The construction industry has fallen behind other industries when it comes to investment in technology, digital adoption, and process automation. According to ResearchGate, the construction industry was ranked in 21st place out of 22 industries. However, the industry is rising to the challenge and responding to the increasing complexity of business, labour and skill shortages, rising costs of materials, and the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry is boosting productivity, increasing employee engagement and overall profitability through investing in software automation. What is software automation?
Automation is about creating digital processes that streamline manual tasks and workflows. Construction owners choose automation to improve efficiencies of operational processes, reduce paperwork, access data and insights for better decision-making, and overall, improve productivity. A recent study of the construction companies that invested in automation showed some impressive results:
- Reduced invoice processing time by up to 98%
- Reduced transaction turnaround time by up to 50%
- Reduced unnecessary inventory by up to 10%
- Increased accuracy to 100%
Another study shows that there is even more to be achieved with help of the smart automation technology:
- 49% of respondents believe that they can improve efficiency through fewer errors and less rework
- 41% of respondents think that automation will help boost capacity to handle more projects
- And 39% of respondents believe that automation will help carve out more time to spend with clients
What areas benefit most from automation in business
The key areas that automation can quickly show positive results are the areas that require frequent manual and repetitive actions, these can include:
- Finance and accounting
- Project management
- Cost management
- Equipment and rentals
- Claims and expenses
These areas also generate significant risks to the ongoing performance of the business. Here are a few examples:
- Monitoring your project costs requires endless spreadsheets and manual data entry that results in delayed decision-making and expensive mistakes.
- Paying your supplier invoices relies on manual approvals and extensive paperwork that negatively affects your cash flow.
- Matching invoices with purchase orders and projects is time-consuming, repetitive, and negatively impacts your employees’ morale and enjoyment at work.
Where do I start with software automation?
If you run a commercial or residential construction company, chances are you have a lot of project finances to handle. When reviewing your internal processes, ask yourself:
- How can we make this process faster, e.g., can we reduce the approval time?
- How can we make it more efficient, e.g., can we reduce the time and effort needed to input an invoice?
- How can we reduce the number of manual errors or double handling?
- What manual steps can be performed by smart software so that it frees up our employees’ time to be more productive and engaged with the business?
3 automation ideas for your business
With invoice automation software, your accounts payable team will be able to move away from clunky paper-based processes to a new seamless digital workflow. When your process is manual, it requires manual data entry, approval, and processing of supplier invoices. This creates room for costly errors and time-consuming bottlenecks.
The automated accounts payable process will allow you to check and approve hundreds of supplier invoices almost instantly. It will enable you to check invoice pricing against the original quote and automatically link invoices to purchase orders. This creates more visibility and gives you control over your costs.
Construction is by nature a project-based industry. Keeping track of the project budget and committed costs can be challenging. If your process is paper-based or you use spreadsheets, you can run into issues such as cost overruns, incorrect information, compliance complications, and security risks. Plus, manual processes like this don’t promote communication and collaboration within your team.
Your cost management automation software can take your process to the next level and eliminate errors and delays. For instance, you can see all your committed costs, supplier invoices, POs, labour costs, and plant hires against cost codes and variations in one place. This enables your team to have real-time visibility of where your project spend is. It makes it easier to estimate, plan your resources, and control your budget.
When it comes to timesheets, you rely upon your staff or contractors to fill out their hours worked. So, it makes sense to make this process as easy and convenient for them as possible. For instance, you can start using an app that works on any mobile device, so that your team can clock in and out with ease anytime, anywhere.
Your admin and project management teams will benefit from seeing labour costs against projects in real-time. Smart automation software can enable them to see exactly how many hours your staff worked, code timesheets and link them to projects.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a double-edged sword for construction companies. It has caused significant disruption to global production and supply chains, and these drastically affected their financial bottom line. The pandemic also accelerated the adoption of digital technologies across the industry as time became even more valuable and the labour market became more competitive. It makes good sense to start using automation in your construction business today so that you can get more clarity on your cashflow, find efficiencies, and lower your project costs.