancements. To this day, construction companies can be hard-pressed to give up paper for tracking and managing their projects, machines, and workers—but why the hesitation towards digitization and what are the benefits of adopting new technologies?

Why is digitization difficult for construction companies?

Construction projects are often highly intricate, requiring multiple tools, teams, and layers of subcontractors to complete. Therefore, construction companies are often hesitant to shift from Excel spreadsheets and manual tracking out of concern that change may disrupt a system that has worked for the last 40 to 50 years. 

Even when construction companies have tried to adopt new technologies, they’re sometimes overwhelmed by choice or may struggle to integrate these technologies into existing business processes. Digitization for these companies isn’t as simple as just picking the newest, shiniest IoT platform, sensor, or AI-powered camera. To successfully digitize, construction companies should first focus on the problem they want to solve or benefit they want to achieve through available technologies. Once they’ve identified their goals, only then should they search for solutions. 



Why is it worth digitizing?

Embracing technology can help construction companies improve their bottom line and efficiency, while increasing the safety of their fleet. Hardware devices like Samsara’s J1939 cable and asset gateway bundle provide diagnostic and usage data for all your heavy equipment. This makes it easy to schedule maintenance to avoid major breakdowns that can leave equipment unable to work and generate revenue for your business. You can also gain insights into how often your equipment is being utilized on job sites. You can use this information to not only accurately bill customers based on equipment usage but can also use these insights to right size your fleet and schedule equipment rentals. 

Ghilotti Bros., Inc. leverages Samsara to ensure that the right piece of equipment is always on the right job site so they can achieve maximum utilization for every machine. “We have a lot of vehicles and equipment spread out across multiple job sites,” said Service Manager, Victor Miral. “If my generator or backhoe isn’t where it’s supposed to be and I need to find it, it only takes two clicks for me to track my machines down.”

When it comes to safety, OSHA shouldn’t be your only focus—what about the safety of your workers as they travel to and from job sites? With technologies that plug into your trucks, like Vehicle Gateways (VGs), you can further improve safety for your workers. VGs capture safety-related data like harsh braking, accelerating, and turning and automatically notify you when these events have been detected. If you also incorporate dash cams into your vehicles, you’ll be sent video footage of your drivers any time a safety event is detected.

With this footage you can build out coaching programs to train drivers on safer driving practices and exonerate drivers from not-at-fault accidents, which can reduce insurance premiums and decrease the need for accident payouts. By improving worker safety on the road as well, your workers are more likely to stick with your company because they feel safe and protected on the job and on the road.

How should construction companies start digitizing?

Construction companies tend to have similar overarching goals for the businesses: they want to improve the safety, efficiency, and profitability of their business. But how each company achieves those goals is slightly different, so when determining the best path towards digitization construction companies first need to define their goals. Understanding your initial goals will serve as a guidepost as you begin investing in technology.

Another essential consideration is a simple, intuitive interface and modular design. If a technology is overly complicated or the software is clunky and not user friendly, your workers are less likely to adopt these changes and use these tools. A modular design also means you can start small by integrating technology into strategic pieces of your business, one by one.

For example, with a construction fleet management platform like Samsara, you can first install our J1939 cables on a handful of your heavy machines. With those few machines, you can test out the different features and insights we provide. Once your team is on-boarded and comfortable with the technology, you can expand the installation of our cable to all your machines. After proving value with this investment, you can expand your digitization efforts, leveraging our hardware throughout your entire fleet—like installing dash cams and VGs in your vehicles.

The second thing you should look for is that the technology is a comprehensive platform offering a variety of integrated solutions that can grow and expand with your business—like our complete construction fleet management platform.  By adopting technologies that can adapt alongside your company, you can start small to avoid feeling overwhelmed and can add on new features at your own pace. Plus, having a comprehensive solution saves on the cost of needing to buy single point solutions in the future. 



What are the results of digitization for construction companies? 

By adopting comprehensive technologies that allow you to start small and grow at your own comfortable pace, you can unlock a variety of benefits. As you get comfortable with your unified platform and unlock more and more features, some of the results you can expect to see are: 

  1. One unified view into your operations: Managing assets can be challenging when you have a large workforce operating lots of machines across multiple job sites. If you rent or lease a portion of your fleet, tracking and allocating assets is even more difficult. Excel spreadsheets and office whiteboards can’t give you the insights you need to allocate your assets for maximum productivity and profit. With a fleet management platform that tracks real-time GPS and engine data, you can easily see which machines are working which jobs and create leased asset schedules. This ensures you’ll never underutilize assets or accidentally double book machines you need, which can lead to disappointed customers and lost revenue. 

  2. Improved worker safety: One in five workplace fatalities in the nation are construction-related. With lots of laborers working alongside heavy, moving machinery it’s common to see slips, falls, and even crashes on job sites. And not understanding where equipment is on job sites can lead to lengthy, unplanned yard hunts, which can further increase worker’s risk for injury. Fleet management solutions, like Samsara, provide real-time visibility into the location of your equipment. Features like Samsara’s Geofences and Time on Site Report let you see how long equipment has been at a job and receive notifications when machines arrive or leave the site. This allows you to eliminate the need for workers wandering around jobs looking for misplaced equipment, helping to reduce safety risks while always knowing where your assets are. 

  3. Increased productivity and profits: Wasted time and inefficiency heavily impacts the bottom line of many construction companies. If machines and workers aren’t being properly utilized, it’s difficult to complete projects on time and within budget. Construction companies that embrace digitization see 15% greater productivity than those who stick with traditional, manual processes for tracking and managing jobs and equipment. Adopting a fleet management solution that can automatically track equipment utilization can help ensure you’re getting the most use and revenue out of your machines. For example, Samsara’s Utilization Report can tell you which assets are used most often, what sites they’ve been on, and the exact amount of time each asset has been used. With these insights, you can make informed decisions on how to better allocate equipment to complete jobs on time and within budget. You can increase your productivity which can allow you to take on more jobs and grow revenue. 

  4. A new generation of workers: The ongoing construction labor shortage is largely due to the retirement of older workers. Construction companies are finding it challenging to replace their retiring workers with new, young skilled laborers. Millennials aren’t rushing into construction in part because they don’t view the industry as modern and tech-savvy. Embracing digitization and adopting new technologies can help you attract younger workers. And because millennials have grown up with technology, they’re likely to be champions of digitization at your company and can help roll out successful tech implementations. You can learn about more ways to combat the construction labor shortage here. 

Increase the efficiency of your operations with Samsara 

Embracing digital tools and technologies is important for construction companies to retain the speed and efficiency of their operations in an increasingly tech-driven age. By adopting new, innovative technologies construction companies can gain a unified view into their operations, attract new workers, improve safety, and increase profitability and productivity.  

To learn more about how Samsara’s construction fleet management platform can help you remain safe, efficient, and profitable, reach out for a free trial today.

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