Looking for the latest trends in construction technology? Capterra blog makes business software recommendations and explains how innovations are changing the industry. Here you will find the latest updates for best tools and software to help builders and contractors succeed.
Technological innovations are great, but seamlessly integrating new tech into your business is a challenge for even the most agile of construction managers.
A recent study by Genpact Research Institute found that out of nearly $600 billion spent worldwide on digital projects every year, two-thirds went to projects that offered bad returns on investment.
It’s wise to temper excitement about new technology, even innovations that seem perfect for construction. But it’s equally unwise to ignore cutting-edge advancements that could help your business.
Wearable device shipments will increase from nearly 202 million in 2016 to 501 million by 2021, according to ABIresearch. People in all industries are using wearables, and they’re going to be using them a lot more in the coming years.
Construction managers need to get into wearables, which boost worker productivity and improve job site safety.
But you also need to avoid being that construction manager who wastes two out of every three dollars spent on technology.
Let’s take an in-depth look at why you should invest in wearable construction innovations, and which wearables, in particular, hold the most promise for your bottom line.
Why invest in wearable construction innovations?
When we say wearable construction innovations, we’re talking about anything that a construction worker can wear that uses technology to improve performance or safety in some way.
There are a few important reasons why this type of technology holds such promise for the construction industry.
They boost efficiency.
Wearables help you gather data and minimize downtime across your workforce. Combined with construction management software, sensors track workers’ movements and can help you determine where your resources are going, and where they’re being wasted.
They ensure worker safety.
What your workers wear is the last line of defense against workplace injury. Offering the latest and greatest gear protects your business’ most important assets.
Smart glasses are wearable computer glasses that augment what a user sees by overlaying data or imagery. Google Glass was an early product to the market; the tech giant started selling a prototype in 2013 for $1,500 before halting production in 2015 (and then announcing last year the product would be restarted).
Microsoft’s HoloLens has become a major player, and a few others have dipped their toes in the market. XOEye Technologies offers a construction-specific version, with smart glasses geared toward training workers.
Another variant is the smart helmet, which combines the safety benefits of a helmet with the augmented reality of smart glasses.
What it’s capable of on a construction site:
Smart glasses help you train newer workers who lack skills in a way you can’t with a book or a class. They’re also useful for communication, keeping you connected with your workers in real time. Smart glasses help workers cut down on mistakes by using augmented reality to boost precision.
Will it help you?
Smart glasses are one of the easiest pieces of tech to waste money on. They’re expensive—often costing thousands of dollars for one device—and if you run a small construction project with only a handful of workers, your money is probably better spent elsewhere. But, if you’re struggling specifically with finding a cost-effective way to train new workers on the job, smart glasses will solve that problem.
2. Smart clothing
What it is:
Construction clothing isn’t just clothing anymore. Smart clothing includes heated jackets, cooling vests, and even self-charging work boots that can track user fatigue and provide lighting.
What it’s capable of on a construction site:
Smart clothing goes a long way toward ensuring worker comfort, which can improve your bottom line by ensuring workers get more done per hour.
DeWalt sells reflective heated jackets with battery packs that can last a full workday, keeping workers comfortable in freezing conditions. On the opposite end, you can buy cooling jackets with either a fluid system that pumps cooling liquid through the vest or built-in fans so workers don’t become fatigued in the heat.
Another option is footwear such as SolePower’s Smartboots, which provide data that you can use to ensure worker compliance and safety.
Will it help you?
The heated/cooling technology is best for construction companies with employees working in extreme conditions. If you work in a mild geographical region, you can probably pass on these wearables. Smart footwear is a different story. If you’re worried about worker efficiency, purchase a pair and run a trial with one worker to see if they provide useful insights that can help you deploy workers more effectively.
What it is:
Sensors continue to get smaller and smaller, and now you can put them just about anywhere: work belts, shoes, helmets—you name it. You won’t notice sensors at a glance, but they’re there just the same, working constantly on the job site gathering critical data.
What it’s capable of on a construction site:
Sensors compile a tremendous volume of data on every aspect of your construction site. They use GPS and timestamps to track worker movements, determining when and where everything happens on your job site.
Sensors can track worker fatigue or alert you to slips and falls. You can even use some sensors to set up geofencing areas to alert workers that they’re entering a restricted or unsafe zone.
Spot-R, for example, is a belt sensor that can track movement and comes equipped with a button that alerts others of safety concerns.
Will it help you?
Sensors have come a long way, and construction managers who haven’t implemented them at their job sites should take a hard look at available options as soon as possible. They’re fairly inexpensive, and provide you with valuable insight that wasn’t available ten, or even five, years ago. They’re a worthwhile investment for any firm willing to do the analysis required to take advantage of sensor-provided data and can help you determine what changes you should make so your construction site operates at maximum efficiency.
Learn more about how to use technology on the job site
Wearables are a tricky subject in the construction industry. It’s no secret that the industry is slow to adopt new technology; a lot of construction managers are reticent about ditching the old ways in favor of something new.
Wherever you fall on the technology adoption spectrum, we’ve got a host of resources to help you figure out how best to use technology on your job site:
In your career as a construction manager, you’re bound to hit a rut.
You feel as though you’ve done everything you possibly can to maximize profitability—from improving your bidding process to boosting efficiency through new construction management software—and you’ve reached a plateau.
As a construction manager, you have to keep learning new ways to achieve success.
One of the biggest dangers small businesses face is getting sucked into doing things the same way they’ve always done them. This leads to stagnation and even decline as your competitors find better ways of doing things and lure customers away.
From 2011 to 2017, the construction industry ranked ninth among all industries in terms of the number of firms that were considered “high growth;” 1,170 construction businesses met that definition, according to the Brookings Institution. There are a lot of companies that seem to have things figured out.
So, what are they doing that you’re not?
Take a deep breath, and get ready to step outside your comfort zone. That step is what separates the five percent of incredibly successful companies from the 95% that simply do what everyone else is doing.
4 case stories to help you step outside your comfort zone
The trick to identifying the limitations of your comfort zone is getting outside of your own head and looking at other companies’ successes. Pull creative ideas from outside sources, and you’ll be well on your way to shaking things up.
Below, we’ll dive into four examples of construction companies that have enjoyed enormous success. We broke each story down into a key point, the problem they solved, and a final takeaway to help you replicate their success at your own construction management business.
Let’s get started.
1. Never run out of work
“My firm needs to find (and win) more projects.”
It happens to everyone in this industry: Sometimes, the work just dries up. Maybe it’s because the region you serve is having a construction lull. Maybe competition is getting tougher. Or maybe you’re just on a run of bad luck.
Whatever the reason, you don’t have time to feel sorry for yourself—you’ve got to find work.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And one Iowa contractor found a way by being flexible—and I mean crazy flexible.
J. Pettiecord does 24-hour spill response, highway work, land clearing, and environmental construction. And that’s just a few of the project types the company has taken on.
Founder Jeff Pettiecord told Equipment World that in the 1980s he “literally chased fire trucks” to offer building restoration services. By not confining himself to one specific type of construction, Pettiecord opened himself to all sorts of projects and revenue sources.
Pettiecord got ahead by not turning opportunities down. What opportunities are you missing out on just because it’s not the type of construction you do? If you’ve got the equipment and the know-how, take the plunge and bid for projects you’ve never done before.
2. Obtain a huge advantage
“The big guys are killing me.”
When you’re a small contractor, you’ve got to be nimble. In addition to looking for work in areas you normally wouldn’t, you’ve got to be willing to find little ways to gain an edge on the bigger contractors who threaten your small business’ existence on a daily basis.
Taking advantage of government programs is a good way to do that. Just look at Tonto Rock Products LLC in Arizona.
This company found a way to success by becoming the first Native American Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) to be certified for sand and gravel manufacturing.
Company president Forrest Gressley told Small Business Trends: “I’ve got a Native American background. That, and coming out of the economy that we just did, I decided that every advantage that I could find I was going to utilize.”
Are there government assistance programs you’re not taking advantage of? Check out grants.gov to see if there is one that fits your company’s profile, and learn more with HUD Exchange’s Small Contractors Initiative. There’s a host of other options out there, including a Small Business Administration mentorship program to help you compete for government contracts, as well as certifications that will give you the edge when you bid.
3. Assemble (and retain) a great team
“I can’t find good people.”
Larry Merle, winner of Equipment World’s 2015 Contractor of the Year honor, opened Genesee Construction Service in 1999 with the help of only his wife and an old excavator he bought at auction.
At the time of his 2015 award, his company was worth $11 to 13 million.
Hiring the right people was crucial to his success. Merle told EW that he had a simple credo for choosing his employees: Hire for character and integrity, and train for skill. He chose people who would present a professional face to his clients in all the little things, such as not swearing at the job site, and provided the training they needed.
To win the loyalty of his employees, Merle knew he had to show them loyalty from the outset. He decided to give them pay and benefits that exceeded industry norms/expectations. And when employees found a way to drastically cut his equipment idle time at his request, Merle calculated the savings and cut a bonus check to those employees from a portion of those proceeds.
He even took a personal pay cut during a downturn, rather than lay off an employee.
Are your employees really loyal to you, or would they leave as soon as they got a slightly better offer? Take a two-pronged approach to hiring in the future: (1) look for people with integrity who will go the extra mile, and (2) invest in them by showing loyalty through compensation, job security, and basic generosity and empathy.
4. Create an environment of collaboration
“I can’t get my employees to work as a team.”
DPR Construction is a juggernaut in the industry, pulling in nearly $4 billion in revenue in 2016, according to Forbes. And yet, it doesn’t have a traditional chief executive officer, nor does it have formal job titles.
Despite that, the company boasts a culture of collaboration that few other construction firms enjoy. DPR was created by three men in 1990 who, today, are part of a board and seven-person management team responsible for running the firm.
Instead of a traditional corporate hierarchy, the three founders opted to run the company in a more democratic fashion, believing that this format would lead to honest feedback and sharing. If their employees weren’t afraid to speak up, the best ideas would float to the top.
By focusing more on responsibilities and less on rigid titles, the company was able to create a culture of collaboration and natural, healthy competition. Founder Doug Woods told Forbes: “People know who’s doing what. And scoreboards are visible to everybody.”
You can box employees in by giving them titles that don’t fully encompass their skill sets. Wipe away those restrictive titles and give them responsibilities instead. Sit down with employees and talk about what they’re capable of, how it can benefit the company, and how success will be rewarded. Give them an opportunity to take ownership of their role, and you won’t have to micromanage them.
Take these success stories to heart, emulate them in a way that’s right for your business, and check out these other resources to come up with even more new ideas:
Collaboration is a vital part of the building and infrastructure design and construction process. Email just doesn’t cut it as a collaboration tool anymore.
Explaining ideas to multiple collaborators results in long threads that are hard to keep track of, and unanswered questions and unhelpful feedback get buried in the process.
And that’s to say nothing of all those attachments—including contracts, drawings, and models—that make chains unwieldy because of size constraints. Forget about keeping track of versions and recipients.
The good news about email’s shortcomings? A wealth of new ideas, workflows, construction management software, and technologies have emerged in recent years that are both easily accessible and improve the collaboration process.
4 tech advances that facilitate design and build collaboration
So, what makes these recent technological developments superior to, say, sharing ideas over Slack groups and email chains? It’s the visuals.
A 2015 study published in the International Journal of Technology and Design Education concluded that visually supported collaboration technology enhanced student collaboration experiences, resulting in a better overall completed construction project.
From hosting initial meetings and sharing visions to passing on detailed design information, here are four ways to use visually oriented technology in your workflow to facilitate collaboration success.
1. It all starts with BIM
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is the cornerstone of the future of collaboration in construction. By using open international data standards—such as Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) for model-based data and PDFs for paper-based communications—BIM becomes openBIM, putting data at the center of solutions.
This gives project stakeholders of all types the ability to use information across a large spectrum, sharing detailed information about a building over its entire life cycle, from concept to completion.
BIM has been around for a while, but more adoption is needed to overcome the challenges inherent in a such a complex collaborative environment.
François Lévy, (M.Arch, MSE), AIA, author, and partner at Lévy Kohlhaas Architecture, said:
“Our firm uses BIM for the entire project design cycle, from the earliest design concepts to documentation of Request For Information (RFI) in construction, and everything in between. As a result, we can accelerate our design process through improved visualization, coordination, and documentation—and validate design decisions through BIM’s inherent data-driven intelligence.”
2. Set project expectations with virtual reality
Virtual reality (VR) has been making more and more headlines in the past few years. Many of today’s VR tech applications in the building industry focus on design representation and simulation, allowing clients to share experiences with designers by “walking through” virtual prototypes of their projects during the design stages.
The tech also helps contractors simulate the intricacies and dependencies of construction sequencing.
VR tech gives clients and collaborators a better understanding of the scope of a project and facilitates the decision-making process, especially for concepts that are difficult to fully communicate through static 2D drawings and charts. Another benefit? You won’t need to be on site to realistically explore the options.
Not all VR offerings require a hefty investment in equipment; some operate with any web-enabled device and even offer immersive stereoscopic mode if you have a smartphone and arguably inexpensive phone-holding headsets such as Google Cardboard, Google Daydream View, or Samsung Gear VR.
3. Work together in the cloud
Cloud-based integration, available for multiple software types, has a myriad of uses throughout a project life cycle, including making important project data sharing easier and more intuitive. Use this technology to reduce time and mistakes when shuffling files and information between members of a widely distributed team.
New technologies, such as the recent partnership of Vectorworks Cloud Services and BluebeamStudio, allow project team members to quickly create and host real-time online review and markup sessions. This means less time and effort spent convening a project team in a single conference room or passing ideas back and forth via email or messaging platforms.
Instead, designers, contractors, and their clients can work concurrently on a set of information in PDFs. Coupled with online chat, voice, and video tools, you have a rich exchange with no lag time or ambiguity across states, the country, or even the globe.
4. The future is augmented reality
We’re seeing more innovation surrounding augmented and mixed reality tech, but what are they, exactly? And how can they possibly impact construction?
With augmented reality (AR), graphical and non-graphical data is streamed into the user’s field of vision of the real world. Mixed reality (MR), on the other hand, takes elements of AR and allows further interactivity between the virtual and the real. Real-world elements not only have data overlaid, but can impact or be impacted by the data stream.
Although we’re still in the earliest stages of development and experimentation with AR and MR—often seen in simple consumer-level games—we can imagine how this technology can be used in collaborative workflows.
With the ability to superimpose a design on real space using a mobile device, designers can better illustrate their vision to clients and contractors in real-world scale, context, and environmental conditions.
Job supervisors may soon be able to conduct daily inspections and compare results to a superimposed progress model, with discrepancies highlighted. Results are quickly noted and conveyed back to the design and construction teams for resolution or approval.
No more looking up and down, shifting focus from the real world to scaled 2D pages and back again; what is and what should be are merged without the need for human abstraction and interpretation, reducing errors and time spent correcting them.
What technology do you use in your construction business?
According to a 2018 Automation in Construction study, AR and BIM integration can reduce cognitive failures and increase productivity (when compared to a control group). These are just a few examples we see developers prototyping today. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
It’s great to live in a time when technology continues to give designers, contractors, project managers, and clients easier ways to collaborate each year. By implementing these technologies, you may find yourself meeting deadlines, and saving money in the long run.
Is your construction business using any of these technologies? Which ones, and how have they helped? What technology are you excited to try next? Let us know in the comments!
The ads played on the fear that when you’re in a jam, some opportunistic company is going to take advantage of your situation and shake you down for everything you have.
You may be feeling that way if your church has grown to the point that spreadsheets aren’t cutting it anymore, and you need a church accounting software solution.
We’re here to help!
A word of warning: you know the old saying, “you get what you pay for?” That rings true when it comes to church accounting software. When you’re paying zero dollars and zero cents for something that typically costs hundreds of dollars, you are sacrificing things like added features, updates, customer service, and sometimes even user interface.
But if all you need is something basic and it must be free, there are options.
After scouring the web, here are the three best free church accounting software solutions available.
What church accounting software does
In its most basic form, church accounting software manages payroll, tracks budget, and records donations.
If you have stacks of fading receipts wrapped in rubber bands, if you find yourself “guesstimating” your budget for the rest of the year, and if you keep track of donations on sticky notes, you most certainly need church accounting software.
And if you think the French Riviera is a foreign car, you might be a redneck!
[CAPTION]That was a lot of fun, but let’s back to the business at hand.[CAPTION]
For instance, the best church accounting software incorporates membership data to make donation accounting easier at tax time, and uses specific church terminology.
As Jeff Campbell, General Manager at PowerChurch Software, pointed out: “Churches struggle to keep track of donor restriction and track those balances … for example, a college will have a huge donor restriction fund, while a church will have lots of little ones.”
But we’re not just looking for accounting software tailored to the needs of churches. No, that would be too easy. We also need it to be free, because Millennials.
Here is our list of the best FREE and/or open source church accounting software.
GnuCash is a free, open-source double-entry bookkeeping system created with the goal of providing capabilities similar to Quicken.
GnuCash has been around since 1998, so it has almost two decades of development and refinement on its side.
While GnuCash isn’t specifically designed for churches, it does have features tailored for small businesses.
Even more helpful, Jacob Oommen of Finance and Accounting for Churches created a comprehensive, 14-part guide on using GnuCash for church accounting.
Oommen stumbled upon GnuCash when he was tasked with taking charge of the accounting at St. Stephens Mar Thoma Syrian Church in Bangalore.
“On taking over my duties, I discovered that the accounts in our church were maintained using the old method of Physical Ledgers,” he wrote. “We decided at the outset to migrate to a software system to maintain the accounts.”
“I decided to do a prototype bookkeeping implementation using (GnuCash), to evaluate how it could be used for our purposes,” he added. “If it worked, it could potentially save, our church, and possibly other churches, a lot of money.”
Oommen documented the process on his blog, which provides detailed instructions on everything from the basics through advanced features like year-end reports.
Although Oommen originally implemented GnuCash at his church in 2013, he updated the guide in February of 2017 to reflect several new features including auctions and split transactions.
If you have enough free time and computer expertise, you can follow Oommen’s plan to download GnuCash and customize it for your church, all for the bargain price of $0 (minus your own labor).
ChurchTrac Online is one of the most affordable and user-friendly church management solutions according to Capterra.
Starting at less than $10 per month, you’d be hard pressed to find a more affordable church management package.
But it’s not free, and that’s where ChurchTrac 9 comes in.
Retired in 2012 due to compatibility issues after 10 years of service, the desktop based ChurchTrac 9 is still available for free download for churches with less than 100 names, though you may need an older operating system to successfully run the program.
ChurchTrac says that it will still provide basic tech support on ChurchTrac 9 through the end of this year, and ChurchTrac 9 users can easily be migrated to the fully supported ChurchTrac Online product.
While ChurchTrac 9 provides basic accounting features, it lacks some advanced features like online giving, volunteer management, name archiving, family check-in, congregation access, and fund-based accounting.
But if your church’s computer is still running on a Pentium 4 chip and you have a small congregation, ChurchTrac 9 could be all you need.
The developers report that the program has been downloaded more than 13,000 times as of February of 2017.
ACTS has an impressive list of features—including membership data management, facility management, donation management, and accounting functionality like vouchers, profit and loss and balance sheets, and unlimited account codes—and is completely free.
It’s probably dawning on you by now that the pickings are slim when it comes to fully functional church accounting software that is also completely free.
Remember that the additional time you spend customizing a catch-all accounting program, or wrestling with an outdated, unsupported piece of abandonware could be worth more to you than a few dollars per month.