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Small Contractors: Leveraging Tech for Advantage

Small Contractors: Leveraging Tech for Advantage

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From digital collaboration and document management applications, to drones and reality capture, augmented and virtual reality and robotics, it may sometimes seem as if technology in the AEC industry is evolving faster than construction leaders can keep up. This is especially true for the industry’s small- to medium-sized businesses, which may often feel left behind by their larger counterparts when it comes to being able to implement and derive value from the avalanche of innovative tools storming the landscape each year. This is despite the fact that the construction industry is mostly made up of small business contractors and specialty subcontractors.

But being bigger isn’t always better when it comes to construction technology. Company size can also be a liability—especially in an era where change happens fast. While larger construction firms may have more money to invest in industry-changing technology, as construction technology continues to evolve it is the smaller firms that are potentially in the position of being able to harvest the most value from these tools.

  • Smaller construction firms already have some inherent advantages aside from technology.
  • Being a small business enables quickness. With less overhead, small construction businesses can potentially pivot faster than their larger peers.
  • Small construction businesses can also potentially scale more efficiently. These firms can take on projects larger competitors cannot, because their teams are potentially nimbler and their profitability targets less stringent.

Decision-making is faster with smaller firms. Without layers of bureaucracy, smaller construction firms can streamline decision-making, turning opportunity into profitability much faster.

Therefore, while size alone can often serve as a competitive equalizer for smaller construction firms, technology is where they can supercharge their businesses. In many ways, most construction technology today is designed for smaller firms to take on and implement quickly. This is particularly true of software and other digital solutions, which require less overhead to implement.

Here are six ways how technology can catapult small construction businesses to the next level:

1. Increased productivity: With fewer people, it’s critical that smaller construction firms find ways to automate, standardize or streamline workflows or processes that are manual and tedious. Digital solutions have the power to free up time and resources by performing repetitive or mundane tasks.

2. Bolstered competitive advantage: Digital construction technology can help smaller construction businesses “punch above their weight.” Using these tools to produce more accurate bids in a shorter amount of time, for instance, allows these firms to be in the running for projects they previously would have never considered.

3. Mitigated Errors and Re-Work: Reducing errors, re-work and miscommunication adds to a project’s profitability, and these technologies have all proven effective in thwarting such common construction project risks.

4. Next-Level Site Logistics Planning: Purpose-built construction industry tech platforms give you the tools to build a powerful, repeatable site logistics process for your organization. Collaboration technology can revolutionize the process of site logistics planning. Organizations using older methods, such as emailing offline documents back and forth, or working exclusively on paper, risk duplicating information. If colleagues work off of different versions of a plan without realizing it, that could have dangerous consequences on the jobsite. Additionally, custom tool sets allow for standard markers for objects such as fences, vehicles and paths, which help site logistics come together quickly while maintaining perfect accuracy.

5. Increased Safety: Even a single accident on a jobsite could come with devastating human consequences, alongside heavy financial losses. The key impact of site logistics on safety is making the movement of people and materials around the jobsite more planned and precise. With this information and other details in hand, there’s less chance of a damaging collision or other incident on the site.

6. Quality enhancements: Together, these benefits will improve the overall quality of small construction businesses’ operation, improving a firm’s work and enhancing its reputation and prospects.

Too often, the catalyst that causes a contractor to adopt new solutions is a negative event, such as an industrial accident or a costly rework. Companies of any size need to embrace the proactive adoption of technology to help avoid accidents and poor planning from happening. Because smaller firms don’t have to move mountains to implement a new technology, unlike larger firms with complex organizational structures, all of these benefits can be realized in a relatively short period of time. Rolling out and testing a new technology tool at a smaller firm can happen in weeks, not months or years.

Technology isn’t an option in today’s world—it’s a must-have. And in construction, the tools that are making the biggest difference have never been more accessible to smaller businesses. By using emerging digital construction technology, smaller firms won’t just survive but thrive.

About the Author

Steve Smith is the director of partnerships at Bluebeam, a leading developer of solutions and services for architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professionals worldwide.


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