Confidence in the construction sector is being rebuilt brick by brick.
The latest Markit/CIPS UK Construction PMI revealed the fastest rise in new work for 12 months and marked two-and-a-half years of sustained output growth across the UK construction sector.
Predictions for the future are also encouraging. More than half (59%) of construction companies are forecasting a rise in business activity over the next year, raising hope for genuine, lasting recovery.
But these positive changes bring with them new challenges and, in order to fully benefit from industry growth, firms need to ensure they are able to balance increased workloads with delivery of excellent customer service.
Increasingly, data is becoming an essential tool for firms to achieve this, and technology such as telematics is helping the industry to modernise and adapt.
A clear view on customer service
Client satisfaction with service standards has been in steady decline over the past five years, according to the Glenigan UK Construction Key Performance Indicators (KPI) Annual Report for 2015.
But, given repeat business forms a large proportion of most firms’ workloads, this is clearly an unacceptable situation if customer confidence is to be fully rebuilt.
Accountability and visibility are both key to addressing the current situation. Customers want to know that projects will be finished to specification and on schedule, and that they are receiving good value for any work done. Therefore, the same questions crop up again and again.
When will workers, plant or materials arrive on site? How long did workers spend on site? Are invoices an accurate reflection of the work carried out or materials provided?
Data-driven best practice
Data provides answers to all these questions, which is why technology such as telematics is providing the industry with new tools that allow them to meet the changing demands of customers.
Construction firms rely heavily on efficient logistics in order to meet KPIs and service level agreements (SLAs).
Telematics ensures all such movement – of vehicles, workers and materials – is accounted for and reported on. At a basic level this means proof can be provided for exactly when a worker arrived on site and departed, providing time and GPS location stamps that can be added to invoices for complete transparency.
Furthermore, by taking into account up-to-date traffic reports and historic journey times, modern telematics systems can calculate accurate ETAs for every journey, allowing customers to be given automatic updates on when to expect a delivery or if there will be a delay.
The connected fleet
However, functionality now extends beyond that traditionally afforded by telematics. Fleet management software can now integrate readily with a range of office software, including supply chain planning, asset management, routing and scheduling optimisation and ERP. As a result, vehicle and mobile worker data can inform other processes, enabling smarter decision-making.
Planning software, for example, draws on ETA details, to improve the time-sensitive transportation of materials such as concrete and develop work schedules that minimise time on the road to maximise time on site.
Vehicle mixer drum sensors can relay live data, via the telematics platform, on the rotation direction of the drum – informing management when a concrete ready-mix is in transit and when it is being offloaded. This can help compliance with KPIs by getting materials to site at the right time, ensuring quality control.
Meanwhile, integration with on-board weighing systems enables real-time weight information from materials handling vehicles to be sent to back office software, alongside vehicle location and journey data. Customer invoices can then be raised based on load weight as soon as materials have been collected, without vehicles having to attend weighing bridges.
There’s an app for that
Integration possibilities include mobile devices too. Apps that connect to fleet management software can make use of vehicle data to allow mobile workers to conduct many of their daily tasks via a single tablet-style device.
Daily workflow can be automatically loaded to the device at the start of each day, with employees navigated to each site destination in order. On site, certain apps use signature capture functionality, in-built camera or NFC chip for proof of delivery or job completion to be submitted, complete with time stamp and GPS location.
Job status is then updated in the back-office system and automatic notifications can be sent to customers in order to provide them with complete visibility throughout the process, giving them greater confidence in service standards.
Innovation of this kind continues to occur at a rapid rate, bringing about a radical change in operations. In order to meet the challenge presented by greater demand in the face of an industry-wide skills shortage, firms must become more efficient and the increased use of automated processes will help to ensure service does not suffer.
To find out more about how live vehicle data can benefit your operations, read our guide outlining 7 tips to help construction companies improve productivity.