Simple Construction Apps to Solve Common Problems

Contractors and equipment fleets are adopting enterprise software and technology that can change the business, but these lightweight apps address specific pain points with minimal disruption and cost.

Skillit catalogs worker skills at such a granular level hiring managers can search by skills that may cut across multiple trades and job titles, expanding the available workforce.
Skillit catalogs worker skills at such a granular level hiring managers can search by skills that may cut across multiple trades and job titles, expanding the available workforce.

Contractors are adopting enterprise software—used by multiple departments and professions in the business and sometimes by trading partners—to make construction more efficient, predictable and cost effective and to get more done with fewer people.

This requires executive buy-in, or at least in a smaller company the commitment to drastically change how things are done, as well as a nontrivial budget. Many cell phone apps and light weight web tools used in construction extend these broader enterprise systems, and it is that connection to the business and other stakeholders in the system that gives them their transformational power. Here are some standalone and simple apps and web-based tools aimed at solving a single defined problem without the expenditure or the risk of a broad construction enterprise resource planning (ERP) or other company-wide software rollout project. Some are even free and none are so expensive as to likely require approvals from the top of a company.

Apps to Find Construction Employees

A broad construction applicant tracking system (ATS) can be an essential tool for many contractors dealing with a protracted labor shortage. However, even before a trade worker applies for a role, straightforward technologies can help fill the pipeline with potential employees. Trade Hounds, for instance, offers contractors a social network where they can compare compensation and has plans to launch a job board according to company executives who spoke to ForConstructionPros when the app was launched. Home Depot’s Path to Pro portal enables contractors to post jobs for free to more than 24,000 workers available to hire.

An emerging offering, Skillit, seeks to more directly catalog worker skills, preferences and other details in ways that create new hiring opportunities for contractors and construction staffing teams. Skillit provides a simple web application that workers can fill out to showcase their skills, work history, experience, certifications, pay expectations and other details essential for construction recruiters. Employers meanwhile get extensive tools that share worker data in innovative ways including skills assessment scores and in-app messaging to maximize the opportunity to find and recruit qualified people.

“We are building the largest and fastest-growing network of skilled workers,” Skillit CEO and Founder Fraser Patterson said in a January 2024 interview. “We capture skill information at a more granular level than anyone has ever done, as well as hiring characteristics, pay aspirations, relocation plans— a complete 360-degree worker profile that makes it easy for employers to select the right workers at the right time.”

This flexibility and the structured nature of employee data in Skillit create new opportunities that go beyond a standard search based on past job titles.

“By capturing worker skills and pay preferences, we enable worker sourcing by exact criteria,” Patterson said. “This enables actual skills-based hiring—instead of using a simple job title or maybe a past employer, all of which we also capture. Individual skills can be used to identify candidates that have not held a title but have the skills to satisfy the role.”

This alone has the effect of enlarging the available talent pool.

“Look at the skills between a welder and a pipefitter,” Patterson said. “There is a 50% overlap or even a 60% overlap and that enabled us to double the size of the candidate pool nationwide for both trades.”

At the time of the interview, Skillit had 30,000 members, up from 1,000 at the beginning of 2023, recently adding up to 1,000 per week in Florida.

Apps for Concrete

A complex specified construction material like concrete benefits from computerized tools to ensure the mix and volume meet requirements.

Some of these tools will be free. Sakrete for instance offers the Sakrete Mobile App that offers guidance on mix and the number of bags required for a job. A contractor downloads the app, enters information about the project, and the app measure the area with a built-in augmented reality tool that works with a mobile device camera. The app provides recommendations for specific products along with the number of bags the job will take.

Concrete Calculator by Inch Calculator performs similar functions for larger and more structural projects more likely addressed by ready-mix, including slabs, footing, circular columns, poured walls, steps and block walls.

Construction Project Management Apps

Ever since Procore became perhaps the first modern software-as-a-service construction project management application, multiple other offerings have come to market and like Procore offer a variety of apps, but these are enterprise systems. Fieldwire, HCSS Heavy Job, Buildertrend, Assignar, Raken and others offer field productivity software, encompassing job ticketing, productivity reporting, progress tracking, document sharing, timecards and other functionality for workers in the field on a mobile app. But these are enterprise systems that require a budget and some process change across a company.

Then again, there are lightweight tools like Buildo Construction Diary. This phone app enables a contractor to:

  • Track workers, materials and equipment
  • Keep project owners informed about progress on the site, with push notifications to prevent missed communications
  • Track weather data
  • Attach site photos to the project diary
  • Export data as a PDF or Excel file, plus data backup to Google Drive

Contractors can try the app for free on up to three jobsites and 500 document records.

Portal for Construction Equipment Spares and Repairs

Equipment-centric contractors live or die by whether their assets are ready to be productive on projects, so efficient parts ordering is essential. Speed is important to limit downtime and competitive pricing is important to control spend.

Gearflow enables contractors to streamline spares, repairs and parts ordering for construction equipment.Gearflow enables contractors to streamline spares, repairs and parts ordering for construction equipment.Gearflow

Gearflow’s Parts Hub Pro is a construction fleet part ordering portal that allows technicians to centralize parts ordering, parts quotes and route purchase approvals with built-in customizable workflows. Basic sourcing is free except for a 3% transaction fee. Paid plans add more features and enterprise pricing includes integration with enterprise software for equipment maintenance—an initial integration with HCSS Equipment360 was launched in 2023.

Construction Asset Tracking Tools

Contractors intent on tracking location and operating hours for their tools and equipment can also find straightforward and extremely affordable tools without opting for a full GPS asset tracking and fleet management software suite from companies like Tenna, Trackunit, HCSS, Samsara or others. Some of these tools like Asset Panda will be suitable for smaller assets, and may rely on bar code scanning to record location or custody of a piece of equipment or tool.

Affordable consumer-level tracking devices from companies like Cube Tracker or TilePro can be extremely accessible, but are not designed for the rigors of use on off-road equipment. Nor will these tools share equipment data in a way that makes sense in a construction environment.

Rooster Asset Tracking is priced within reach of contractors who just have one piece of equipment and is designed specifically for equipment assets. It relies on rugged trackers that can moved from one piece of equipment to another. They also can capture data from onboard telematics units and relay it, along with sensor data, to a cloud-based application for back-office use.

Rooster Asset Tracking offers affordable sensors and a web portal designed for construction equipment management.Rooster Asset Tracking offers affordable sensors and a web portal designed for construction equipment management.Rooster Asset Tracking

Construction Photogrammetry Apps

The ability to capture images in the context of physical space helps contractors visualize a site or even, using machine vision technology, calculate the percentage complete and find variances against a building information modeling file. These applications, from vendors like OpenSpace, Buildots, Cupix, and others are expensive though.

Fortunately, free or low-cost photogrammetry software is available, including open-source tech like Colmap, MicMac and the proprietary Agisoft.

Matterport, which has a growing roster of construction customers, also offers a free version that captures imagery and measurements. The imagery can then be used to create 3D renderings.

Construction Site Logistics Tool

On a large or complex jobsite, marshalling the arrival of equipment and materials presents a challenge. Often, no central repository of information on where deliveries should go, when they are arriving or what resources are required to unload is available. To make things worse, the site may have its own address, but the specific location where deliveries need to go onsite, the route to be taken and other information may fall between the cracks. This causes delays, confusion and non-value-added work for contractors. PLOT is a tool for jobsite coordination that streamlines:

  • Deliveries to project sites, including requested delivery windows, detailed directions within the site and automated updates to the supplier if delivery time or location have changed
  • Site details to suppliers including navigation to or within the site, weather at the project location and more, all shareable with a QR code or link
  • Crew coordination through tools for inter-company collaboration, and for limited users, jobsite alerts across a number of platforms

"The Logistics Mapping module of PLOT is available for free," PLOT Founder and CEO Chris Callen said. "The tool is used in lieu of a traditional logistics plan PDF and allows project teams to create a jobsite portal akin to a Yelp page for your jobsite. General contractors can add jobsite locations like gates, laydown areas or docks and equipment like tower cranes and pumps, and share with trade partners and vendors. General contractors set dates and time availability so every phase of the jobsite's logistics can be managed in one place. The PDF export is embedded with hyperlinks so no matter how old the PDF or printout is, it connects to the current version of the jobsite through the portal."