User Spotlight: Mark Higgason - Encompass AV

MarielleroundMarielle Price
Director of Customer Success

There’s nothing we enjoy more at Fieldwire than getting a chance to talk to the people that use our product. That’s why we’re particularly excited to launch this special series dedicated to highlighting the amazing companies we support and the incredible projects they work on every day.

Today we’re sharing our conversation with Mark Higgason from Encompass AV, a commercial Audio/Visual installer located in the Greater Chicago Area. They currently have 15 employees working on 45 active projects. Mark has been in the industry since 1999 (or as he says, almost his entire adult life), and is the VP of operations. We’ve also heard, but not confirmed, that he can mix vinyl like the best of them.

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Mark, what does your day-to-day look like?

On any given day, we have up to 4-5 jobs running simultaneously with up to 12 people. Because we’re running so many jobs with different locations, it would be impossible to keep track of everything without the help of Fieldwire.

If you had to pick 2-3 projects that were your favorites, which would those be?

First, the latest Hyatt Place at O’Hare Airport. We handled all the low voltage needs. Every room, every system. And it was a snap to keep it organized with the tech at our disposal. The Chicago White Sox are a favorite, as I'm a fan and South Side resident. And of course the University of Chicago Harris School. It's the same building as the bulletin of the atomic scientists, which makes me nerd happy. It's an honor to work for one of the greatest schools in the country.

What’s your favorite part of working in this industry? What motivates you?

Taking the technological wave is one of the coolest things about my industry. I’ve been in it for 17 years now and I’ve seen it shift from basically musicians running the show to information technology people. It’s a great space to be in, but someday I’m sure I’ll be scared of it.

This is a great segue into talking about technology. How do you see technology changing your industry?

It’s hard to think of an area where it won’t change. Digital technology for our industry is still in it’s infancy, and as more systems become digital, the potential and applications are going to change considerably in the future.

What would you say are some of the challenges people in your industry have when embracing technology?

They’re used to less-than-great software and they think it’ll be complicated to train people on the platform. PC-based software is extremely complex and people don’t get how easy it is to just upload a pdf and start using solutions like Fieldwire. It’s great for my workers. When they finish a job, they take a picture and there’s a timestamp, so there’s no arguing. Sometimes when we work out-of-state, by the time we come back there’s walls and we can cover our backs because we have the proof with a timestamp.

Aside from Fieldwire, what are some of the technologies that you use in your line of work?

  • Waze is huge, we’re in Chicago and any minutes we can save from the commute is money in our pockets. Running 12 guys and saving 10 minutes out of their commutes every day x 5, it adds up pretty quick.

  • Google Sheets we use to keep track of our tools. When anyone moves a tool, they mark the new location on the tracker so it’s essential to keep track of 40+ ladders and specialized tools.

  • We use My Time Station as well, if you’re not familiar it’s a mobile punch card that GPS stamps you when you punch in and out.

Are there any technologies that are coming out that you’re excited to see in the next few years?

Big Data, we use Upserve and it takes all data from your point of sales and incorporates it with Google data, like weather. It then gives you contextual insights about your business, for example at 4PM your enchiladas sell great. Big Data for smaller businesses is something that I’m excited to see more widely adopted.

Last question, how would you pitch Fieldwire to someone in your industry?

Fieldwire takes the chaos out of construction, I’ve never had a more manageable view. I can only imagine how good this would be for a GC managing a bunch of trades in the field.


Product Spotlight: UAV Drones in Construction

DavidroundDavid Vasquez
Head of Customer Support

One day, the machines are going to come for us. Skynet, the Matrix, it doesn’t matter whichever cold, remorseless machine system it ends up being. It’s going to happen, simple as that. So why spend time worrying about the inevitable when you could be living it up in the time we have left instead? Some of these machines are actually pretty handy, and at Fieldwire, we welcome our future robot overlords. Construction drones are revolutionizing how construction, landscaping, and development teams are doing their work, and we wanted to clue you in on a few of the big names who have made it their mission to improve your on-site efficiency. See, these robots aren’t so bad after all! Might as well make friends today before they rise up tomorrow.

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The folks over at Skycatch have embraced the future and ushered in a new way to gather field data. Their team of roboticists and engineers have created a product that will “deliver actionable intelligence” to your project, and for a company that’s only a couple years old, they’ve been making a lot of noise. Skycatch utilizes their fleet of in-house UAV drones for construction site monitoring and capturing visual data from above to measure area, terrain, and safety so that you can plan smarter as you go. Their construction drones can hit speeds up to 50 mph and are dustproof, waterproof, and generally built to withstand the rough industrial environments you’ll be inviting them into. This kind of durable, adaptive equipment is pretty spiffy, and requires no special training to operate. Skycatch offers its users their COMMANDER app to control UAV drone navigation, and once your data has been collected from the construction sites, you can measure, share, and organize it with their Dashboard interface.

Skycatch is blazing a trail through the air above your construction sites, mapping everything and measuring progress and topography at a consistent elevation. These construction drones have automatic collision avoidance as well, so you don’t have to worry about banging it into something and angering the robot gods (or your wallet). There will be more drones in construction industry settings thanks to teams like the one at Skycatch. They’re a bright, hungry team just waiting to show you a new perspective on your work.

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Another innovative company spearheading the construction drone movement is Airphrame, and they’ve made it so you don’t need to operate any equipment yourself. Their UAV drones will soar over your construction sites to digitally survey the landscape and acquire geospatial data that you can then put to good use. They have several packages for you to choose from: 2D maps, 3D point clouds, and aerial photo sets. The 2D maps give a flat, straight-down perspective, which is good for construction site planning and surface assessments, while the 3D point cloud renders the entire area in XYZ axises and can help you with volume/height measurements and terrain modelling. Aerial photography is great for inspections and analyzing progress and site conditions. All data gets hosted online, so you can easily access and download it anytime. Using drones in surveying capacities suddenly becomes a no-brainer.

Remote inspections with Airphrame’s construction drones will save you time and effort while providing a bird’s eye view of your construction sites that you could never achieve on the ground. Using a drone in construction inspections doesn't have to be a daunting concept with a team like this guiding your way. They deliver quality visuals shaped around your specifications, so consider looking into this company for your mapping, photography, and construction site monitoring needs.

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Our final spotlight is turned upward at DroneDeploy, a promising young company looking to escort you into the commercial drone industry. They’ve recently launched Map Engine, a beta version of their easy-to-use mapping software that is compatible with any UAV drone you might own. Use their simplified app on a drone flight to capture images of your construction sites and upload them. They’ll be automatically processed and assembled into a map, which you can then crop and share as you like. The maps and 3D models that you can create using DroneDeploy have tremendous potential value for your project, and there’s no setup or extra equipment necessary (although it seems you do need to already own your own construction drones). The entire process takes minutes, delivering your data to you after a handful of clicks.

This autonomous method of construction drone use makes it wickedly easy to get results fast and accurate, and might be ideal for those who aren’t the most tech savvy. There’s a lot of potential for DroneDeploy down the road, and they're only going to help foster drones for construction sites more and more as time passes, so trying it out while it’s still in the early stages might be an easy way of onboarding your crew.

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Drones in construction have a large, diverse role to play in our future, and they’ve already found a strong niche in present-day construction. One day these all-seeing robots may have death rays mounted on them, but today they come equipped with cameras and sensors ready to build a mockup of your team’s achievements. Surveying construction sites on foot is a long, tedious prospect that swallows up time and money. Construction drones have dramatically diminished those costs, turning surveys into a largely automated process accomplished with a fraction of that effort. Those firms that start building a UAV army of their own will position themselves for success across (and above) their construction sites, while those who resist these modern touches might end up wishing they'd used drones down the line. Check out these exciting companies for yourself and put the technology of tomorrow to work for you today.

We at Fieldwire fully endorse drones in construction, and not out of fear of our future robot masters. We swear. Check out our app as well on Apple iOS, Android, and on the web - our service is free for small teams! We already support 1,000+ companies across 35,000+ projects, and we’d love for you to join us!


Product Spotlight: Construction Safety

DavidroundDavid Vasquez
Head of Customer Support

More than any other consideration, your safety on construction sites is the most important thing to keep in mind while you’re in the field. It’s easy to forget how important it is, especially for those of you who have been at this for years and know your way around a job site. With experience comes know-how, and with know-how can sometimes come a bit too much comfort. Safety guidelines for construction workers should never be taken lightly, but let's face it: We’re all human, and the thing about humans is that they screw up…sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. And unless you’re Wolverine, you probably aren’t able to just shrug off major injuries.

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Construction Safety Products

Luckily, some responsible men and women have taken it upon themselves to keep an eye out for us with handy construction safety tips and apps. They’ve created several great products that make it simple us to be more mindful of construction safety hazards without much extra effort. Since we at Fieldwire are all about improving on-site efficiency without jumping through extra hoops, we’re delighted to bring 3 helpful construction safety apps to your attention:

First up is SafeSite - This is a very useful service that allows you to log any and all construction safety hazards that spring up on your job site, and alerts the appropriate teammates responsible for fixing them. Record your observations on the fly with their Field app and track your construction workplace safety with checklists and inspection features. They also have a Pro version of their safety app that can help you manage your team, analyze preventative practices, and create safety reports. These help target improvement areas on your project and generate a safety score from the collected data. In other words, this is a convenient source of construction site safety tips and the means of dealing with site safety for pretty much any type of project.

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Next we have StriveZero, which shares the same heavy focus on inspection issues and general safety in construction. They are careful to make sure you’re aware of OSHA compliance standards, so you can gauge how effective your on-site practices and construction safety rules actually are. You can also receive notifications when construction safety hazards are first reported. StriveZero also helps you track personnel injury rates, generate safety reports on team status over time, and easily share inspection results. One particularly neat feature they include in these reports is the “Lessons Learned” section, which is meant to provide construction safety training and help teach you a thing or two about how to prevent future incidents based on your past ones. And certain aspects of this service are entirely customizable, such as EHS terminology, which you can tailor to whatever names and terms your team regularly uses for construction safety topics. That’s a pretty cool feature that will help your team adopt this safety app quickly.

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And then there’s the UIG Toolbox App, which focuses on streamlining site safety meetings. There’s no escaping these mandatory gatherings, so what the folks at UIG Safe Works have done is craft a tool that will help you get through them and store the important information. You can easily track team attendance, and best of all, it records the actual audio of the meeting so you can play it back later. You can also add photos for reference, supervisors are sent data reports, and the app automatically determines the meeting’s GPS location. While this app is free to use, they also have a premium version that offers more structural options and will store audio and report data online (not just the device you are using) in case you need to recover it. This app is great for distributing safe construction meeting summaries and monitoring team safety.

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Boosting Construction Industry Safety

With really useful construction safety apps like these out there, safety for construction workers has received a major shot in the arm. No more paper forms to fill out anytime there is an incident, and if any construction safety hazards do occur, you can keep everyone instantly informed and make sure your people are staying out of harm's way. Each of these construction site safety services are available on both mobile and the web, so consider trying them out and finding the one that best fits your team. No need to test the durability of those hard hats if you can easily sidestep danger with a helpful construction safety app.

And check out Fieldwire to efficiently manage all the core aspects of your project. It’s free for small teams on Apple iOS, Android, and on the web. We already support 1,000+ companies across 35,000+ projects, and we’re happy to safeguard yours too!


Product Spotlight: Equipment Rental

DavidroundDavid Vasquez
Head of Customer Support

You know as well as anyone that construction is a demanding field. It’s a big sandbox with a lot of big toys, and those toys tend to cost a pretty penny. Large scale equipment - bulldozers, excavators, lifts, loaders, etc. - are often essential components for completing jobs, and they also tend to be the major thorns to get stuck in your side. Small construction businesses may not be able to afford purchasing their own equipment, and larger businesses might have trouble making those purchases worthwhile if they regularly have their machinery collecting dust between projects.

But fear not! There are heroes out there who have heard your cries (and shouts…and expletives), and the age of technology has helped a new kind of business rise: the share economy. The verbal deals you once hashed out with colleagues to get your hands on the tools you needed have now been replaced with something more reliable, and best of all, equipment rental will no longer be such a widespread pain point. We wanted to turn a spotlight on a couple of great companies who share our enthusiasm for making on-site life a little easier:

Yard Club is a promising business that connects equipment renters with owners to put idle machines to good use. Yard Club has set up a peer-to-peer marketplace where members don’t just join and hit the ground running - you must apply for membership and be approved before you can participate in the marketplace. While this may appear a bit jarring on the surface, the benefits of vetting members beforehand seem to outweigh the patience it’ll cost you to join. It guarantees that only high-quality equipment will ever be available from a trusted user base that must adhere to the Yard Club Code. This system is designed to put everyone at ease (these are expensive machines and hefty sums being exchanged, after all), and users rate each other after every rental to maintain that trust and quality.

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Yard Club is still in a somewhat fledgling state, as their sign up letter specifies that they’re currently only operating in Western Canada and Arizona, and won’t be launching in all of North America until early 2016. A bit of a bummer, but the mission statement is still solid - so solid, in fact, that Caterpillar recently entered in an agreement to start backing Yard Club. Not a bad friend to have.

One company that is currently available all over is Getable, another equipment rental marketplace satisfying this tricky niche. Getable makes searching for machinery very quick and easy, displaying local results for you to browse the same way you would compare hotel or flight prices. They make it easy to just hop on and input what you’re looking for, where you’re located, and how long you need it. Getable has spent the last few years changing the focus of their business, finally settling on becoming a large equipment rental “comparison engine” for contractors. Their belief that machine rental is more cost effective than ownership for their users is what drives them to cater to your needs, and the sleek interface of their website ensures you won’t get tripped up when hunting for the right equipment.

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Last year, Getable was only available in California, but they are expanding nationwide after a successful round of funding this year. Like Yard Club, they are a prime example of the share economy model working out well for renters and owners alike. For your immediate needs, Getable might be the one to turn to if you live outside of Arizona and Canada. Once 2016 arrives and Yard Club expands its market, you’ll have the opportunity to try out both services and see which one suits your needs the best.

If your needs also include plan viewing, task management, and issue tracking, you should definitely check out Fieldwire! Our service is free for small teams on Apple iOS, Android, and on the web. We already support 1,000+ companies across 35,000+ projects, and we’re ready to help you with yours!


Product Spotlight: Useful Tool Apps

DavidroundDavid Vasquez
Head of Customer Support

We live in a handheld age, more specifically, a mobile age. We spend all this money on these lovely, intricate little computers that fit in our pockets, so it’s natural to start designing most daily tasks with them in mind. It’s not hard to imagine calling your phone something else entirely in the not-too-distant future, as you likely use it less and less for actual phone calls. Mobile devices have forever changed how tactile functions are performed, and in terms of construction management, this is a truly convenient trend. At Fieldwire, we’ve embraced this movement toward mobility and efficiency, and we’re not alone - thousands of companies have taken their business specialities and modified them for the phone, the cloud, and the web. We love turning the spotlight on those fellow services that strive to make your life in the field better, and this must-have pair of apps is set on eliminating tiny pocket tools and excess paper from your work day.

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First up is the iHandy Carpenter app, a shockingly simple yet endlessly useful set of tools you can pull up on your phone. This suite of instruments will replace the easy-to-lose ones that you regularly use on-site, which include: the plumb bob level, surface level, bubble level, ruler, and protractor. Each of these tools is displayed on your phone’s screen, with adaptable measurements and readings based on your phone’s orientation. The plumb bob level helps confirm the verticality of lines and walls, the surface level ensures flatness, and bubble level gauges horizontal and vertical planes. The ruler will obviously measure length (inches and centimeters), and the protractor will give you readings on angles from 0 to 180 degrees.

The possibilities for such tools while on the job are abundantly clear, and you undoubtedly have utilized one or several of these yourself to perform certain tasks. The iHandy Carpenter app gives them all to you in one location that you’ll never misplace - your phone. And the price for something so handy? Just $1.99 in your device’s app store. Keep in mind the display may be slightly different depending on your mobile device, but overall this is an indispensable tool to have while you work.

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Another major part of every project is estimates and invoices, and historically, these have all been recorded on endless sheets of paper during countless non-billable hours. Thankfully, companies like Joist have sought to eliminate this outdated, cumbersome system and instead give you the means to accomplish all of it in real-time from your phone. Joist was built specifically for contractors to create estimates for jobs, materials, and labor rates to be sent directly to clients as customizable, professional invoices. This can all be easily done from the field, rather than having to compile and write out everything after the fact. You can also attach photos, electronic signatures, and your company logo. No more time wasted on double entry and written notes, no more Excel spreadsheets or Word templates, and no more clipboards. Most importantly, no more mountains of paper.

Fieldwire is dedicated to eliminating paper use from your day-to-day, so we’re pleased to see Joist following the same trend. Client information and line items are kept within the app for repeated use, and invoices display all important details and are simple to email out. Manage projects and payments on the go, with all calculations done for you so you can get through the billing process as fast as possible. It’s hard to imagine any construction team that wouldn’t have a need for something this helpful. Best of all: Joist is 100% free to use, so there’s no reason not to check it out.

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These apps are great examples of valuable and affordable ways to streamline your project and utilize the advantages of an increasingly modern, mobile industry. Joist and the iHandy Carpenter app can save you time and resources, and introduce you to a new facet of construction management that becomes more popular by the day. Embrace the mobile movement and try out these great apps for yourself! You might just find the new essential tool you never realized was missing from your day.

Check out Fieldwire as well on Apple iOS, Android, and the web. Our service is free for small teams. We already support 1,000+ companies across 35,000+ projects, and we’d love to work with you too!

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