The Sub-Contractor and Digital Divide between the Office & Field

In recent years, the construction industry has seen a boom of technology that focuses mainly on the Office side of operations. Planning, Design, and Project Management software continues to get a lot of attention. They have been great for the industry. The pace and ease of managing change have never been faster or easier. Unfortunately, said advancements are not extending to the Field.

As the Office side continues to advance, Tradeworkers are struggling to keep up. The Digital Divide — the gap between the Office and Field — is only getting bigger. This is creating a new level of frustration for many tradeworkers. Because of this, action is critical.

In speaking with numerous industry professionals, we’re finding that many subcontractors are comfortable with digital technology. They want to adapt to new tech to stay competitive and profitable. The only problem is there isn’t an abundance of solutions that are made with the Field in mind — especially ones that enable them to be more productive at the literal business of building!

Need an example? Consider the following:

A popular software review site is tracking over 1,000 construction software solutions. The top 3 categories are Construction Management, Construction Estimating, and Construction Accounting. There is no category for Construction Field Management. While there are indeed field management solutions in the market today, they have not collectively warranted their own category.

Meanwhile, a BIM or VDC Manager has a suite of design tools that enable increased productivity — from 3D CAD and BIM authoring programs to engineering optimization and automation tools. Project managers also have many tools that enhance productivity. These tools digitize issue tracking, change order workflows, track budgets, and manage submittals. Contrast this with the field, where digital blueprints might be the pinnacle of the Field tech stack, and it’s obvious how severe the problem has been.

Until now.

The State of the Field Today: The Rise of the Digital Tradesworker

While office technology has skyrocketed, field counterparts are falling further behind, not because they don’t want to adapt, but because many of today’s software solutions were not developed with their workflows in mind.

Many of these solutions are either not mobile-friendly, or do not provide enough value to the tradeworker to become a regular tool for the job site.

According to Carlos Osorio, BIM-VDC Manager of Mann Mechanical Company, Inc., “There is a significant and constant disconnect between the field and the office in regards to documentation. It’s challenging for the field guys to find what they need electronically and when they find it, they are not sure if they are looking at the most up to date document.

Fortunately, there is hope that change is coming. Today, there are a handful of examples throughout the Trades where technology is being embraced — where a bridge of sorts is being made between the Office and Field. For instance, a few Locals that collaborate with LINQ are getting ahead of the problem by issuing iPads to their Apprentices AND training them on how to use MS Office along with a handful of industry-specific apps.

“Our local has seen first-hand the benefits that mobile technology can yield and we’re very active in giving our members as much hands-on training as possible which goes way beyond just giving them an iPad — we train them on MS Office and general iPad knowledge to start but also many of today’s more popular construction-specific apps, so they’re able to hit the ground running sort of speak when getting to the jobsite.” -Mike Zivanovic, Technology Manager, UA597

The solution to the digital divide is not a matter of comprehension nor desire. Instead, it’s a matter of giving tradeworkers something that is truly built for and of value to them, and in a way enable the rise of the “digital tradeworker.”

To build on this momentum, LINQ is honored to be co-presenting with UA Technology Managers, Mike Zivanovic and Stephan Schnell, at the upcoming Pipe Trades and Technology Training Conference (PTTTC) in San Diego, CA. At this conference, we will share how we are building our platform WITH the industry, rather than FOR the industry by regularly hosting our pilot partners for a 2-day brainstorming session where we dive deep into both the problem and the best solution for it. It’s a real-time ideation process that puts us hand-in-hand with our partners, and it’s yielded some amazing results already.

A Question For Our Readers — A Chance to Win Some Gear!

Have you seen the effects of the digital divide in your organization, from either side of the fence? Has the divide caused frustration, or created some negative outcome for your organization? Please “like” or “clap” this article if so. We’d love to hear your thoughts and how you are trying to bridge the gap — email at “buildwithus@linqsoftware.com”.

Those that email us about their perspectives on the digital divide will be entered for a chance to win a DEWALT Gyroscopic screwdriver.

Interested to learn more about LINQ or about our pilot partner program, email us at the above address!

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