Best apps for contractors: digital tools to make your life easier
It can be difficult to branch out into new digital territory at work, especially when you’ve been doing your contracting job the same way for years. But even if you’ve got task management, reporting and recording down to a science already, some simple yet powerful apps can help improve your daily operations and ease your workload.
How the right app can set you up for success
More construction firms are relying on mobile apps – in fact, nearly 80% of firms surveyed insist that they’re important tools for daily tasks. But apps for construction and contracting are popping up all the time, and some might not be right for your business.
Estimating software can help you get your bids in faster than your competitors, and the accuracy of the information could save you from redoing work due to errors. Time tracking apps can improve your project management to save you hours each week, while replacing physical manuals with digital versions can reduce your project expenses and help you stay on top of paperwork.
Before you pick an app for your company, consider your main goals: should this app help with collaboration, profitability, safety or all of the above? Clearly, there’s plenty of room in the contracting industry for apps that improve organization and communication – your task is to find the ones that best suit your unique company.
Top apps for general contracting
When you’re on the jobsite, targeted and calibrated tools can make a big difference in how the work proceeds. iHandy Carpenter is as close to a physical tool box as you can get, with a plumb bob, a surface level, a bubble level bar, a steel protractor and a steel ruler. Once you calibrate the app, you’re good to go.
There are plenty of apps for behind-the-scenes responsibilities, too. JobProgress features job and workflow management, online sales, estimating, quoting and scheduling – many of the tasks that go into a job, and all at your fingertips, whether you’re in the field or in the office. If you’re delegating tasks, Fieldwire can help you out: the app lets contractors manage blueprints, job sites and projects more easily by categorizing tasks and sharing drawings with coworkers.
Timesheets are a necessary part of any contracting outfit, and they can become a tangled mess if you’re not careful. While manual methods are time-consuming and rely on memory, digital versions take care of the organization for you.
ExakTime is a user-friendly, web-based time and attendance tracking app that stores data in the cloud for easier access wherever you might be. TSheets and Timesheet Mobile are other time tracking apps to check out, and Plexxis Foreman is a good choice if you need to add or approve timesheets without an internet connection.
As more organizations consider the environmental consequences of a build or renovation, more contractors are concerning themselves with LEED compliance. It’s no simple task: LEED credits come from your design, jobsite management and choice of materials, and you’ll need to juggle a variety of considerations across your different job sites.
If you’re going green, you may want to start with LEED Online, which is a standard tool for managing LEED requirements. If you’re looking for construction-specific software, Green Badger is a popular choice among contractors: it works across platforms to verify products, create reports and communicate performance metrics to reduce your risk of losing LEED points.
Specialty apps to make your life simpler
Some contracting companies are more specialized than others, and could use a digital sidekick that knows the ins and outs of the business. If you work with specific building material (like concrete) or in a specialized sector (such as flooring or roofing), you might like an app that calculates values according to the physical characteristics of your materials. Likewise, if you tend to perform certain tasks frequently, specific apps can make short work of those repetitive tasks.
Measuring and surveying:
Xsec Structural Concrete and Construction Estimator are tailored to concrete work, MeasureSquare is good for calculating amounts of carpet and flooring materials and RoofGenious.com – yes, you guessed it – helps to account for roof pitches and angles. By serving as a shortcut to tech support, these apps could save you considerable time and frustration.
Site surveying and inspection apps help surveyors collect site-specific information, upload it to a hosted web portal and create customized site reports. Consider Canvas, SurveySnap, Qube or Site Survey Pro to help out with measurements – the better apps allow you to measure distances of up to 100 feet without a tape measure.
You can improve your fleet management with a GPS-enabled management app to collect data on trucks, cranes and backhoes, and store it on a database that supports management reporting. These sorts of apps help to manage scheduling and work flow, and they can send out automatic notifications when it’s time for maintenance. All of this information from tracking your vehicles can give you a clearer picture on your true operating costs, too.
Tracking data can also come in handy if you face a dispute or a lawsuit – it can back up your claims and prove you did your work. Moreover, when one piece of equipment is used by several people, it can shed light on the work habits of different crews, and reveal who was operating the machine at the time of an incident.
Make the most of your app
There are a few elements in any effective contracting app. First, it will need to be detailed in order to handle information accurately, but streamlined so everyone will be able (and willing) to use it. This is no small feat, so it might be worth test-driving a couple of different apps to see which one not only works for you, but which one works best for everyone on your team.
To get a real feel for the app, you’ll need to test it in a typical work situation before you commit, and it should integrate fairly easily into your current IT infrastructure. There’s no halfway here: everyone on the team must be willing to adopt the app and coordinate it with your current system, or else inconsistencies could wreak havoc on your day-to-day operations. The good news is, once you find the right app, you could be rewarded with more time, less expense, fewer mishaps and happier employees.