September 18, 2020

4 ways construction teams can work more remotely

Contractors can’t work from home, but they can benefit from technology that supports remote collaboration and safer distancing to address COVID-19 and other threats.


For example, in recent months, government agencies across the country have launched virtual video inspection programs to minimize stalls in building inspection and permitting processes. In the concrete sector, some ready-mix producers have introduced touchless e-ticketing, thereby eliminating close contact between drivers delivering concrete and the contractors receiving it.


Here’s a look at four technology solutions that can help your team members stay more separated but still connected:


1. Videoconferencing. Applications such as Zoom and Skype have become popular tools for “face-to-face” virtual communication during the pandemic. Many companies, construction included, have gone a step further and implemented more broad-based business-oriented team collaboration platforms, including Slack and Microsoft Teams. These platforms bypass lengthy email chains and create a digital workspace to communicate and share files.


2. The cloud. It’s been around for a while but storing and sharing documents online — popularly known as “the cloud” — has been particularly useful of late. Data storage services, such as Dropbox and Google Drive, give project team members immediate and anywhere access to documents such as bids, contracts, specifications, drawings and plans.


Meanwhile, cloud-based project management solutions and mobile apps allow project managers to assign and monitor work without having to meet in person with workers. Team members can also share critical job information in real time. For example, users equipped with mobile devices can submit and respond to requests for information, review product specifications and current drawing sets, and share punch list items with up-to-the-minute open or closed statuses.


3. Wearable technology. Cameras or sensors attached to hard hats, vests, belts, lanyards and even work boots can help increase safety while keeping team members virtually connected. Wearable tech can use global positioning systems and timestamps to track worker movements and equipment usage.


It can also enable geofencing, which sets up virtual borders and sends out alerts when workers enter restricted or unsafe zones. Recently, wearable tech has been used to detect close interactions and warn workers when they’re getting too close to each other.


4. Construction cameras/drones. The right jobsite cameras can provide virtual walkthroughs and monitoring, lessening the need for actual site visits and close contact. These include 360-degree webcams, as well as cameras feeding data to building information modeling software.


And, of course, there are the drones. Cameras mounted on these high-flying devices can enable remote inspection from remarkable angles and altitudes. Contractors are even pairing drones with artificial intelligence software that uses image recognition and classification algorithms to flag safety hazards and unsafe behavior.

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