Elkins: The evolution of communication in the construction industry
Monday, Jun 4, 2012
Before the cell phone, if a superintendent or manager needed to get information to a person in the field, the two-way radio was the most convenient means of communication. For the most part it still is today and is used in conjunction with other devices. The problem with the radio however, is that it doesn’t offer private communication. It is similar to talking on a party line, which was common in the mid-20th century. The other means of communicating was via a land-line telephone from the field. This usually required copious amounts of quarters and of course access to a phone booth.
Mobile telephones made a strong appearance in the late ‘80s. They started with phones that were either mounted in the car or carried around in a case and thus enabled someone in the office to communicate with someone in the field or to another mobile phone. The speeding up of business was beginning, and if you could afford the price tag, you could handle problems more quickly.
The ‘90s saw the coming of the cell phone. Initially bulky devices with analog technology, they were streamlined into pocket-sized devices. Prices were lower and more affordable than the car phone, but still had a high monthly cost depending on the data package that was used.
Eventually the phones became cheaper, smaller, lighter and digital which made them more affordable for everyone to own. Because of the affordability, a company could now afford to provide their employees with phones so instant communication was not a problem. Doing business sped up even more.
The phone, however, is not the only device that has evolved in business. The other is written communication. Again, a mere 30 years ago, we had typewriters and every letter and report had to be typed, and if they needed to go to anyone, they, of course, needed to be mailed. Today we have personal computers, fax machines and scanners. Although some may think that the fax machine is an outdated device, in the construction industry it is still very much in demand and used on a daily basis.
Modern day scanners can quickly convert paper documents and large scale plans into easily manageable electronic files that can be sent to anyone. In the construction industry, this is of paramount importance and thus business speeds up even more.
Lastly, we come to the “smart phone.” Besides being an excellent telephone, camera and data manager, these remarkable devices have the capability of performing many construction related tasks and can virtually be a complete office for today’s contractor. For instance, apps and software are available to access plan rooms and view 2-D and 3-D drawings in PDF or CADD formats; prepare and send forms or reports, track man hours, prepare estimates and billings; manage schedules and prepare punch-lists to name a few.
With technology changing daily, who knows what surprises the future will bring us? We do, however, know that inventions continue to make our life easier and make it possible to move projects along more quickly and efficiently.
Donnie Elkins is the president of Elk Mountain Construction Co., located at 1950 N. Willow Ave., Cookeville. He can be reached at (931) 372-7424 or at email@example.com.