Staying in Touch
Voice tech is key to a connected job site.
By Jesse Robbins
Workers in labor-intensive industries, like engineering and construction, face a unique set of challenges on the job. They need the right tools to stay productive, safe and connected, without disrupting their daily workflows. Today, cost-effective tools, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, wearables and software are coming to market, and they are enabling job sites to function more efficiently and optimize the use of resources.
In order to streamline projects and improve productivity overall, construction teams need a reliable way to communicate with workers in the field, contractors in the office, and suppliers on the road. Historically, workers used push-to-talk cell phones to communicate across these operations, which did not provide the level of ruggedness and reliability that was needed. While it’s true that most construction projects face setbacks when it comes to budget or time, why add communication to the list of things that could possibly derail a project?
In fact, a report from the Project Management Institute determined that the most critical factor for project success is effective communication. On average, two out of every five projects do not meet their planned goals and benchmarks, and one-half of those unsuccessful projects is directly related to poor communication. Here’s how that translates into numbers – for every $1 billion spent on a project, $75 million is at risk due to infrequent or ineffective team communication. These figures are staggering, and in the context of construction, reinforces how quickly resources can deplete when teams struggle to stay in touch.
So, how are stakeholders in the construction industry working to improve communication? By adopting next generation voice technology platforms and purpose-built push-to-talk (PPT) devices that replace or augment legacy hardware. With real-time voice communication, construction workers can easily receive up-to-date project information, eliminate the hassle of text-based messages, and stay focused for longer throughout the day.
Stay Connected Anytime, Anywhere
When starting a new project, multiple parties get involved to ensure that budget is met, the right skilled workers are hired, and most importantly, that workers stay safe. Not only can it be challenging to communicate with these different players, but often times, they are not operating in the same space. It is not uncommon for an owner or general contractor to visit a job site only once per month, but a foreman relies on their updates to receive new information and ensure that a project stays on track.
With a voice technology platform and a PTT device, everyone involved with a project can easily stay connected and communicate in real-time, across any distance, without relying on phone calls or email. That means teams can remain heads-up and continue working while new information is being relayed, without ever needing to stop remove and open a laptop or unlock their smartphone to make a call. When every worker can optimize their personal productivity, teams work more effectively so jobs can be completed faster, while minimizing the risk of human error or harm.
Improve Efficiency to Meet Deadlines
Construction workers know that time management is crucial in order to meet goals and complete steps according to schedule. A survey from KPMG found that construction project leads often fail to bring projects in on time and on budget – 53 percent of owners reported at least one underperforming project within the previous year. All too often, one misstep can set an entire project back by months, not to mention the extra money it requires to catch up.
That’s why effective communication is essential in collaborative industries, like construction, with dozens of moving parts, multiple managers and new data coming in nearly every minute. Organizing people and information is critical in order to meet the deadlines that can make or break the success of a project. When labor is short or a delivery is missed, that impacts productivity and can derail a project’s anticipated timeline. But with a real-time voice communication platform and a PTT device, workers can easily ask questions to their wider team and save time to get more done.
Additionally, construction teams can further enhance efficiency by creating workflows and integrating voice-powered bots. With bots and similar AI-powered applications, workers can use a simple voice command to translate a message into a different language, order materials that are running low, or even alert team members when they are in danger. These workflows not only enhance connectivity, but they also improve worker safety and reduce time spent on administrative tasks.
Eliminate Traditional Office Tools
Building and construction is heads-up, hands-on work and traditional office equipment is not built to withstand extreme environments. Using a consumer-grade device on a job site is guaranteed to create some type of disruption, whether a battery runs out or a device overheats in the sun. Many workers spend their days traveling to job sites, breaking down existing structures and doing other labor intensive tasks, and that doesn’t leave time to send an email or search for a phone number.
Today, construction workers are realizing the benefits of mobile technology. A 2017 survey from JB Knowledge found that more than 83 percent of respondents believe mobile capabilities to be important to their workforce. Durable push-to-talk devices are replacing consumer electronics, enabling workers to communicate at the touch of a button and stay focused on the task at hand. Voice technology not only reduces the amount of time spent composing emails and text-based messages, but data transmitted across dedicated voice platforms is much more secure than using a laptop or personal device.
When it comes to communicating on a job site, or with outside project managers, workers need the right tools in order to be successful. It’s becoming increasingly important for IT departments to recognize the struggles that workers face every day, and implement technologies to simplify tasks, improve safety and boost efficiency. The construction industry is undergoing a digital transformation and that includes the way that workers stay connected. Not only does mobile technology benefit workers on the ground, but it also enables companies to complete projects faster, increase revenue and widen their pipeline of future projects.
Jesse Robbins is the founder and CEO of Orion Labs, a platform for instant, real-time team communication for enterprises. Robbins’ experience as a volunteer firefighter, EMT and emergency manager inspired him to create the company, and profoundly influences his efforts in technology. For more information, contact him at @jesserobbins on Twitter or www.linkedin.com/in/jesserobbins/.