A Technology Review
By Matt Abeles, ABC National Vice President, Construction Technology and Innovation
In the last two decades, smartphones have gone from a luxury to a necessity. Cars have gone from almost exclusively internal combustion to widespread electric motors. But today, construction technology is advancing at an exponential rate. From all-inclusive platforms like Procore to niche providers like Flashtract, there is a technological solution on the market that will improve your work, increase your number of bids and make your company more competitive.
Here are four products from ABC National’s Technology Alliance that could provide a nice return on investment and may even make the job run more smoothly for your workforce:
Real Time Risk Solutions
Real Time Risk Solutions is a mobile-first application for performing observations, filling out forms, conducting toolbox talks, collaborating to correct open risk issues, and accessing critical documents (even while offline). Not only does the software compile and create the necessary reports, but it also provides top-notch analytic views, allowing further insights into what is happening on site.
• Turn existing material digital or pick from an extensive library of content curated by industry leaders.
• Record and submit photos, notes and all pertinent information into the hands of those who need it most, in real time.
• Work with third parties to turn forms into QR Codes and let others outside or inside of your organization submit the necessary information.
• Save time and money by streamlining safety and reporting processes using this powerful application.
Contractors can get started easily and quickly. In fact, companies are usually up and running within an hour) and have an attentive support team from Real Time Risk Solutions to assist in the process.
Many contractors are still using Excel spreadsheets for estimating rather than industry-specific estimating software. There are two main problems with spreadsheets, however: efficiency and accuracy. Manually performing estimates and takeoffs requires a lot of time, and studies show that spreadsheets often contain errors.
Contractors should consider ProEst for one simple reason: bids need to be competitive. A competitive bid is an accurate bid, and the more accurate bids you submit, the more jobs you’ll be awarded. By using estimating software like ProEst, contractors can save time. ProEst users typically see a 51.7% reduction in the time it takes to create an estimate, as well as an overall improvement in the accuracy of bids.
ProEst’s user-friendly interface allows contractors to easily generate error-free estimates from your data. The company has also published its construction costbook for more than 40 years, providing contractors with the information needed to create accurate estimates. ProEst is not just estimating software, however, because estimating doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The all-in-one platform combines cost estimating with digital takeoffs, bid management, CRM, proposal generation and reporting to create one streamlined workflow. After a bid is awarded, ProEst seamlessly integrates with many popular project management and accounting software, so you can save time and avoid costly typos during data transfer.
Efficiency and accuracy are great benefits, but so is convenience. ProEst is a cloud-based estimating platform, which means you can sign in, access project data and complete work from any computer or mobile device. In 2020, ProEst users easily transitioned to working remotely. When shutdowns forced some estimators out of the office, they were able to access all their projects from their home computers and collaborate in real time with other members of their teams.
With cloud-based technology, multiple estimators can work on the same bid at once without having to save files and send them to other team members. Changes are automatically saved to the cloud, so you never have to worry about forgetting to save your work or losing data to a computer crash. In an increasingly virtual world, you need the power to create accurate bids from any device—and ProEst provides that competitive edge.
ABC of Wisconsin member Corporate Contractors Inc. made the switch to ProEst in 2018.
“With ProEst, our people can work on the same estimate anywhere, at any time,” said Steve Ebling, preconstruction manager of CCI. “That’s extremely useful.”
Autodesk Construction Cloud recently launched a new project and field management solution called Autodesk Build, which provides construction teams with a single solution for project management, quality, safety, cost and closeout by connecting data, workflows and teams in one highly configurable environment.
Autodesk Build is easy to deploy and use. It unifies best-in-class features from BIM 360 and PlanGrid and adds powerful new capabilities to make information immediately available across the entire construction team. Owners, general contractors and specialty contractors can enhance project quality by relying on Autodesk Build for real-time visibility that keeps teams in sync, improves collaboration, mitigates project risk and enables data-driven decision making.
“Our teams need the right technology to achieve outstanding results,” said Ted Jennings, senior VDC manager of Barton Malow Holdings. “By bringing together the best of BIM 360 and PlanGrid and adding even more project management firepower, Autodesk Build is both a simple and robust solution. Connecting our teams and data across projects allows us to supercharge our work with more streamlined documents and safety and cost management all while delivering on our quality standards.”
With Autodesk Build, construction teams have the power to manage projects more efficiently, maximize cross-team collaboration, digitize and centralize document management and streamline cost management.
Autodesk Build is a subscription-based product, which includes:
• Autodesk Docs – A centralized document management solution that underpins Autodesk Build’s Common Data Environment (CDE), providing users with seamless navigation and integrated workflows to create a single source of truth across the project lifecycle.
• Insights – Analytics capabilities that support the ability to collect, interpret and export project data; encompasses Construction IQ artificial intelligence to identify and mitigate risk.
• Administration – Project setup tools, including centralized user management and permissions capabilities, templates and single-sign-on.
Flashtract is a cloud-based billing solution that was built specifically for construction and works alongside contractors’ existing technologies like accounting programs, ERP systems and project management tools. Flashtract eliminates the cumbersome paper processes for general contractors and subcontractors. It simplifies payment applications by automatically generating lien waivers, preventing unapproved change orders and eliminating billing errors.
General contractors start to see efficiencies in their back offices almost immediately after implementation. Once they have gone through onboarding, contractors simply set up a project and invite subcontractors via email. Flashtract handles all training and enables subs to efficiently use the platform. From there, the billing process becomes largely automated through preset values within each document and custom approval workflows.
Flashtract’s goal is to eliminate all manual and paper-based billing and payment processes for every contractor. Flashtract has made the traditional flow of billing paperwork getting lost or going to the wrong person or place a thing of the past. Stakeholders and approvers are notified as soon as documents are received and ready for new action. This saves countless hours a week per project for general contractors and makes the end of the month manageable.
From the other side of the process, Flashtract maintains a 100% adoption rate with subcontractors. Subcontractors simply take a few minutes to create an account, at which point they can automatically generate billing documents and create custom forms for each of their general contractors. This gets them paid faster and keeps their books balanced and up to date.
Flashtract set-up takes just a few hours and each person using the platform has access to a real person for custom support. Flashtract has a five-star rating for customer service, and a few review highlights include, “outstanding software and customer service! two thumbs up” and “supportive team at Flashtract… strong desire to help make their software suit your needs.”
The first step to embracing technology is to start small by testing the technology on one or two projects before rolling it out across all jobs. Get buy-in from everyone, especially the end-user. Assign a technology champion who is responsible for successful implementation. Finally, after you have done the due diligence on your challenges and selected the best technology to address them, strategize your roll-out to meet your end-users where they are. Some might be digital natives and can pick up the technology easily with minimal training. Some might need more guidance. Overall, let your team be a part of the full process and get their feedback, as this will also create change agents.
ABC National’s Technology Alliance can help you adopt new technologies and solutions for your business. Any of the four companies in this article can provide value to your company, help you innovate, win contracts and be more profitable.
For questions on any of these companies or the Technology Alliance in general, please contact Josef Burkart at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit abc.org/Membership/Tech-Marketplace for discounts on these and many other tech products.