How Mobile Is Improving Construction Efficiency

Yves Frinault imageYves Frinault  •  

I love construction for what it is: a complex process where engineering, people, and materials collide to create awe-inspiring objects, even by modern society's standards. However, with many variables at play and innumerable things that can go wrong on a project, the process is often grindingly inefficient; always improving but never mastered. Well, construction is about to take a huge leap forward.

Rendering of Moscone Center

On any construction site today, whether it's a big office building or a residential project, you will see foremen taking off their gloves at lunch break, grabbing their iPhone from their pocket and reading their emails and texts. It's clear from the presence of technology found on the job site: the importance of mobile capabilities for field workers continues to grow.

Mobile technology has finally reached to the core of construction, where the complexity resides, where inefficiency happens, where it's most needed: in the field. And it got there, not because of some great IT initiative, but because people brought it with their lunchbox that morning. Now, we have powerful project management tools right at our fingertips.

People mistakenly describe BIM as a technology that allows access to a 3D building model in the field. BIM is not about technology. It's about solving the problem of collaboration in a complex rugged environment. It's about access to information and good decision-making. Fundamentally it's about organizational change.

Indeed, with the widespread adoption of smartphones by foremen and superintendents, the project team can finally achieve shared awareness. Improved access to vital information like up-to-the-minute as built drawings, gives people on-site the ability to make faster and better decisions. This is the key toward streamlined field operations.

However, if we don't break the knowledge silos and start sharing information more openly on our projects, if we don't grant more autonomy to the field teams to allow them to make decisions, if we don't adapt at an organizational level, we run the risk of realizing very little of the potential benefits of BIM.

Thankfully, construction was built, for better or for worse, with a lot of independence at the project level. That's the unique opportunity to improve efficiency in construction. As a project manager, superintendent or lead foreman you are empowered with the choice to adopt BIM on your project not as a technology but as an organizational change.

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