Developing closer connections between construction company offices and field offices has become increasingly important. Putting computers in construction trailers and connecting them to the web started the trend, enabling reports, requests for information (RFIs), payroll and material use to be easily transmitted.
More recently, tablets and smartphones are replacing some computer functions. By using a variety of software applications, employees can transmit payroll information into company accounting software, upload photos of job progress for company-wide access and receive messages in the field in real time.
The new trend is to get up-to-the-minute, detailed information about productivity in the field in the form of cost account reports. Project managers and office management use the information to better plan and increase productivity on the job. This productivity information is also shared with company estimators so they can bid projects based on yesterday’s numbers. Depending on a company’s need, the increased productivity resulting from this process can be used either to bid more competitively or increase company profits.
Striving to Build Smarter
Los Angeles-based Klorman Construction specializes in structural concrete high-rise building construction, and is a good example of cutting-edge work in the technology age. Bill Klorman, president, founded the company in 1980 with the goal of constantly staying technologically ahead in order to complete jobs better and faster than the competition.
Klorman describes himself as the company’s “champion” for electronic and technical development. “It’s good when the owner takes this role because when champions are lower in corporate ranks, management has to be convinced, slowing down the process,” he says.
Klorman believes the way to survive in today’s challenging economic climate is to produce the same amount of building in smarter ways, with better planning and more efficient use of labor. His goal is to know what’s happening in the current moment and make decisions about how best to proceed. “The horse is out of the barn if you wait until after a construction task is completed,” he says.
The search for new ways to collect relevant data and summarize it in report formats for making decisions is Klorman’s passion. His company is on the leading edge in this technology area, and it considers Trimble Navigation to be one of their primary partners in this quest.
Cost Accounting in Real Time
Klorman Construction has always been interested in real-time cost accounting. The company originally used spreadsheets to generate cost account reports. It then began to experiment with software programs, adapting them to its needs. Next, it added computer programmers to its staff to develop its own software solutions.
More recently the focus has shifted to mining field data from several sources and bringing the data all together in report form to help managers understand how to make jobs more productive. These sources include: Tekla Building Information Modeling (BIM) software; SketchUp for 3-D modeling; Meridian Systems Prolog Manager, Prolog Converge and Prolog Mobile; robotic total stations; 3-D laser scanners; Vico virtual construction software; Thing Magic RFID; and Trimble AllTrack asset management software. (For a brief rundown of these tools, see “From the Field to Office and Beyond”.)
Klorman Construction starts its real-time quest with BIM models of the construction; it builds its own BIM from scratch to ensure anatomical accuracy for fabrication and erection. This might happen during the estimating phase of a project if the company particularly wants the job. Tekla is the BIM software used primarily for concrete construction. The models are used to plan construction strategies and take-off quantities and make presentations to owners. In the field, project managers use the models for planning and construction.