6 min read / April 1, 2022 / Greg Heckart
Why is job site connectivity such an important consideration for your construction business? Because technologies that support connectivity facilitate better and faster communication between your field personnel and those in the office.
The potential cost savings of connectivity are quite large. With connectivity comes the ability to digitally send files, pull data directly from machines without driving to the site and more. The old saying that ‘time is money’ really applies because connectivity saves both.
Here are six reasons job site connectivity could potentially pay off for you.
1. Faster response and adjustments. Few things are worse for project managers than finding out their job site is behind schedule. In the past, they relied on field personnel to phone in daily or weekly load counts, amounts of material moved and other critical information. By the time they received such information, the project could be losing money.
“A connected job site lets project managers see what’s happening on-site in real or near-real time; allows them to adjust practices and optimize machinery and personnel faster; and can potentially increase profits,” said Anetsberger. “If a project is off track from original estimates, it’s much easier to get it back on track with current, actionable data that comes from a connected job site. By the same token, if a project is ahead of schedule, you can adjust and maybe move personnel and machines to another site where they are needed.”
2. Less paper. Historically, superintendents, foreman and other field personnel would take a set, or multiple sets, of plans to the job site. Another set would be in the office. Today, digital plans are more the norm. With a connected job site, plan changes can be sent electronically directly to a tablet, smartphone or a machine.
Paper timecards can also be virtually eliminated. With a connected job site, field personnel electronically log and send hours via email or with several timecard apps available through smartphones and other devices. A bonus is that this is done in near-real, or real time, so your office staff doesn’t have to wait for timecards to be turned in and spend hours going through them.
3. Time and fuel savings. In the old days, if there was a change in plans, it meant a trip to the job site. Depending on how far it was, that could mean hours in a vehicle and burning several gallons of gas or diesel. When you can transfer files electronically, there is no need to drive to the job site.
“It’s hard to quantify exactly how much fuel you save, but over the course of a year, it could add up significantly,” said Anetsberger, “not to mention the time saved from driving to various job sites. "
Those savings equate to profits you can put toward expanding your business, hiring additional workers or adding more technology to further push efficiencies.
4. Reduced equipment service, maintenance and repair costs. A connected job site gives fleet managers the ability to track machine hours more closely than ever. Hours can be accessed directly from the machine which lessens the potential for going past scheduled service intervals. Missing scheduled service can be potentially problematic, and lead to costly catastrophic failures that take big bites out of the bottom line.
A clear, up-to-date picture of machinery’s current hours and a better ability to track them lets fleet managers be proactive about scheduling service, maintenance and repairs and ensure needed parts and fluids are on hand ahead of time. Fleet managers can take equipment out of service at times when it is not needed, or after hours, to limit downtime and keep production moving, and profitability increasing.
“If there is an issue with a connected machine such as an error code, a fleet manager can remotely view it and make faster decisions about how to handle it,” said Anetsberger. “That ability to see and diagnose a problem sooner, minimizes downtime and may potentially pay off big in repair costs.”
5. Maximize manpower. Intelligent machines have a modem that connects to the cloud via cellular, according to Anetsberger. As they track around the job site, they are essentially functioning as a high-precision GPS rover that allows you to record as-built data and show progress from afar.
“It virtually eliminates the need for a grade checker, so that person can be utilized somewhere else in a more productive manner such as installing pipe,” Anetsberger continued. “Project managers have almost immediate information about where a machine is in relation to target elevation and they don’t have to wait for someone to phone in or drop off that information. With no guesswork, they can send personnel to perform other tasks sooner.”
6. Increased safety = lower premiums. Connectivity goes much further than linking the office and the job site. Connectivity is also available through wearable technology. Smart helmets and safety vests that have enabled tracking and remote communication capabilities can help keep your workers safer. Smart work boots with sensors can automatically alert others if workers enter an area designated as unsafe.
Safety is always a top priority for any jobsite, and prioritizing safety may also have side benefits including the reduction of potential costs associated with accidents. A better safety record can also lead to more work, as many entities — including governmental projects — take safety records into account when awarding contracts.
An additional advantage is that a positive safety record could also lower your insurance premiums.
“When determining your premiums, insurance companies consider the likelihood that they’ll have to pay out a claim on your behalf. If the risk is lower than normal, you’ll pay a lower premium and vice versa,” according to Safety Management Group, a privately held safety management company.
There are multiple options for connectivity on the construction site, according to Clarus Site Solutions, a job site connectivity provider. They include 4G/5G internet, private LTE (long term evolution) and 5G networks, which are among the most popular. Factors for the kind of connectivity you choose include site location, the number of users, project start date, project length and costs, according to Clarus. Other considerations include turning your smartphone into a hotspot, investing in a mobile hotspot or even using a vehicle’s built-in WiFi.
Of course, it’s essential to keep your site connection secure. Applied Tech, a technology services company for small and mid-sized business, suggests that you conduct a risk assessment, provide security awareness training for your staff and implement standard security policies.
“If you have a smartphone, you may have already made the most significant investment in hardware that you need to become connected,” said Anetsberger. He also noted that if you have an intelligent machine, you already have the hardware you need to be digitally connected on the job site. “You don’t have to invest in huge infrastructure. You just have to be willing to take the first step and identify a solution that will begin to transform your operations. Anetsberger concluded, “The first step can be tough, but more than likely, it will pay off.”
Learn more about the connected job site by exploring Komatsu’s Smart Construction suite of solutions.