4 False Excuses for Not Using a Tablet to Manage Your Next Construction Project
As you might expect, here at ArchiSnapper we’re big fans of using tablets on construction sites, and most professionals in the construction business share our point of view.
The vast majority of all construction professionals we’ve talked with acknowledge the possible efficiency gains related to the use of tablets in the construction industry: being able to have all plans and files available wherever you are, the ability to capture all data (like pictures and notes) with your smart phone or tablet, the ability to sketch and make notes directly on plans, and much more. The benefits are crystal clear.
But, like with any new working methodology, we also hear (valid) concerns from construction professionals relating to the practicality and suitability of visiting the job site with a tablet.
It’s true that tablets, like anything else, are not a perfect solution to every problem you may face on site. Indeed, in some cases, taking a tablet with you may seem more hassle than it’s worth.
While many objections to using a tablet are genuine, they can usually be overcome with minimal effort, allowing you to reap all the benefits that mobile devices provide without negative consequences.
1. It’s Not Practical
We hear this a lot and there is some truth to this claim. Climbing on roofs or ladders with a large tablet in your hand is not very practical or safe. Not only are you at high risk of dropping your tablet and damaging it, but you’re also more at risk of unbalancing and falling off yourself.
So how can you overcome this problem? Not all tablets are large and unwieldy. A full-sized iPad is feature-packed and handy for sketching but can be difficult to handle on the construction site. If you’ll be using your tablet a lot on site visits, consider buying a smaller and more practical device, like the iPad mini or its Android counterparts.
An iPad mini offers many of the same advantages as the iPad. It’s larger than phones and other small tablets, so it’s easier to type and view files on the bigger screen, but still small enough to put into your pocket when climbing or when you need both hands free. (Read this for more information about the best tablets for construction professionals.)
It should also be pointed out that while it may not be easy to climb a ladder while holding a tablet, it’s not exactly easy to do it holding a clipboard, pen, camera and other devices that you may use on site visits either. As a tablet replaces multiple tools, it may well be the case that you have less to carry around on site, which will definitely make your job easier.
If you really want to keep your hands free then consider buying a case with a lanyard you can wear around your neck or a belt clip. Once you’ve secured your tablet to your body in some way, you can stop worrying about it falling out of your pocket.
2. It’s Not Customer Friendly
Nobody likes being in a conversation with someone who is totally absorbed with their iPhone, so it’s understandable that some construction professionals have reservations about using a tablet when their clients are around.
It’s true that being focused on your device during discussions with other people on the job site may give the wrong impression. It’s easy for others to assume that you’re checking your email or some other work-related task and you’re not really concentrating on or interested in the project at hand.
Communication is the key to solving this problem. Other parties may not be aware of the tablet’s importance in your day-to-day work so make sure you explain how you are using it for making notes, taking photographs and viewing plans.
Even after explaining that you’re using your tablet for professional purposes, you don’t want to be fully absorbed in it to the point of ignoring your client. To cut down on usage time when compiling site reports, try writing keyword notes and taking photographs instead of writing sentences and paragraphs.
Most of our ArchiSnapper users work like this: they outline their report in brief on-site and then finish it with more detailed remarks and descriptions back at the office. This allows you to maintain a nice equilibrium between customer service and efficiency.
Of course, not all clients will be put-off by your tablet use. While you may need to explain your work methods to older clients who are less used to technology, you’ll probably find that younger clients will be reassured by your use of modern and efficient technology. Those clients with a more innovative outlook also often come with an added bonus that they have a larger budget and offer more interesting projects.
As the use of tablets becomes more mainstream, expect the possibility of coming across a client who reacts negatively to reduce over time. In fact, going forward, you may put yourself at a disadvantage if you don’t use a tablet.
3. The Device Might Get Damaged
Smartphones and tablets are not cheap, so you don’t want to be forced to buy a new one every few months because it’s been damaged due to the environmental conditions of a typical construction site. Tablets used by architects and other construction professionals will most likely end up dirty, dusty and rained on, not to mention the high probability of them being dropped on hard concrete surfaces.
While it’s instinctive to not want to take your new shiny expensive toy into such a hostile environment, there are a whole range of protective solutions designed exactly for this purpose. Because there are so many uses for tablets in the construction industry, the need for specialist protective cases has also grown. There are so many options available to protect your tablet these days, the fear of damaging it isn’t really a valid excuse for not using it on-site.
In any case, most decent tablets are stronger than they look. Even if they do get a scratch or two, are accidentally left out in the rain for a few moments or dropped on the floor, in the majority of cases they’ll keep on working.
It’s also important to remember that this problem has always existed. Your camera and GPS are just as vulnerable to being damaged while being used on site, but no construction worker would use that logic to decide against using them. Smart phones and tablets can now do the same job of a camera, GPS and many other expensive devices so at least you only have one device to worry about.
4. The Battery Might Run Out
This is certainly a valid concern, especially if you’re comparing using a tablet to paper documents. If you end up with a dead battery you won’t be able to access plans and other files you may need and you won’t be able to take photographs or make electronic notes.
The fact is that while running out of battery is certainly a possibility, it’s so easy to prevent it from happening that you really only have yourself to blame if you end up with a dead battery on-site. We discuss preventative measures to ensure you always have enough charge left in your battery here.
Again, this problem is not isolated to tablets. Your camera, GPS, voice recorder and any other electronic devices will also cause problems for you if they run out of battery. The simplest solution is to invest in a car charger and get into the habit of plugging in your device when you’re driving so you’ll never run out of battery power again.
While there are definitely valid concerns for construction professionals who haven’t yet made the leap to using a tablet on the construction site, these issues are easily overcome. The benefits gained in terms of productivity and convenience definitely outweigh any negatives.
Do you still have objections against using a tablet to manage your next construction project? Any other potential problems or innovative solutions that we’ve not covered here? Please let us know in the comments.