Mobile applications for construction management have really come a long way. While a flashlight app for inspecting foundations and an iPhone calculator for carpentry still have their uses, software vendors have been moving entire desktop construction management suites into the mobile arena. Some have even skipped the desktop step and launched directly on smartphones and tablets.
Much of construction management needs to be done on site, and mobile computing devices are a natural fit. However, vendors must also properly understand the mobile construction management software universe. Shoehorning desktop software into a smartphone is not the same as designing an app with mobile in mind. And bundling together a bunch of point solutions doesn’t work as well as a purpose-built, integrated suite.
Here, we’re looking at nine different vendors offering modular or integrated construction management apps for mobile devices to see how well they stack up when the screen size shrinks by a factor of ten, and noise, dirt, and vibration are all part of the environment.
(Check out this guide to finding the best smartphones for construction!)
Our selection criteria are simple. Each vendor must make its core platform available on mobile, rather than just a few ancillary features. The vendor must also be recommended by the largest number of customers or users on “That Works” – SLG, suggesting vendor staying power and satisfactory customer support. These two latter qualities are important, if you plan to standardize on specific software for the success of your construction projects and the profitability of your enterprise.
Aconex offers three mobile construction management apps:
- Aconex Mobile: For sharing plans, documents, and correspondence on mobile devices (iOS and Android), as well as capturing data on site, and marking up images and documents. Allows users to coordinate bids, permits, RFIs, and change orders.
- Aconex Field: Helps accelerate field inspections and ensure quality and safety across project organizations and in the field. Runs on iOS and Android.
- Aconex Handover: For on-site access and update of operations and maintenance manuals, prior to handover to customers. Supported on Windows 8 devices.
While these apps can help to get more done on site, complete construction management is only available when also using an installation of Aconex software on a central server. Advantages of such a configuration include systematic backups of all information and full information audit trails (includes past versions of documents). The mobile apps also allow for offline working and then later syncing of information with the central server, when a connection becomes available.
Aconex is likely to appeal to larger construction companies running in a centralized mode, which are also interested in extending mobility for their on-site construction teams.
Pricing is user-based, and details are available on request.
Have you used Aconex? Leave a review!
Responsive design is the keystone of the BuilderStorm application, whether it is running on mobile devices or desktops (it doesn’t have an app, per se, but its mobile design is truly standout).
Instead of offering different versions of its application according to the operating system or device being used, the vendor uses one version that automatically adapts to different screen sizes and browser software (thanks to the responsive design). This helps ensure that all the functionality is available on each computing platform, including mobile, allowing users to:
- Manage building project schedules
- Access and store drawing files in the cloud
- Manage construction procurement
- Track project RFIs
- Send and receive project messages
- Create reports
- Track construction RFIs
The cloud-based construction management app serves mobile devices with these functions, as well as offering BIM (building information modeling) compliance and regular backups of project files and data.
BuilderStorm serves a market of construction companies working on major public sector and private sector projects, and civil engineering organizations across the U.K.
Pricing is quoted on a per-customer basis.
Have you used BuilderStorm? Leave a review!
The user interface for on-site construction management in BuilderTREND is designed to adapt to the device being used. While desktop users see comprehensive information on their larger screens, Android, iPad and iPhone users see simpler versions, to help keep the screens easy to understand and navigate. Functionality is organized into the following areas:
- Presales processes: Management of sales leads, bid requests, estimates, and proposals, with CRM (customer relationship management) functions, including automatic email marketing
- Project management: Scheduling, to-do lists, daily site logs, punch lists, plan markups, warranty, document and photo management, and messaging
- Customer account management: Client portal, surveys, reviews, and communication
- Financial tools: Management of budgets, purchase orders, payments, lien waivers, timesheets (mobile clocking in and out for employees) and change orders
Financial data can also be exported to separate accounting software
Specific use of native mobile functionality includes:
- Mobile touch signatures for creating change orders on site
- Microphones for logging and then converting voice to text, for daily site logs and other files
- Cameras for attaching photos directly to files and logs
BuilderTREND’s cloud-based solution is used by home building firms and remodeling firms, as well as specialist and general contractors.
Pricing starts at $99 per month.
Have you used BuilderTREND? Leave a review!
CoConstruct bills itself as the “ultimate construction project management software,” targeting a user base of custom builders, remodelers, and design-build firms.
Its software comes in web-based and mobile formats (iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Android devices), and allows users to perform the following functionalities:
- Select materials and designs for custom project change management and enhancement
- Add comments and photos to selections (including photos taken by the smartphone or tablet running the app)
- Manage task lists
- Adjust and coordinate schedules with subcontractors and clients
- Communicate with clients to inform them directly of progress and changes, and reply to emails and text messages, all from the app
- Manage budgets, with automatic updates and information for clients
- Keep employee time accounts
The mobile-based functionality offers a simpler interface, compared to the web-based version for full screen-size desktop use.
The CoConstruct mobile app can also be branded by the construction company using it. Aside from the camera, the app does not use other specific or “native” features of mobile computing devices (for example, geolocation).
CoConstruct is likely to appeal to small- to medium-size custom-building enterprises.
Pay-as-you-go pricing starts from $99 per month.
Have you used CoConstruct? Leave a review!
E-Builder is a cloud-based product, and therefore everything you need can be accessed from your mobile phone. You can directly access e-Builder Enterprise while on the go, so it’s like having the e-Builder desktop dashboard available everywhere.
E-Builder markets its software to enterprise customers primarily, but it caters to smaller operations as well.
According to its website, e-Builder aims to support construction managers throughout the entire project life cycle. It offers features such as business intelligence reporting, which provides real-time data and forecasts, and it can automatically create reports. Users can customize the dashboards to their liking.
The software works on both Android and iOS devices.
E-Builder’s features include:
- Business intelligence reporting, which allows users to visualize performance across a project
- Tabular reporting similar to Microsoft Excel
- Form builder for creating customizable forms
- Workflow manager, which allows users to drag and drop workflows so everyone is accountable
- Cost management to eliminate cost overruns
- Document management, putting all documents into a centralized location
Pricing for e-Builder is available upon request.
Have you used e-Builder? Leave a review!
Fieldwire aims to provide “a fully featured blueprint management solution,” so people can edit and share drawings in the field, according to its website. The mobile construction app allows a team to access the latest project information, no matter where they are. It is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.
Users can pull up a project on their mobile phone or tablet, even when they’re offline. The blueprints are optimized to Fieldwire’s servers, so they display instantly on mobile devices, despite being in high resolution.
Fieldwire’s features include:
- A blueprint management system that allows you to import a lot of drawings quickly
- Automatic sheet hyperlinking
- The ability to add markups, annotations, and progress photos directly on drawings while in the field
Fieldwire is free for small teams, but if you want to upgrade to unlimited sheets you’ll need to sign up for a paid plan. The price ranges from $29 for Pro, $39 for Business, and an Enterprise plan for more than 50 users that will require a demo before you can get a price quote.
Have you used Fieldwire? Leave a review!
Offering mobile-app-to-central-office synchronization, the Newforma mobile solution uses a modular approach to construction management, organized into the following apps:
- Plans: For viewing project documents (latest version displayed automatically), zooming and panning on documents, and marking up documents to then send them by email, all from the mobile device.
- Capture: For recording task lists, punch lists, building site notes, with possibilities to tag items using information fields such as what, where, and who is responsible for resolution. Photos can be taken, marked up, and added directly to each item.
- Tasks: Combines several field and site management functions, including managing task and punch lists, notes, consulting action items (overdue or imminent) for team members, adding photos, and adding comments and consulting the comment history.
- Project email: Offers email display (including filed emails), reply, and forward functions.
- Project teams: For team contact and project information management.
- Field notes: Management functions for audio, video, and photo captures, with automatic association with corresponding projects, and upload to Newforma Project Center Field Notes activity center, for inclusion in site visit documents, daily reports, and action items.
- Punch list: download of latest versions of plans, datasheets, and project information from the central server for making a punch list with additional media (audio, photo, video) captures. Can be used online or offline.
Newforma does not offer the same coverage of mobile devices for each application. For example, the project email app runs on Android, iOS, and Windows devices, but Windows is not indicated as a platform for other apps. Similarly, the field notes app offers different functionality on an Android device, compared to an iOS device. Other apps are only available for iOS or only for Android, which explains some of the overlapping functionality in the Newforma mobile apps described above.
With these mobile apps linked back to and dependent on a central Newforma server installation, this solution is more likely to appeal to larger, centrally-managed construction organizations.
Pricing is available from Newforma on request.
Have you used Newforma? Leave a review!
Of all the available construction management apps, PlanGrid is the most specialized for document and drawing management, as well as local and remote construction team collaboration. It does not have the presales, project scheduling, or timesheet functionality of other apps presented here. However, it has enough functional variety and scope to justify its inclusion in this list.
Its functionality includes:
- Rapid plan viewer
- Remote team collaboration on plans, markups, photos, and reports
- Life cycle management of RFIs with blueprints attached
- Issue logging and tracking, with direct input to punch lists of photos, locations, and on-site notes
- Rolling log for creation and distribution of issue reports
- Automatic version control of drawings and team syncing on one master version
- Automatic hyperlinks from plan callouts for faster navigation through drawings
- Management of progress photos by all team members, with automatic tagging, syncing, and archiving
- Syncing and backup of mobile data in a cloud application, with download of the data from the cloud to a desktop PC or server
It is designed for medium to larger construction companies, where larger teams and bigger volumes of plans, blueprints, and drawings warrant a more focused mobile app. It runs on iOS, Windows, and Android mobile devices.
PlanGrid offers a free 21-day trial to get started; then:
- a The “Nailgun” plan: ($39 per month, per user)
- a The “Dozer” plan: ($59 per month, per user)
- a The “Crane” plan: ($119 per month, per user)
Pricing tiers are in accordance with different maximum levels of usage (unlimited for the “Crane” account). Enterprise-wide pricing is also available.
Have you used PlanGrid? Leave a review!
The functionality, interface, and design of Procore Mobile have been specifically designed for iOS (iPad, iPhone) and Android devices.
Procore’s target market differs from the custom-building and remodeling enterprises that favor either CoConstruct or BuilderTREND (see above).
Procore Mobile is likely to better suit production builders that specialize in higher volume production of units with fewer construction options. The app allows users to perform the following functions:
- Review, create, modify, and share project data with team members, locally and remotely
- Manage RFIs (requests for information, i.e., project technical queries) and construction project submittals on site and in real time
- Mark up drawings, link RFIs, and manage punch lists
- Track drawing set versions automatically and prioritize the most recent set
- Access project directory and schedules
- Record minutes of meetings
- Log daily site activities, weather, labor, and productivity
Procore Mobile also makes use of specific mobile device features enabling users to:
- Take photos and attach them to drawings and punch list items
- Scan QR codes to easily locate relevant building project submittals from Procore in the cloud
In addition, project plans, RFIs, and punch lists can be consulted and linked with a mobile device, even if the device is offline. Changes made will be automatically synced with other Procore software when an internet connection becomes available.
Use of this construction management app requires a valid Procore account (cloud-based, pricing from Procore on request.)
Have you used Procore? Leave a review!
What mobile functionality do you need?
These mobile construction management apps have been designed in different ways and to suit different user profiles.
Procore , Newforma, and Aconex base their solutions on the concept of a centralized organization that is prepared to offer some, but perhaps not total, mobility to its workers.
CoConstruct , BuilderTREND, PlanGrid, and BuilderStorm, on the other hand, offer more mobile autonomy.
In the case of BuilderStorm, this is done by simply making available everything to PCs and mobile devices alike. This may mean that specific or native mobile device features (camera, microphone, touch screen, scanner, etc.) are not leveraged to the same extent as in BuilderTREND or Procore.
On the other hand, BuilderStorm scores points for working on any device that has a browser, whereas other vendors are limited to various combinations of iOS, Android, and Windows.
Your own choice is likely to be determined by the size of your construction company, the particular construction management features and device support you require, and the degree to which you want to exercise centralized control or offer on-site project team independence.
What functionality do you think is most important in a mobile construction management app? Let me know in the comments below!