July 31, 2012
FEATURE | Site Services
The paperless project part of the digital bandwagon
When large retail giants like Wal-Mart receives inventory, it is usually out on the sales floor soon after it passes through shipping and receiving doors. That’s because the retailer - and others like it with large-volume sales - don't have enough warehouse space to handle the constant flow of incoming product.
In cases where retailers like Wal-Mart have a long list of suppliers, paper invoice management systems can be cumbersome and unwieldy. Wal-Mart’s solution has been an electronic accounting system that relies on radio frequency invoice identification (RFID). As a pallet of goods comes through the warehouse door, a radio identification tag on each box identifies its contents (right down to color and size of product) and uploads it onto Wal-Mart’s inventory management software.
“Nobody has to lay a hand on an invoice, and it probably saves Wal-Mart tens of millions of dollars a year (over paper invoice management),” explains Chris Curtis, business development manager, Halifax-based Atlantica Mechanical Contractors Inc., the largest mechanical contractor east of Toronto.
What Wal-Mart is doing the construction industry can learn from, he says.
On large construction projects where material deliveries are constant, some paper invoices might be lost, misplaced or simply forgotten. Contractors making late payments face interest charges that can add up in a hurry.
“Over a year for a major construction company you can incur a couple hundred thousand dollars in interest charges.”
But the technology is available — computer tablets with bar code and RFID scanners, for instance — that could eliminate paper invoices and ensure all bills are paid on time, says Curtis.
Curtis is on the steering committee of the Function Information Technology (FIT) project, a partnership between the Nova Scotia Construction Sector Council and government to provide builders with trial usage of the latest digital tools to improve productivity and efficiency.
An example is when a foreman identifies a construction problem that requires a change order. That change might require the approval of his bosses, the engineer, the general contractor and some of the subcontractors.
“That whole process could take days,” says Curtis, adding that the more hands the information passes through the more likely the information relayed won’t be accurate.
But with the right technology — a tablet computer with a high definition camera (perfect for illustrating an onsite construction problem), for example — the process could be done speedily.
However, for the construction industry to embrace sophisticated digital technology there is a hurdle: the cost. In a world where profit margins are low and low bids win contracts, builders have reason to shy away from big investments in new technology that can’t guarantee rapid payback, says Curtis.
Never mind the fact that most construction companies don’t have comprehensive information technology departments to investigate and implement this type of technology, he adds.
In time the construction industry will have to jump on the digital bandwagon. Projects like FIT in Nova Scotia could help the industry make that shift sooner.
|MOST POPULAR STORIES|
|TODAY’S TOP CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS|
These projects have been selected from 470 projects with a total value of $6,376,918,947 that Reed Construction Data Building Reports reported on Wednesday.
$104,727,250 Toronto ON Tenders
$50,000,000 Markham ON Tenders
$25,000,000 Toronto ON Prebid
- VIDEO: Economic Update May 21, 2013
- Prompt payment bill headed to committee
- Final Phase
- A return to core values a must for banks: Carney
- OHMPA on the road with informative seminars
- Local 675 strike ends after new agreement ratified
- NDP says it will support Liberal budget, averting spring election
- Measure of U.S. economy’s future health rises 0.6 per cent in April after March dip
- Terratec awarded Brighton, Ont. Lagoon Clean-Out Project contract
- Fundraising campaign to reach target for new Shriners Hospital for Children
- George Brown College building named after Tridel CEO
- Construction Site Arson
- VIDEO: Journal of Commerce Update for the week of May 27th, 2013
- Historic church renovation reaches new heights
- Hiring of foreign workers for hospital project outrages union
- Acetylene torch explosion causes significant damage
- Festival of Architecture hits Halifax
- Winnipeg Southwest Transitway wins award
- Vendor performance is key measurement
- NDP leader spoke to police about corruption
- Big contract down under for ATCO Structures
- RFQ issued for Kamloops hospital project
|ALEX’S ECONOMICS BLOG|
Reed Construction Data Canada’s Chief Economist Alex Carrick discusses current developments in the North American economic environment with emphasis on the construction industry.
- An Overview of Prices and Sales in the Diverging U.S. and Canadian Housing Markets (April 25, 2013)
- Canada’s Precarious Dependence on the Commodity Price Super-Cycle (April 22, 2013)
- Twenty major upcoming residential and transportation terminal construction projects - April 2013 (April 15, 2013)