4 Simple Ways IoT Can Help Your Construction Business

5 minute read

Saving money and improving productivity with technology

Staying productive, under-budget, and on-schedule is a constant challenge in the construction industry.

Other related industries like shipping and manufacturing have relied on technology to improve efficiency in recent years. But construction remains one of the least digitized industries in the world, and it shows: In the past two decades, construction productivity increased by about 1% per year, while manufacturing productivity increased by over three times that.

Technology can boost productivity. But with the wide variety of options on the construction tech market, it can be hard to decide which to adopt.  

The Internet of Things (IoT) has several practical applications on the worksite — and it’s easy for even the smallest firms to adopt. From inventory management to theft prevention, here’s how connected devices can help your construction business.

Automated Inventory

A construction site is full of materials, tools, and equipment.

Keeping track of that inventory is crucial. In the event of a disaster, it makes it easier to file an insurance claim. Managers are less likely to over or under-order for a well-managed storeroom, saving both time and money. Knowing exactly how many drills, buckets, and cords are on the worksite is useful.

But in the long, tough process of completing a construction project, inventory management often falls by the wayside. In an ideal world, inventory would be tallied regularly, but it’s not always at the top of a long list of worksite priorities.

Connected devices can cut the time it takes to manage inventory to a fraction of normal, and in a few simple steps a firm can automate the process:

  1. Install low cost, simple-to-attach RFID tags to items.
  2. Place or carry RFID readers at key checkpoints around the worksite, such as at the entrance to a tool crib or other storage location.
  3. Check data remotely to verify inventory is accounted for.

The same technology is used in hospitals, retail, and factories – and is eminently adaptable to construction worksites as well.

Preventive Maintenance

Inventory control isn’t the only key worksite task that can get overlooked in the rush to complete a job. It can also be difficult for construction companies to make time for regular equipment maintenance.

Unfortunately, putting off maintenance can cost big in the long run. Experts estimate running machines into the ground could cost up to ten times as much as maintaining them every few months.  

IoT can help contractors cut the short-term costs of maintenance to prevent the long-term costs of ignoring it.

At the most basic level, IoT can track when each machine was maintained, which can facilitate a more efficient flag-and-tag system:

  1. Workers report a machine needs attention, flag it on an app or platform.
  2. Maintenance staff service the machine, check off task on platform.
  3. Information is recorded and stored on the platform.
  4. Platform notifies maintenance staff when it’s time to take another look.
  5. Managers can access data over time to see whether machine needs replaced.

The process is simple but powerful. With mobile reporting, it’s not necessary to sort through flagging and ask around about equipment. Instead, staff can simply pull up an app and get to work.

Predictive maintenance

Imagine the same process, with the help of artificial intelligence or analytics that can identify potential problems and necessary corrective actions before any costly unplanned downtime occurs.

Analytics can provide information associated with machine breakdown: How long does it usually take for this machine to break down? How long has this machine been used? This information can then be used to predict when the machine needs attention from maintenance staff, and to alert them accordingly. 

Theft Prevention

Large equipment theft has plagued the construction industry for decades. 

For the knowledgeable thief, a piece of heavy machinery can be an attractive target. It’s expensive. It’s often one-key-fits-all. There’s no standardized serial number database to give law enforcement a place to start looking.

What can construction companies do to mitigate the risk of theft? There are simple fixes, no doubt, such as tire locks and surveillance cameras. But a motivated thief can overcome these obstacles.

A discreet, cellular-connected device installed in a piece of heavy machinery can track its location. In the event of a theft, it can send out an emergency alert as soon as it leaves the worksite using geofencing technology — and continue to show its location as the thief speeds away.

Not only does this increase the chances of recovering a piece of equipment in the event of a disaster, but it can save money right now. Insurance companies will often give a discounted rate to companies that track expensive equipment.

The bottom line? IoT technology automates cumbersome processes and protects valuable equipment on the worksite. For the construction professional looking for a way to modernize their firm, IoT is an excellent place to start – and definitely worth looking into in more depth. Position Logic has decades of experience working with construction companies of all sizes on the IoT and connected-device solutions that are best for their needs.

Contact us to talk over your current challenges and to find out how we might be able to help, or download our eBook on IoT in Construction for even more useful information.

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