How Concrete Contractor Technology Needs Change As Your Business Grows

2c797bdf

Today, a one-person concrete contractor has access to more sophisticated business technology than the multi-country construction conglomerate had not that many years ago. And the largest concrete enterprises can access digital collaboration and automation tools that could not have been conceived until recently.

It is easier than ever to use this technology to satisfy customers looking for more predictable processes and scheduling, more accurate delivery against the contract and more documentation on progress or what was constructed. Using affordable and standard technologies, any concrete contactor can probably bid and win more business, complete it more profitably, get more repeat business and grow.

But with all the talk about truly marginal technologies like ChatGPT, Bitcoin and Web 3.0, and then a burgeoning startup sector with promising solutions that may or may not stick, what are the technologies that provide the most promise concrete contractors of each weight class? We plumb the IRONPROS Construction Technology multivendor marketplace and our knowledge base for some insights.

Small Enterprises

The first challenge of a startup with one, two or a handful of employees is to function as an organized business. And many entrepreneurs have more skill as craftspeople and tradespeople than as business people. That is why a first consideration for most contractors will be an account package so they can start to plan a profit-first contracting operation and more reliably be around to meet their obligations as a contractor.

Intuit QuickBooks is omnipresent in this market, and this means it is well understood by certified public accounts and others. There are alternative online multitenant software-as-a-service (SaaS) account products including Xero Simplicity and Sage 50cloud. But apart from meeting immediate needs, a contactor should think about their growth ambitions and ensure there is an infrastructure in place to facilitate more and larger projects, a growing employee base and equipment.

Intuit QuickBooks Contractor Edition, a version of QuickBooks Enterprise 23.0 gives a concrete contractor:

  • Intercompany transactions
  • Customized charge of accounts including work in progress, overages and shortages, labor, materials and more
  • Flexible billing rates to allow for different rates for employees based on job difficulty, experience level and certifications/licenses
  • Employee time tracking and task management

Sage also has a large partner network and solutions like Sage 100 Contractor, Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate and Sage Intacct a business can give Sage 50cloud customers a step up as they grow. But right of the box, Sage 50cloud will help contractors:

  • Create, track and report on projects
  • Use job records, phases and cost codes
  • Streamline change order information and approvals
  • Forecast cash flow
  • Handle payroll including compliance tools

The QuickBooks partner ecosystem is large, and a number of construction software products will have standard integrations, and this is one way contractors can keep their house in order while automating a lot of the administrative work.

As a contracting business owns more assets and equipment, some type of asset tagging or tracking will become attractive. These applications can capture data on equipment and assets and scale supporting more organized and automated asset management and accountability in the business. There are specialist tools like Rooster Asset Tracking Systems, with a solution of cloud data portals and activity trackers. More generalist solutions like Asset Panda, which is highly configurable and can extend down to assets that may not merit even a Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) tag.

Even the lone tradesperson can now also access field service management software that will streamline many of their operations. From Workwave, ServiceTitan and other vendors, a concrete contractor can get not only the tools to manage day-to-day tasks professionally and consistency, but wrap-around services like marketing and financing. 

Tech for Middle Market Concrete Contractors

Okay, now you have a few employees, more equipment, and maybe you are spending a lot more on those people, equipment objects and also on materials. You have more people involved working on the business as well as in the business, and containing their work in an enterprise application becomes more important. It’s time to start thinking about formalizing processes beyond accounting and managing risk. Here, broad business applications like Procore, HCSS, Autodesk Build and Bentley Synchro can deliver standardized yet flexible best practices and even, in the case of Synchro 4D, some pretty advanced what-if scenario planning and modeling.

On common entry point for any business software product in construction is estimating, because this is the process that if done at scale and well gives a contractor the ability to execute on growth plans. Applications like B2W Estimate, Sage Estimating, STACK, HCSS Heavy Bid and others can be extended for the later stages in the project lifecycle.

While basic time sheets and payroll are critical, a contractor with a growing workforce a concrete contractor should consider a human capital management software with an applicant tracking system that will help them handle everything from onboarding to union work rules and employee development. Arcoro, Core HR Management and Procore LaborChart could all be worth evaluating.

More advanced tools to track that growing workforce could become important—tools ranging from more advanced field-based visibility and control like Eyrus, or field productivity software like Assignar, Raken, busybusy, Sage Field Operations or others. Some of these software products, like Sage Field Operations, can do double duty, handling job ticketing on days- or weeks-long projects and field service where a crew or technician visits multiple sites per day. ServiceTitan is also moving in this direction, making these solutions excellent choices for contractors where a single workforce supports both types of approaches, as in combinations of large and small jobs, inspections and multi-day projects.

A growing equipment fleet may mean a GPS asset management solution like Tenna, HCSS Equipment 360, HCSS Telematics, Clue, or Fleetio. There are a lot of slap-and-track options on the market, but a middle market company may want to capture and use not just location and hours of operation data but data from OEM or aftermarket telematics. That data is not much use by itself so it must be extended by software that can make it useful to support maintenance workflows and fix-or-replace and other lifecycle decisions on individual pieces of equipment, equipment classes or fleets.

Large Concrete Enterprises

The largest concrete contractors often have increasing levels of diversity in their business. Many will have plant operations in multiple jurisdictions, and then even become broad heavy construction materials operations. While sustainability is important to middle market organizations, larger concrete organizations are part of broad backdrop agreements to reduce embodied carbon. Cement manufacturing is a significant factor, but so are operational impacts of production and logistics in the field. New things to consider at this level include:

  • A robust enterprise resource planning (ERP) product, allows for more for more complexity in the chart of accounts and intra-company transactions and API extensibility
  • Tighter integration between asset information and finance and predictive analytics to support fix-or-replace and fleet-wide initiatives
  • Tools to facilitate interoperability either within the divisions of an organization or in project

At this degree of development, a concrete contractor should probably bee off an entry level accounting or ERP product. A contractor involved in enough government-related work may want to consider a product like Deltek Costpoint, which has FedRAMP controls implemented for General Contractor/Construction Manager (GC/CM) Contracting. Others that are completing off-site processes like precast may want to ensure they have ERP that can also encompass shop-based materials requirements planning (MRP), process manufacturing and inventory.

Many larger contractors develop their own internal integration platform-as-a-service. But these often rely on external tools and vendors like:

  • Newforma, the leader in project information management software for use across the design-build lifecycle
  • Loadspring, which offers cloud hosted project management software and value-added services often used by members of joint ventures or project teams or large enterprises
  • Toric, whose data connectors, nodes and templates streamline data flows across more than 50 construction data sources for analysis
  • Quickbase, a low-code development platform with extensive pre-built functionality for construction

Page 1 of 6
Next Page