Surviving and thriving during a pandemic

The coronavirus is a deadly serious problem, and the drastic measures enacted are needed to slow the spread, protect the vulnerable, and maximize medical response.

But the uncertainty that comes with it and potential economic hardship is serious as well. Let's explore some options for continuing to keep your construction company operating during recommended or enforced restrictions.

Can Technology Help?

With technologies such as Google Drive, for sharing documents, Remote Desktop software for working on your work computer from home, and QuickEye Organizer or Estimator for sharing project drawings and estimates, your workers and estimators can work effectively from home, where they are safer. And your company can still get business done.

Your staff know their job well. But what would it take for them to properly accomplish their tasks from home?

Decades ago, we had piles of paper and rolls of drawings that came in by mail, fax and courier. But today we mostly get emails and electronic documents. If all information needed for your staff to do their job is in the computer, then they can do their job from anywhere.

Working from Home

If you receive mail or paper faxes at the office, redirecting them to electronic means, by asking for it by email, or scanning to images are ways to approach 100% electronic. An affordable scanner is the multi-function printer. These are printer-copiers. Most of them can scan 8.5 x 11 or legal size paper. These scanned images are often stored in pdf files, but color image files are common too. Even modern phone cameras may be used to capture paperwork.

Cloud document sharing systems such as Google Drive allow you to upload and collect documents such as pdfs or photographs, as well as create editable spreadsheets and text documents for each purpose needed by your company. These documents can be read and edited from phones, laptops and computers; from work, home or job sites.

Not only can you view and edit from anywhere, you can even collaborate so that two people can view and edit them at the same time, while talking on the phone. This type of sharing and collaboration can allow you and your staff to keep working from home, as well as from the job site.

An example of how this can be used is a spreadsheet to track material purchases. Each purchase coming up can be listed with details and dates. And after the purchase is ordered, when it was received and a verification of the actual quantities reveived can be recorded. One person will create the spreadsheet, and then share it with others. When it is shared, the creator decides if the person they are sharing it with can only view it, view and add comments, or if they have full editing rights. This way, the various people who need to can add, edit or just view the information, no matter where they are.

Microsoft OneDrive has similar capabilities, except that to work with a Word document or Excel spreadsheet requires a subscription to Office 365, whereas Google Drive offers free tools that work in any web browser. You can also use Apple ICloud, which may be appropriate if the majority of your staff have iPhones. Google Drive is free for the first 15 gigabytes of stored documents (which may be plenty of space for everything you have). You can buy 100GB of storage for only $1.99 per month.

Another option is to remote into your work computer from home, where you can see the screen and control the mouse and keyboard. This may be needed if there is software at the office that can't be installed elsewhere or if your staff need access to local file servers. And it allows them to access their normal computer where everything is already set up and familier. This technique needs a fair bit of bandwidth, which means that if there are a lot of people using it, it may bog down and be quite slow. Also, for the clarity to be good, the monitor resolution and size on the home computer need to be close to the one at work.

There are many remote control systems to choose from: RealVNC (and other VNC variants), TeamViewer and many others. When selecting one, an important feature is that it can be set up once on the work computer, and the remote control session may be started at will, without the help of anyone at the office. Also note that sometimes, firewall configuration is needed to allow login access.

Some remote desktop systems are free and already included, such as Chrome Remote Desktop and Remote Utilities for Windows.

Blueprints

QuickEye Organizer allows you to download or import project documents, including all the large drawings. It is specially designed from the ground up to properly handle large blueprints. You can also add any and all specifications, change orders and photographs related to each project. It has a tool called Auto-Type to automatically type in the sheet numbers and drawing titles too (if needed). You can categorize and organize the projects and their documents to easily keep a complete collection for your company. And everyone in your company has complete access to them from home or a mobile device such as tablets or their phone. Also, an annotation toolset allows work planning and as-built documentation.

If you install QuickEye Estimator, you get all that, plus an excellent estimating toolset, with state-of-the-art accuracy and speed tools.

Simply by storing the project documents, with or without estimates, on the QuickEye Server, your entire collection of bids in progress, completed bids, and projects being built, can be shared by all your staff. They can login from any computer, even at home, and view and work on the documents or estimates. And from any mobile device they can view drawings and get estimated quantities, even from the work site or while they are at a supplier.

QuickEye can also be used to store other sets of documentation such as MSDS pdfs, schedules and other reference materials. While working from home, one person may be able to create a schedule using your current scheduling program, and export a pdf to share in QuickEye or Cloud storage, so that everybody is kept up to date.

If you have another takeoff system to build estimates, you can still capture the colored drawings as a pdf, and import them into QuickEye Organizer so that your entire company can view them from anywhere.

A QuickEye License costs $39.95 per month, per user. Each license is portable so that if the person has two or three computers that they work from, they still only need one. A license can be shared if each user only needs it part of the time (one can use it at a time). AND while a QuickEye License is needed to enter documents, annotate or estimate, no license is needed by all the users who just need to view and print.



I know that I've touched on a lot of varied technology, but the reason I've done so is because your business is complex, and it's likely that one solution can not work for all staff and all purposes. Most construction businesses will need several new technologies to work remotely, especially if that mode of operation is new to your organization.

I've wrote QuickEye based on 20 years of programming experience, and over the last ten years, with the help of construction professionals, it has grown into an excellent system. But your entire staff working remotely requires more, and I'm pleased to be able to share with you some of what I've learned over the years, to help in this very difficult situation.

Learn More

With the right mix of these online technologies, you may be able to continue to do business, almost as normal, while minimizing the gathering of people and the spread of disease. This pandemic does not need to do major damage to the construction industry.

Google Drive: Drive Tutorial     Creating Google Account
Remote Desktop: Software Reviews
QuickEye: Frank Salseina 360-707-8469     Web Site




If you found this information helpful, please spread the word. The more that Generals and Subs continue to operate during this pandemic, the less projects will be postponed, the less the ecomomy will be harmed and the more people will still be able to provide for their families. Thank you.

Software Architect, Author
S. J. Becker