Ask any construction professional what they struggle with most, and there’s a good chance they’ll tell you it’s communication.
Construction projects are complex machines with many moving parts. There are people in the field, estimators, project managers and logistics specialists. Then there are architects, engineers, and other members of the management team.
All those people in all those departments probably use different tools to communicate and share information, and that usually results in a fragmented, broken system full of holes. When things slip through the cracks on a construction project, the results could be detrimental.
Why Does Communication Matter So Much in Construction?
Construction, perhaps more than any other industry, truly embodies the saying “time is money.”
Any delays on a construction site will almost certainly cost someone money and will probably put the whole project off target.
Those delays may be direct, where crews are unable to continue without instruction from a client, or they might be indirect, when an instruction is missed, work continues regardless, and the work needs to be undone and redone to comply.
Everything on construction sites needs to be documented. It could be recording the weather on site while getting test results on concrete, notifying clients of a problem or change order request, or even reporting a health and safety incident. Everything on your project needs to be recorded, or there’s no proof that it happened.
Of course, when your crews are on site, in the thick of things, it can be tough to get the paperwork done! Which means sometimes, estimators, project managers and health and safety officials don’t get what they need, when they need it.
The Effect of Communication Lapses
You might think that taking a little longer to get paperwork done isn’t the end of the world. But in construction, it might be.
Nearly every official document and notification in construction is time sensitive. You only have a limited amount of time to take action or pass it along to clients and consultants.
If you miss the window for, say, a change order request, you might not get the additional time and money you need to make it happen. If you don’t report delays and request extensions of time, you might find yourself paying penalties for late completion.
On the other side of the fence, clients who don’t respond to queries fast enough face standing time costs.
So, your communication not only has to be properly recorded, but it also has to be delivered and responded to in time. Which makes communication one of the pivotal factors in any project’s success.
What’s Behind the Disconnect?
We know why communication is critical in construction, and what happens when it doesn’t get taken care of properly or in time. But why is there such a big disconnect between construction crews and officials on site, and those working in the office?
The answer is that most construction companies and projects are trying to make do with a patchwork of different tools and technologies.
Sometimes, a foreman will call the office or send a text. Other times, they might use email. Often, they’re still using old fashioned paper forms even to record important information on site. Even when they use industry-specific software, there’s a good chance there’s a different system for each type of communication.
In the office, your estimators, project managers and other teams are trying to collect all that information, and probably entering it into their own systems. Because many modern software solutions for estimating and project management do have integrated communication tools – they just don’t connect to the field!
Then, those office-based construction personnel still have to share information with their clients. They might use email, or their client might have an ftp site or intranet portal.
It’s like a game of broken telephone, and it’s really no wonder things fall through the cracks. It seems like this system is set up for that!
Plugging the Gaps
With so much at stake, and so many potential communication pitfalls, the best thing you can do for your construction company is to find ways to plug the gaps. There are several ways you can do this:
- Take it onto the cloud – cloud-based construction technologies offer real time communication options that keep everyone in the loop
- Consider BIM – while there is a learning curve, having graphical representations of the progress and problems on site is valuable for everyone
- Try AI and drones – from measuring and marking co-ordinates to mapping topography, there are high tech tools to do a lot of things on modern construction sites!
- Augmented reality and virtual reality can help with employee training, project visualization and more
- Investigate wearable technologies, which can help to monitor employees position, conduct time and motion studies, activate security features and more
- Reduce phone calls! When communication about any issue on a construction site is verbal, it might as well not have happened – so always make sure it happens in writing!
Join All the Dots
Ultimately, even when you implement smart construction technology, the problem is still that there are too many threads to manage. You still need to find a way to literally get everyone on the same page.
Specialist construction tools like Hivot, which are designed to provide end to end construction communication for all members of the team.
You can quickly, securely share important project information with the field, and vice versa. Send messages only to specific teams or even to people with the appropriate security level. Share documents, send pictures, or add videos to illustrate problems and concerns.
Hivot works within your team and to share information with clients, and you never have to fill in a form or piece of paper to make it work. You might still need to do the paperwork at some point, but you won’t be waiting for it while it makes it’s way through the system.
Real time communication across diverse teams with Hivot is a construction game changer because it plugs the most important communication holes you face.