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Construction Business Owners: Two Mobile Apps That Will Save You Time and Money


Minyang Jiang


If you own and run a construction business, you likely spend a lot of time filling out and collecting paper forms such as inspections, proposals, change orders, safety checklists, markups, progress reports, and time cards. Despite today’s modern mobile world, construction business owners continue to adopt the same age-old practices with paper forms, even though paper is inefficient, time-consuming, and slows down processes and communication with customers. But, you can save time and money and give your customers better service by changing your paper processes over to mobile apps created specifically for construction businesses.

Related: 3 Ways Disorganization Could Be Wreaking Havoc On Your Bottom Line

Eliminating paper directly affects the pocketbook of small business owners across the U.S. According to The Paperless Project and a study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), paper impacts revenue more than small business owners know. Here are some figures that showcase how paper waste adds up quickly to money waste:

  • Every lost document will cost a company $122 to find, and 7.5% of all documents are lost entirely. This means out of every 1,000 documents, your business will lose 75, and this will cost you $9,150.
  • On average, a company will spend $25,000 to fill one filing cabinet and another $2,000 a year to maintain that cabinet.
  • Three percent of an organization’s documents are misfiled, and searching for documents takes about 20% of an employee’s time. This means for every five employees, you’re losing the equivalent of one full-time salary due to time spent finding documents. Depending how much you pay full-time employees, you could spend $40-100K a year to find pieces of paper.

You don’t have to be yet another construction business owner losing cash to old ways. Here’s how to ditch paper and save a fortune by using two must-have construction business apps.

Build Your Own Forms with Canvas

Canvas was founded in 2008 with the goal to create a paperless office. Canvas allows users to create custom forms, which they call Canvas Apps. The apps collect information on all sorts of mobile devices, including iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire. Canvas has a large app store with more than 14,000 apps uploaded by its community members. Canvas users can create their own apps, use apps that have already been created, and even customize the already-created apps even further. The apps are sorted by category, so you can search and find apps that make sense for construction, repair and improvement businesses.

Canvas also creates a cloud database for all of your employees to access and search. Data is then sent straight back to your office when you’re in the field and time is not wasted on collecting and turning in paper forms. The Canvas website then allows you to access your database from a desktop computer while in the office later, design PDFs for custom reports or receipts, and add or manage all of your users.

You can easily create custom forms using Canvas’s drag and drop tool, which doesn’t require users to be mobile app developers or even that technologically savvy. Canvas also has great features for its apps including:

  • Electronic signatures: Capture approvals from your customers for the work you’ve completed while on site.
  • Image capture: Take photos of a construction site to validate safety inspections and provide visual confirmation of compliance.
  • GPS tracking: Add a GPS location capture to work site inspections.
  • Calculations: Calculate an invoice while on-site, have it signed and file it quickly to get paid as soon as possible.
  • Barcode scanning: Scan barcodes on-the-go of used or purchased materials from your suppliers.
  • Mobile payments: After creating an invoice, give your customers the option to pay you immediately.

Other construction business owners who have used Canvas have benefited from faster invoicing, more accurate records, and time saved. According to a case study featured on Canvas.com, a family construction company named Great Lakes Fusion streamlined their time cards on Canvas and saved 400 hours a year. They also sped up their sales cycle and improved their data accuracy. You can read more about Canvas and how Great Lakes Fusion implemented their tools on Canvas.com.

Eliminate Paper Project Plans with PlanGrid

Launched in 2012, PlanGrid was created to help the construction industry move away from printed paper plans. Instead, construction business owners can upload PDF drawings to PlanGrid, which will then sync to all team members in real time. This allows entire teams to collaborate via mobile on plans, specs, photos, and revisions, and ensures teams aren’t working from outdated plans. It also allows construction teams to document their progress and manage problems via mobile while in the field instead of needing to trek back to office locations.

PlanGrid offers great features to its users, including:

  • Efficiency tools: By creating mobile versions of your plans, PlanGrid allows you to take advantage of technology features to build efficiently — automatically hyperlink your detail callouts so details can be read via a tap, layer one sheet over another to see how they compare, take measurements and add markup notes directly to the plan sheet, stamp your plans and add owners to sections of the plan.
  • Off WiFi Connectivity: If you’re at a job site without WiFi, you can continue to modify plans with PlanGrid and they’ll sync once you’re back on WiFi.
  • Automation: Upload a new project plan, and PlanCast will automatically read the sheet name, scan a render quickly that you can zoom in and out of, and organize the latest versioning of your plan.
  • Cloud syncing: Save all of your plans to the cloud so you never misplace a plan, even if you misplace a mobile device.
  • Manage users: PlanGrid lets you decide who has permission to upload, markup, edit, and publish.

PlanGrid offers inexpensive pricing packages starting at $39 a month for 500 sheets, and they boast an impressive client list of projects that have been created using PlanGrid, including Yelp’s Headquarters, Levi’s Stadium, T-Mobile Arena, and more. You can check out PlanCast customer success stories and case studies on their site.