Mobile tech saves time, boosts productivity on job sites

Mobile tech saves time, boosts productivity on job sites

by MAUREEN BACKE, Lead Product Marketing Manager, AT&T Advanced Solutions

Field workers in construction are using mobile technology — apps, devices, services — to increase their productivity and decrease project costs. Construction was among the first industries to use cell phones and push-to-talk (PTT) to improve communication among project teams on the jobsite, and many construction companies are now using mobile to accomplish basic business tasks with greater efficiency and lower cost.

For example, you can: 

  • eliminate entire days from the field reporting cycle by using electronic mobile forms on a smartphone or tablet;
  • let your field employees use mobile devices to complete their timesheets;
  • enable your supervisors to manage crew time and easily submit data into the payroll system;
  • gather and manage data on your construction equipment and asset fleets, from simple location to performance metrics like hours of service, fuel use, and maintenance alerts;
  • give your field workers tools for entering project information on mobile devices that goes straight into your back-office systems; and
  • instantly communicate with up to 250 people at a jobsite using Enhanced PTT.

New areas of mobile automation are becoming more popular in construction. Imagine your field workers picking up their assignments each day on their phones instead of having to drive in to the office. They report task completion through their mobile device so you can reassign them as soon as they’re available. They order special equipment through their smartphone, and you find and dispatch assets geographically close to them.

They set up impromptu conference calls over PTT and update entire teams in real time. 

Best of all, your entire company reduces its dependency on paper and the costs associated with handling it. That can lead to a quicker, less costly exchange of information that streamlines the process of making decisions.

Mobile technologies are more than just cool apps — they’re your next competitive advantage. Three new categories of mobile tools allow you to manage your construction project resources more effectively.


Construction companies spend a lot of time tracking the location and status of equipment, monitoring driver behavior, dealing with compliance, maintaining service logs and performing many other activities just to manage their assets. The right mobile solution can save you time and allow you to manage your equipment or asset fleet more effectively.

Using asset management systems combined with GPS, companies can cut costs by locating their equipment when they need it, capturing performance metrics like hours of service and offering greater control over variable costs like fuel. With the data these systems capture, companies can improve their equipment maintenance program to reduce the chance of equipment failure and minimize downtime.

You can use mobile devices to view and analyze asset data: inventory regardless of location, real-time reporting based on GPS coordinates, and condition of equipment based on telematics (temperature, humidity, moisture, pressure, etc.). Integrating this data with existing systems — sensory and vehicle control, dispatch, billing, maintenance — leads to better back-office control of jobsite activity.


Mobile solutions can’t take all of the labor out of construction, but they can simplify workforce management by handling timecards, tracking job and worker status, automating dispatch, delivering work orders, allowing mobile payment and using digital forms for approvals and data collection.

Without computers and network access on jobsites, most construction companies have continued to use paper for their timecards, work orders and inspection forms. Mobile devices now bring automation and efficiency to these processes with customized digital forms that capture requests and signatures on the jobsite and update back-office systems immediately. When converted to app-like drop-down boxes, complex forms become easy for field employees to fill out and submit on mobile devices. Recipients see the forms as PDF files, without the need to re-enter data from sheets of paper. When temporarily off the network, workers can still fill out forms on smartphones and tablets, and then submit them when reconnected.

Even the staple of workplace reporting, the timecard, has moved to the mobile device. Construction companies can manage payroll costs and improve accountability when employees clock in and out from their wireless devices. With a few taps, field supervisors can clock entire work crews in and out.

The GPS technology common to mobile devices not only announces turn-by-turn driving directions but also enables location tracking and reporting on your mobile workforce. Imagine seeing your employees on a Web-based map and assigning new jobs based on their locations, then having them confirm receipt, acceptance and status of those jobs. Applications built around GPS can improve your employees’ safety by allowing them to send alerts quickly.

The real value in workforce management lies in back-office integration — moving data back and forth smoothly between the mobile devices at the jobsite and the Web-based applications used by decision makers in the office. By eliminating redundant data entry, reducing fuel consumption, automating inspections and punchlisting, and improving workflow through location stamping and Web-based maps, mobile technologies can help construction firms complete more jobs per week with lower overhead.


Push-to-Talk (PTT) has become the standard way for project teams to communicate on the jobsite, whether across town or across the country. Select PTT solutions can now offer additional capabilities that enable construction workers to call dozens or hundreds of people at a time and check presence to see who’s available to talk

Construction teams rely on PTT for tasks as simple as locating and assigning work to employees and as high-impact as alerting the team pouring the foundation that the next load of concrete has just arrived. Supervisors can override PTT calls to communicate urgent, time-sensitive messages to their teams, and users can talk and use smartphone apps simultaneously.

Further, with Integrated Dispatch service (currently only offered by AT&T) main office employees can locate workers in the field and conduct PTT calls to one or many directly from a PC. Administrators can maintain and update contact lists for all PTT devices in the field, also from a PC. To increase safety on jobsites, PTT calls can be conducted over compatible Wi-Fi connections, which may be handy for jobs where cellular signals do not reach. And being able to push a single button and notify everyone on a project about a broken handrail or a material spill goes a long way toward improving workplace safety.

The combination of asset management, workforce management and PTT can lead to compelling, time-saving-use cases in construction. 

Reprinted with permission from 'TechBrief,' October 2014, a publication of the Associated General Contractors of America, Arlington VA. 


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