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For a very long time, construction management meant spending all day on a single job site or traveling from one site to another to check on progress and stomp out small fires before they could become big ones—not exactly an efficient approach to project management. In an industry slow to embrace digital technologies, it only became widely apparent that the physical presence of a project manager onsite might not be necessary when the pandemic turned the way Americans work upside down.
Increasingly, digital technologies used to improve construction processes are being deployed as project management tools, and many construction project managers spend far less time onsite than previously was thought necessary.
Top Remote Construction Management Trends
Digital Time Tracking
At the most basic level, construction project management is about making sure that people show up to work when and where they’re supposed to and remain as long as they are scheduled to remain. Remote project managers use time tracking software capable of real-time, cloud-based tracking and reporting of employees’ hours, broken down by tasks, across multiple projects and locations. Look for time tracking software that makes it easy to export data to other project management tools.
Drones make it possible for project managers to conduct site inspections without having to be physically present. High-resolution images enable project managers to spot current or potential problems and develop plans for addressing them.
Where robots are used to spare workers from having to perform dangerous, repetitive tasks, such as tying rebar in bridge construction, laying bricks, loading and unloading vehicles, and so on, they typically collect data that remote project managers can access.
Augmented and Virtual Reality
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are being used in building design, construction planning, and inspection, eliminating the need for frequent site visits. Combined with BIM data and 3D modeling, it’s possible to conduct virtual walkthroughs and train workers remotely.
3D printing is in relatively widespread use in the construction industry. It provides one more way for remote construction project managers to identify potential construction issues without having to conduct an onsite inspection.
A Common Communication Platform
Miscommunication is to blame for many construction issues, problems, delays, and cost overruns. Remote project managers need to be in regular communication with their construction teams, which is much easier when a standard communication platform is used.
Other Digital Tools for Remote Project Management
There are any number of software packages available for:
- Project management (e.g., task delegation)
- Scheduling (assigning workers to teams and managing shifts)
- Teleconferencing (for virtual team meetings, training events, etc.)
For many, using such tools to manage construction projects remotely was a matter of necessity during the worst of the pandemic. Given the benefits of being able to manage projects from a distance, it seems unlikely that many will go back to the old way of doing things.
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