6 Feb 2019
3 Min Read
How Apps Can Transform The Way Contractors Do Business
6 Feb 2019
3 Min Read
Technology has changed the way many professionals do business. Computers, smartphones and tablets help with everything from finding clients and customers to sending invoices when the job is done. Contractors are not left out of this.
Many building contractors, HVAC contractors, and electrical contractors realise that computers and mobile apps can make many of their tasks easier. They make them and their teams more efficient and productive. When service improves, clients are happier and the business can become more profitable. Apps affect the bottom line.
Everyone wants a solution that makes their job simpler. Technology can often make even the most basic tasks easier to complete. Electricians often need to calculate accurate measurements for bending conduit. They also have to convert units of measurement, calculate voltage drop and figure out which size wire to use. While they should know how to do all this manually, apps can help make the task much simpler. Removing the need for manual calculations can make a job go much more smoothly. The same applies to building contractors whose workers need to calculate distance and volume or share building plans and field markups. Reducing the time it takes to do these simple tasks gives workers more time to work on the complex aspects of their jobs.
Also of interest to contractors would be apps which help them to:
Delays and tasks which have to be redone can be costly for contractors. On large projects, the cost overruns can run into the millions of dollars. Then, there’s the reputational damage when the job isn’t finished on the time and client is disappointed. Apps allow contractors to organise their operational activities, get alerts about problems in real-time, and respond quickly.
Apps can also help the contractor to monitor the location of his workers. It’s not about invading their privacy but managing resources when they are on the clock. This can help supervisors determine where more support may be needed. If they realise a team at a particular location needs more manpower, they can check the app and see who is nearby. The contractor doesn’t have to waste time calling around or even driving to see where everyone is.
Contractors can also use apps to monitor inventory and deliver tools and materials where they are needed most. Many projects are put on pause because resources aren’t properly allocated or time is wasted waiting on people or tools to arrive. A contractor who finds the right app and uses it consistently across his operation will realise many of these problems are reduced.
In the United Kingdom, construction accounts for the largest proportion of workplace deaths
. Meanwhile, the United States Occupational Health and Safety Administration reports that one in five workers who lost their lives on the job in 2016 did so on construction sites. It is clear that contractors and workers need to do more to ensure on-the-job safety in what is naturally a dangerous field. Falls, blows to the head and electrical shocks put workers at risk every day. However, contractors can use apps to make their job sites safer.
Customised apps can be used to implement safety inspection checklists. Contractors and supervisors would have a specific list of things they need to check on a regular basis to ensure they are in compliance. They would be able to spot environmental, safety and health problems much earlier and capture photos or make notes immediately. This can serve as the official record of the situation. It can be used to warn workers of the problem and take steps to rectify it. Such a system is invaluable given the obvious dangers and the penalties for non-compliance with regulations.
It can be difficult for contractors to keep track of large projects or multiple small jobs. Some still use mountains of paper and filing cabinets to store information on clients and tasks. This is fraught with problems. Not only is paper inefficient but it can be difficult to find files, track the source of errors and update documents as things change.
Apps allow workers and their supervisors to enter real-time updates on the progress of a project. If something goes wrong or there is a delay, they can note it on the spot. There is no need to make a call or go back to an office to make a report. Time stamps can be automatically generated and digital signatures can be collected. These steps improve accountability and make it easier to track changes. If anything is ever in dispute, there is a clear record.
We often think about the Internet of Things in terms of smart homes – giving instructions to Alexa or controlling the thermostat and lighting. However, there are also business applications. IOT can also help with the building of smart businesses. Contractors can outfit their business with sensor-equipped machinery which connects to an app. The app would alert the contractor when the equipment needs to be serviced or repaired. This can prevent unexpected breakdowns which can impact the ability to deliver on a job. Contractors can also benefit from inventory management systems which send alerts when stock is running low. This reduces the element of surprise and allows the contractor to plan for significant expenses.
Any business owner needs to stay on top of inventory and maintenance schedules. But with all the things that go into running a business, sometimes things slip through the cracks. Running out of key materials or unexpectedly having to send a piece of equipment to the shop can bring a project to halt. This doesn’t augur well for the business’ finances or reputation. Internet-connected devices and apps can make a big difference to these key aspects of business.
Contractors don’t typically know what their workers are doing when they aren’t on the job site. This means some workers will slack off or produce substandard work if they think they can get away with it. Mobile technology with GPS capabilities can help to reduce the likelihood of this. Workers can be asked to log-on when they are on the job so their location can be established and their time can be tracked.
This removes the need for workers to manually punch in or have someone tasked with preparing timesheets. Workers who know they will be asked to account for their time will generally do a better job. Those who don’t want to adhere to strict standards can opt to work elsewhere. Suffice it to say that apps can keep workers on their toes.
Workers in the office, those in the field and even independent contractors must be kept in the loop. Having one communication app means that information can be disseminated to all relevant parties without having to use multiple platforms. It also allows workers to easily ask questions about their schedule or particular jobs. This is especially important if all the workers rarely go to one central location.
Any business owner knows that several things can go wrong when all the members of the team aren’t on the same page. It can have implications for job completion and customer satisfaction. It is, therefore, important that high importance is placed on communication. Apps make the process a lot easier to manage.
Virtually any mobile device can be turned into a point of sale system with the right app. Contractors or their agents can accept credit and debit card payments wherever right on the job site. There’s no need for the client to come to go to the contractor’s office to make a payment or send a cheque by snail mail. The advantages of faster, more convenient payments need not be listed. Contractors know that getting money from clients can be a challenge. Apps can also be used to make accounting easier. This is especially necessary since both income and expenses need to be monitored on a continuous basis. Many popular accounting software packages now have accompanying mobile apps. They generally allow users to track billable hours, categorise expenses, send invoices, reconcile bank statements and more.
There can be no doubt that apps can help to transform the way contractors do business. Whether it’s improving communication, facilitating invoicing or managing workers, there’s an app for that. With the wide range of digital solutions on the market, contractors need to do their research and test the solutions on a limited basis before they implement them across the company. Once this is done, there is no limit to how much apps can help.
This story was first posted here: https://www.pickaweb.co.uk/blog/how-apps-can-transform-the-way-contractors-do-business/
Marie Erhart is a Success Manager at FieldPulse, creators of field service software that lets you run your entire contracting business from a single app. She works with contractors to help them grow their business using best practices.