Construction site apps provide real-time updates

Shannon Moneo  |  November 14, 2014  |  Journal of Commerce

At least one construction business owner wonders why more contractors and tradespeople haven’t logged onto an iPad/web application created specifically for the construction industry.

Construction site apps provide real-time updates

"This app holds my guys accountable because I can see what they do. It holds my company accountable because the owner can see what my guys do and it holds the owner accountable because they see what I do," explained Kevin Swenson, owner of System One Floor Solutions.

"There's no finger-pointing."

Swenson is talking about SiteMax Systems' software products that allow users to take photos, fill in time sheets, access files, track tools and equipment, file safety reports and even note deficiencies.

"Companies have been missing a mobile product for project management at a jobsite," said James Faulkner, president of Vancouver-based SiteMax Systems.

"There's been a bit of a hole in the process."

He and his team created a two-track system that eliminates paper, laptops and cameras, and that was designed with larger icons and buttons.

The app is loaded onto an iPad, allowing the user to carry out activities specific to the construction industry.

GC Pro is an app for general contractors that can be used with the iPad or in the office.

Pricing is based on the number of projects it's used with.

TradePlus is geared to the trade and is less wide-ranging.

Its pricing is also based on  the number of projects.

Customers supply their own iPads.

"SiteMax is all about controlling the site," Faulkner said.

Swenson began using TradePlus about 10 months ago.

Today, he's got the app loaded onto 36 iPads.

On one job alone, he figured he saved $20,000 because of the app when System One was working on a custom concrete job at a retail store in Kelowna.

Swenson, who divides his time between offices in Surrey and Calgary, was remotely able to view photos that were uploaded the same day.

He suspected there were problems.

After consulting the blueprints, he realized that concrete corrections were needed.

A minor mistake was caught before it became a major expense, Swenson said.

At a major renovation to LuluLemon's flagship store in Vancouver, crews that worked after closing hours would capture images of the work done and post them via TradePlus.

The eager customer and System One both viewed the real-time results, able to track the day-by-day progress.

"It makes us more transparent, more accountable," said Swenson.

"The customer can see all we do right, and all we do wrong."

Another feature of TradePlus is that foremen go to where the troubles are and they don't waste time travelling to where things are running smoothly.

"Instead of going on milk runs, they can go and deal with problems," Swenson said.

Even more time is saved because a foreman can enter time cards on-site, saving office staff from duplicating work done manually in the field.

In 2011, Swenson began hunting for a similar product after discovering an online management system designed by a Utah company.

Swenson unsuccessfully tried to modify the American product.

Last year, during a visit with Doug Scott, president of Wales McLelland, Swenson discovered the SiteMax system.

More than a year ago, Scott was the first user of SiteMax's software.

Today, he has the GC Pro system operating on 20 iPads.

He's also a founding member of SiteMax Systems.

"The construction industry has been staid. This product is a reflection of moving into technology," said Scott, who's also a civil engineer.

Recent upgrades to the app are welcomed by Scott.

The ability to create safety reports right on the site will make it easier to satisfy workers' compensation requirements,

And Rectify, the module that handles project deficiencies, will provide real-time proof of corrections to problems.

The tool tracking module, similar to a library system, is how tools and equipment can be checked-in and checked-out.

The module also uses QR (Quick Response) codes (the array of black and white squares, typically used for storing information) that allows users to scan the item's code and get a profile of the article, Faulkner said.


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