Field crews would generally rather bang nails than wrestle with technology or deal with paperwork. Some remodelers are bridging this divide with the Apple iPhone, whose user-friendly interface, growing number of business “apps” (applications), and surprising ruggedness make it a versatile jobsite tool.
“It’s hard to get field personnel to use technology in the first place, so the easier the better,” says Marc Kleinmann of Environments General Contractors, in Dallas. His lead carpenters use iPhones to track their hours (app: TSheets), manage projects (app: Outpost), and snap and upload project photos (using the iPhone’s built-in camera and Web browser) to the company’s private Flickr project page.
When Kleinmann makes his weekly site visits, he pulls out his iPhone as well, using Outpost to create to-do lists for crews and to capture project notes.
TSheets CEO, Matt Rissell, says there will be more construction iPhone apps to come. For now, his basic TSheets app, at $5 per employee per month, has features such as a global positioning system and time-tracking by job code.
Remodeler Mike Staffileno of Chagrin River Co., in Chesterland, Ohio, estimates that iPhones save him thousands of dollars a year by letting field and office staff easily e-mail project photos, schedules, budgets, and drawings back and forth, as well as to create e-mail trails for client conversations.
If there’s a site issue, for instance, field crews “will take a pic, edit with Scribble Lite [a free app], and send to me via e-mail,” he says. “I can then do a detailed drawing and send it back to them.”
Also, when saved as PDFs, Microsoft Excel and Word documents can be easily sent and reviewed on iPhones.
Staffileno purchased three iPhones, at $299 apiece (now as little as $99), and spends another $200 per month on service.
TSheets’ Rissell says that the iPhone is ideal for the construction trades because of its ease of use, compared with other technologies, as well as the fact that it can be “ruggedized.” Use a hard case and a scratch-resistant cover, “and there’s no problem if you kick it out of your truck.”
—Leah Thayer, senior editor, REMODELING.
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