Construction might not be as data driven as some other industries, but contractors still process plenty of information. And the speed and quality of your work depends on its accuracy and accessibility. For this reason, “data capture” has become a critical yet often overlooked capability of construction companies.
What’s data capture?
Simply put, data capture is the process of extracting information from a physical source and converting it into a digital format. Digitization allows you to store, organize, search, retrieve and share information quickly, if not in real time.
In construction, recording project data and tracking progress and costs was traditionally a tedious, manual and error-ridden task. Pitfalls included double entries, lost or misfiled paperwork, and misinformation attributable to illegible handwriting.
Fortunately, most job-related information has become digital in the form of e-documents, PDFs, forms and templates, timecards, emails, and so forth. Electronic formats make it quick and easy to collect information using internet-enabled mobile apps.
In fact, you can choose from many solutions that automate data capture. Bar codes and QR codes, for example, help contractors manage inventory and equipment usage — especially if you can scan with a smartphone.
Another example is signature capture technology. It enables electronic signatures to authorize and track approvals, allowing for contactless delivery tickets that have become more widely used during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, cloud-based solutions allow remote users to view drawings, plans and specifications. Smartphones can take pictures and video, which can be quickly uploaded to project management websites. Unmanned aerial vehicles (commonly called “drones”) can inspect jobsites and take pictures and videos, too.
How should you do it?
When it comes to data capture, what works for one construction company might not work for another. First, identify your mission-critical data and the documents where that information is recorded. These can include timecards, daily reports, work in progress reports or schedules, financial statements, equipment inspection reports, and safety checklists.
Next, train and equip the appropriate team members to optimally capture data. As mentioned, the right software and mobile apps can enable your employees to grab data as it’s generated, record the information and share it while still on the jobsite.
Be careful not to “silo” data; that is, make it accessible only to a few people. Doing so can inadvertently create bottlenecks that lead to miscommunication and bad decisions. At the same time, you must secure your data so hackers and unauthorized users can’t corrupt, steal or kidnap it in a ransomware attack.
Ready to get better?
The good news about data capture is you’re already doing it! However, you’ve got to recognize the importance of this tech-related task and continuously improve at it.
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