Consumer tablet devices have garnered a lot of the attention in the construction industry as of late, but rugged, business tablets still have a place in the industry as a durable way to collect and manage data at the jobsite. Many construction firms are using these rugged devices to manage processes in the field.

Mobile solutions that can be used on the job offer a tantalizing business option for those looking to save time, increase productivity, and create efficiencies. Technology and device integration that’s as seamless as possible will encourage adoption and hasten ROI (return on investment).

One company—Burns & McDonnell, www.burnsmcd.com, Kansas City, Mo.—used to rely on pen and paper, and then on PDAs (personal digital assistants) and GPS to support data collection and analysis in the field.

This week, the engineering, architecture, construction, environmental, and consulting-services firm announced it has adopted a more efficient solution to manage, collect, and move this information between jobsites and the office. Burns & McDonnell says it will implement Motion F5v Tablet PCs from Motion Computing, www.motioncomputing.com, Austin, Texas, in an effort to streamline processes.

According to Bryan Claxton, associate project manager, Burns & McDonnell, tasks that used to take weeks can now be completed in a matter of seconds. Due to the tablets, Claxton says paper-based processes at Burns & McDonnell are a thing of the past, along with dealing with indecipherable handwriting. Plus, instead of waiting on hard copies to reach their destination, the tablets collect data immediately.

The tablet devices offer rugged, durable connectivity and are lightweight enough to be lugged to and from the field. Burns & McDonnell has already seen a marked increase in productivity, which the company attributes to the ability to maintain a constant flow of communication, as well as access to information at the jobsite.

“The auditors are more productive since they are able to digitally capture information at the point of service, which means the data is less error-prone and available in realtime,” says Claxton. “The data then goes immediately into reporting and auto-populates the software for analyzing. No more transposing handwritten notes—we collect the data once, instead of having to touch it three or four more times before the next step of the process.”

The company says during a recent facility audit project, it was able to track more than 800 deficiencies and issues and report back to the client within five days. The technology cut out two-thirds of the time formerly required to complete this process, which normally took three to four weeks.

By deploying mobile devices and solutions on the construction jobsite, companies not only increase productivity, they can reduce project risk and attain a maximum ROI.