By Matt Sena
Director of Customer Success
These days, you’ll hear the word “network” in a lot of different contexts, but you may have noticed already what a particularly important word it is to us here at FieldLens. When we talk about the FieldLens Network, we’re talking about a network at the intersection of professional and personal interest. An association of individuals, or even companies, that share a love of construction and a belief that smarter use of technology can make us all better at our jobs, and maybe even happier while doing them.
Whether you’ve ever thought about it in terms of a “network” or not – every construction project is its own network. Ten, twenty, fifty companies work a job together – with the common interest of completing quality work on time, and to maximize profitability. The job can last a couple of weeks or a couple of years – but every job requires working together – sharing information, coordinating work, documenting progress, etc. – to achieve those goals.
Eventually the job ends – but the network never does. As a construction professional, I bet when you meet someone else on the job, you start connecting the dots of which jobs you’ve worked on – maybe exchanging war stories, or maybe just making connections to common coworkers. And I bet when you’re working with someone new, or if you’re trying to decide if you should, you might call around to those common coworkers to find out if “they’re okay.”
Every construction professional is a part of that industry network – starting with your first job and growing throughout your career. It’s about connections, information, and expertise, and if you’re not in construction you just don’t get it.
We believe there is amazing untapped power in that network – that by recognizing how we are all connected, by working together and learning from each other, we can raise the game for the entire industry – and that finally technology can provide the tools we need to access that potential.
Our industry has struggled for the last 50 years to make strides forward in productivity – in fact, while productivity in other non-farm industries has increased due in large part to innovation in technology, in construction productivity has actually decreased. As the requirements and complexity of what we’re building have only increased, we’ve yet to see the benefits of better tools and processes that have already revolutionized manufacturing and other industries.
But those days are over – and we’re entering the next golden age of construction thanks to technology that can finally help us where we need it – in the field. We are at the very beginning of our own revolution – and it’s going to change the way we build by allowing us all to capitalize and expand on the construction network that we already grow and maintain every single day. What we master on projects through everyday building can now be expanded with detailed data points from the jobsite, information that can be more reliably shared with better communication tools and more effectively taught through a documentable history of performance.
Some examples of the types of technology that are already enabling this better connectivity:
- Smartphones and tablets!
- Wearable technology allowing for better communication of jobsite information, better information on worker safety and a whole lot more.
- Smart materials such as concrete that can repair itself and communicate its health.
- Machines that schedule their own maintenance and return data on wear and tear.
- Drones that can survey and record information on hard to reach areas of the jobsite.
- Sensors and more that relay information to better inform both design and implementation.
Nothing can replace the knowledge gained from human experience, but by embracing the tools and technology becoming available to us the industry can benefit from that human expertise in a much more holistic way. In the short-term this leads to safer jobsites with fewer mistakes and more efficient coordination. In the long-term it gives us the information necessary to improve our processes and to learn and study the cost-benefits of different materials and technologies. In short, it will help us all to Build Better.