Unspecified

Our superintendent, Jim Yingling, wanted to test the usefulness of a laptop on the jobsite, so we invested $300 in a computer. During the nine months that he has been using the computer, it has improved communication and increased efficiency among all parties involved in a remodel.

Architects: Most architects are better about getting back to you by e-mail than by phone — some respond almost immediately. We send them photos of jobsite details with questions, and they can respond with a PDF of the drawing.

Clients: Clients are more tech savvy than ever before and expect quick responses to questions. Jim exchanges e-mail with clients, usually to follow up on something we discussed at a weekly meeting — selections, change order pricing, delivery status, or allowances.

Some clients are very visual and prefer photos, details, or both. Jim copies me and Mark IV president Mark Scott on the e-mails. This helps me stay in the loop without being actively involved and creates a record of communications. I e-mail clients, but for problems I call them so that I can hear their tone of voice to judge their response.

Office: Though we do not provide wireless access for the laptop, most clients allow Jim to use their wireless/wired systems through a temporary password. He fills out digital forms on the laptop, including daily logs, site notes, and change orders. During our biweekly superintendent meetings, I download information from Jim’s laptop to the office computer, which gives me a chance to review the job without doing a site visit. The digital forms allow us to quickly create a storage disc at the end of the job.

Suppliers: Most salespeople send us invoices/orders/estimates by e-mail. Jim also tracks orders and downloads product specification sheets from manufacturer websites.

Though I was initially concerned about personal use of the laptop on the jobsite and our superintendent being overwhelmed with information, the reality is that the benefits far outweigh the concerns.

—Andy Hannan is production manager of Mark IV Builders, in Bethesda, Md.