All posts by dean

About dean

Metal building erector and contractor in South Florida since 1985. Owner of Commercial Metal Building Services Corp. and Tailgate Technology. Pushing the boundaries of available technology to complement the best metal building erection crews in the business.

iPad Apps For Construction

Essential Apps for iPad in the Construction Field

I recently had correspondence with someone planning to roll out a number of iPads in a construction business. At CMBSC, we use iPads and iPhones in the field extensively. I have tried many different apps on my iDevices and thought to review which of those apps have become the essentials we rely on.

Utility Apps

These apps are absolute must-have utilities for managing, sharing, converting and producing files of various formats within the iOS environment.

Dropbox

Dropbox is my preferred tool for managing all document files that need to be shared or that you may wish to access from multiple devices. Dropbox for iOS is free and allows opening, saving and sharing all types of files with ease. We make shared jobsite folders for all our projects including all related drawings, daily logs, inspections and a myriad of other project documents.

You can find Dropbox in the App Store here for free: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dropbox/id327630330?mt=8

iZip Pro

Continue reading iPad Apps For Construction

Keep it up

Many times lately, I hear that the recent increase in construction is causing a shortage of skilled workers resulting in an increased rate of workforce injuries and accidents. I don’t know the validity of the claim, but more than the typical number of prefabricated metal building structural failures have come to my attention within just the last few months. Two of these incidents involve complete collapse of structures very much identical to my own typical project. I am acutely obsessed with these circumstances.

Far from morbid curiosity, I have always made it a practice to follow construction accident occurrences and look for lessons that may apply to my own procedures. In particular, I consider prefabricated metal building erection related failures a valuable opportunity to evaluate if I may be exposing my crews to unanticipated risks. Complacency is a deadly state when it comes to any inherently risky process. Experience can work against you. When you have gotten away with something time after time, you may be led to believe a less than certain method is perfectly safe. It may well be, until it isn’t.

Two such incidents I am currently following are the SL Aviation Hangar collapse at Morristown Municipal Airport in New Jersey and the Argyle High School practice facility collapse in Texas. Both of these projects  represent, precisely, the typical CMBSC project. We complete dozens of very similar projects every year. My take away at this juncture:

  • Metal building erection is a risky endeavor not to be entered into without the appropriate training, experience and oversight.
  • There is no amount of bracing and redundancy that is unwarranted. If there is a next level of preparedness, you should be there already.
  • Near misses and incident reviews are learning opportunities. Don’t waste them.

Julio Ledesma Photo
Julio Ledesma, 36

Note: Several workers were injured in the course of the incidents discussed below. At the Argyle collapse, Julio Ledesman (36) was deceased as a result of his injuries. Mr. Ledesman was a father of 3 young girls, you may contribute help to the family at this link.


Continue reading Keep it up

Sync-Ability

CrewKeeper 1.30 update submitted for Apple review this week.

Expect to see it in iTunes App Store within a few days.

Now with data sync to all your devices. CrewKeeper is updated to a universal application supporting iPad and iPhone native interface. This has been a long time coming and no trivial undertaking. The stage is now set for some really big changes to the CrewKeeper user experience.

I am still convinced that the iPhone is the best format for entry and daily documentation. I prefer real time incremental data entry through the course of the work day. This is so much a priority in my mind that I have built into CrewKeeper some road blocks to “coax” users away from other options. CrewKeeper reports, comments and status updates notably and purposely omit the option to back date entries. Inspections and safety meetings are not able to be created if the user is not on a jobsite.

The idea is a digital equivalent of the bound jobsite diary without the ability to insert pages after the fact to manipulate the data. I am convinced that this philosophy helps to train my users to do a better job and results in more trustworthy documentation.

The iPad, on the other hand, is certainly a valuable option for more in depth reference. iPad compatibility can extend the capabilities of CrewKeeper to more comprehensive note taking and reports organization. The pending update primarily brings in iCloud sync capability. This is just the first step. It was a lot of work, long time testing, and likely will require some follow up fixes and refinement going forward. But now, I can move on to some really exciting new features and extensions I have been experimenting with based on users’ feedback as well as my own wish lists.

I look forward to input from users when the update goes live. Future updates should be coming now at a much more frequent pace, keep informed of the latest by following here or at Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. See links in sidebar.

iPad On The Jobsite

Generally, I find the iPad to be clumsy and unsuited for use out in the field. It’s just too big and awkward to carry around in my opinion. When I do bring my iPad out of my truck, I am constantly laying it down and sure to leave it behind. Even when I have it nearby, my first instinct is always to reach in my pocket for my iPhone when I have a need to be connected. This doesn’t mean the iPad is not a valuable tool for me, I find many ways that it can enhance my productivity in the course of the work week while out in the field.

What inspired me to write this post is my recent foray into creating a crane lift diagram for a crane lift plan on a jobsite last week. Using a drawing app (I can recommend iDraw which is what I used) I imported a photo of the site plan encompassing the area that we’d be working in. I used that photo as a background, added another for the crane placement. Whipped up some representations of the materials we were lifting and copy/pasted a table of the sequence of lift operations with weights and capacities.

You can see the result here- Example Lift Diagram.

This whole process took me very little time and I was still learning to use the tools. Once I have saved a few reusable shapes and refined my technique, I can see turning these out regularly in just a few moments prior to any lift. Now that is something I would not want to do on a smaller screen, but I still think the iPad stays in the truck for the most part.

Swiping Your Cash

Since beginning the process of developing an iPhone application for documenting construction field time sheets, I began regularly discussing, with fellow contractors, how they record time on the jobsite. I get varied responses ranging from scattered notes in legal pads to sophisticated ID and Chip swiping systems. Some have actually told me that they do not keep or record time at all. Most recently another erector told me that he uses one of the key systems whereby the employees scan their key into a reader at the jobsite and all their payroll hours are remotely collected with time and location data.

It is a tempting proposition. Assemble an army of drones, slap a GPS chip on them, send them out daily and start billing your customers for their time. Every business minded tradesman’s dream. Continue reading Swiping Your Cash