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Drones buzzing around building sites, augmented reality headsets, 3D printed houses, even exoskeletons – there’s a lot of chatter around the new, cutting-edge technologies entering construction.

But the commonality shared across every organisation is that each and every project is different – nothing is certain. Every site represents a unique and individual prototype. Whether it’s location, geology, surroundings, or just the changing weather, on-the-ground conditions are rarely controllable and can quickly complicate the application of shiny new tech and experience alike. 

Where new technologies matter in construction

But new technology advances don’t have to be applied physically on-site to make a big difference. Today more than 70% of construction projects are designed with 3D Building Information Modelling (BIM) software, for example. And that’s a significant stat because more often than not, game-changing solutions lie in technology that streamlines and enhances parts of the project that we can control in the back-office, where a little bit of wind or rain won’t stop play.

BIM building model of columns

Robotics and self-driving vehicles aside, large national construction firms are now reliant on cloud software to handle thousands of resources and schedules and to track contractors, vendors, and other partners. They will have financial tools, advanced reporting and forecasting tools, integration and business intelligence – it’s careful investments in solutions like these where the real gains in business-wide productivity are being made. 

How to start digitising back-office processes

Going digital might seem like an all-consuming task that requires serious IT know-how. In reality, your company has already been doing it for years. From using email on the go from smartphones, the web forms our customers use, to advertising on Google, we’re now reliant on digital technology to run our businesses and sites – project management tools, time trackers, and invoicing solutions are all common staples, and easily accessible. 

Here are six steps to start to digitising your back-office processes:

1. Define the challenges

Every construction project is different, but so is every company. Generating the productivity gains of digital solutions behind the scenes isn’t about cramming as many tools as possible where they’re not genuinely required. 

Evaluating and rethinking how your company is operating internally and externally will provide a strong basis for any decision when it comes to both the processes you can digitise, and investments in solutions that will make it happen.

2. Make digital a priority

It’s easy to start with good intentions and then see projects eventually slide onto the backburner. The fact is, every business is now digitising as a necessity to stay competitive – the only difference between them is the rate at which they are doing so. 

Making a digitisation project a priority in the workplace will mean seeking buy-in and support from key stakeholders and colleagues. It’s up to you to make that case, but there’s a whole lot of evidence out there to suggest it’s a pressing concern. 

3. Build a digitisation team

You don’t need a team of tech pros working off-site, but you do need everybody singing from the same hymn sheet. Map out digitisation projects as a group of individuals with various disciplines and knowledge of different parts of the company, its people, and its work. 

As a collaborative team, you will be better able to identify areas of the business where digital solutions will enhance productivity, and team members can help to encourage uptake of those tools as they’re employed. 

4. Seek the right partners

As we said earlier, when we’re talking about digitisation, we’re not talking about tools that require serious IT know-how. That said, it’s worth shopping around for suppliers and vendors that have experience in working with customers in the construction industry. Partners with industry knowledge will be best poised to troubleshoot your particular problems and recommend solutions.

5. User experience comes first

The aim of back-office digitisation is to expedite laborious administrative work so productivity increases on the ground – site operations are better informed, run more efficiently and safely. This won’t happen if the solutions adopted are overly complex, require a steep learning curve, and are simply unpleasant or counterintuitive to use. 

Conduct trials with solutions and expose all your users to them – ensure they are simple to use and vendors pledge to provide adequate support. 

6. Review and improve

The process of going digital doesn’t stop at onboarding new tools. Ensure you’re talking regularly with users to source feedback and identify points for improvement. Review whether or not processes are becoming more streamlined and site productivity is increasing. 

Many digital solutions will include dashboards and data analysis functions, so you can benchmark performance or the impact on workload over time. 

Where should you start digitising?

While it’s often overlooked, the health and safety compliance process is an obvious area to begin streamlining with digitisation, with immediate advantages to your productivity on site. 

Firstly, it’s unavoidable, and for good reason; standards are constantly improving thanks to widescale compliance with guidelines and regulations – sites have never been safer. But the actual process of compliance is mired in complexity and manual administration. By taking health and safety compliance paperless, there are huge gains to be achieved not only in safety but in on-site productivity. 

Consider the volumes of paperwork currently involved in your health and safety process: depending on the size and nature of a site, documents could be hundreds of pages in length. A small subcontractor of 10 operatives might have to handle some 300 separate paper documents each week if working across multiple sites – and all documents require distribution among staff, understanding, completion, and filing. 

Combined with Toolbox Talks, qualifications cards, new starter registrations, disciplinary logs, PPE registers, and much more, archival management can swallow up tens of hours each week. Even the physical storage of all those documents in small site offices can prove a challenge.

The benefits of paperless health and safety

By digitising health and safety compliance, construction companies can not only make sites safer, with less risk of incidents and reduced chance of litigation, but they can also unlock productivity gains of up to one day per operative per month

One of the simplest ways to go paperless with health and safety compliance is to use Illeso’s Health and Safety Compliance Application, powered by Intelastel. Built exclusively for construction industry users, the cloud-hosted application enables: 

  • 100% paperless collation, updates, and storage of required health and safety documentation.
  • Access to required documentation and reports anywhere in the world, on any device. 
  • Automatic distribution of correct documents to everybody who needs them.
  • Automatic notifications to ensure uses know when it’s time to update certifications. 
  • The ability to instantly search for documents when they’re required, such as during inspections.
  • A clear digital audit trail, which means all compliance actions are tracked, transparent and accountable. 
  • Generation of H&S data insights, that can be shared between sites, teams, and partners. 

Innovate the back-office, win on the ground

While we can’t predict conditions on-site, we can make wins where it counts. Health and safety compliance is a necessary procedure that makes sites safer and protects our businesses. It impacts every business in construction, but it no longer has to be a process that holds us back from getting the job done. 

Regardless of the size of your business, the solutions are now available to quickly and easily streamline your health and safety compliance process, finally removing the mountains of paperwork and the headaches of dull admin work to enable your staff to work to what they’re best at. 

A paperless system for the future

Illeso’s Health and Safety Compliance Application, in partnership with Intelastel, is more than just a digital document management system. By creating a space for shared resources within the industry, giving operatives a voice around health and safety procedures, and empowering teams to locate documentation independently, it’s designed to enable massive safety and efficiency gains across the industry, for a safer, stronger and more united community.

Find out more about Illeso here, or arrange your free demonstration of the application.

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