Monday, February 20, 2012

Tablets in Construction

As with all areas of industry construction is finding new uses for technology, to boost productivity with efficiency and communication.  The use of cell phones changed communication on a job site forever.  Now we have smart phones with e-mail, calendars, cameras, Apps, and Internet access.  Tablets are the next natural progression. With more Apps, full connectivity to Outlook, and complete internet access to full websites and downloads.  The question I ask myself is “Do Tablets enhance customer service and productivity?”
    As a Job Supervisor I am in the field daily.  I can be in a meeting with a customer in the morning, ordering materials and supplies from a vendor, and then crawling in an attic by the afternoon.   I have the tools to take care of any issue within a house, and am constantly looking for faster better ways of completing my tasks.  Efficiency is the key to any good tradesman’s day.  Can the meetings and the ordering become more efficient and effective?  Yes with organization and communication.  One tool I use now is a smart phone.  It allows me to view and respond to e-mails wherever I am.  This allows for “streaming communication”, constant open communication with my clients.   But just communicating with them doesn’t get the project done.  We still need to be onsite working and be able to view, and change estimates, proposals, and designs.  My “smart phone” allows me to do some of these tasks efficiently but some need more interaction then my phone provides.  Tablets allow for full connectivity to Outlook and its features.  They also allow for full website viewing, which my smart phone does not always allow.  Downloads of pictures and documents is made easy and I am able to interact with many of them as well as show a customer an image, recently edited document, or help them with choices.  There are many “apps” that would also assist in communication, design, estimating and ordering.  A Tablet would allow for more Connectivity and Interaction, but would they create more work in order to use one to its full potential?  For example, in some design applications it would create some more work to design a 3D model, but having your customer understand and visualize what the project entails is invaluable.  Would a tablet be worth it, from the customers satisfaction and a business stand point?
     To prove a point to my boss that we needed tablets I decided to journal every opportunity that I had to enhance production and customer satisfaction by using a tablet.  I did this for a month and what I found at the end was surprising to me.  I found that the “need” was more of a want.  They do have a great purpose in the field, but the Tablet itself would not enhance productivity.  But rather the Person who was using it would have to be committed to using the Tablet in such a way as to save time, and enhance the Customers’ overall experience with our company.  The Tablet would allow for greater flexibility in and out of the office, while giving me access to paperless Job folders and other office files.  What I’ve found in my “Pre-Tablet” construction experience is that careful planning, communication, and thinking ahead all enhance productivity and customer service.  So would having a Tablet create a “crutch” for me in the field?  It could, but I believe that with the right focus and using Tablets as an enhancer to what we already do on a daily basis, they can boost productivity, and save time.

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