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Four ways the construction industry can reduce its reliance on paper

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

We are undeniably now firmly within a new digital era, where innovative technologies are changing the way we communicate and interact. Very quickly, the need for paper is becoming redundant.

As a result, businesses from across a whole host of sectors are now exploring ways to reduce their paper-reliance by using paperless technologies - even traditional industries like finance and law are making the switch.

However, the construction sector still seems to be lagging behind, with 67% of businesses still heavily using paper.

It is about time the sector moved with the times, so here are four ways that construction companies can reduce their paper consumption:

Convert paper copies into digital version

Two of the biggest issues with paper documents are that they can be lost or damaged incredibly easily, especially in a busy, hectic working environment like a construction site. And the knock-on effect of this could be huge, as a lost or damaged document could lead to long project delays.

However, solutions have been developed that can now turn paper documents into digital versions. Adopting tools, such as digital data capture solutions, could allow staff to access project specifications or guidance on safe working practices from their own hand-held device, like a smartphone or tablet.

Importantly, this prevents projects from being held up due to documents being destroyed or misplaced - a digital version can be quickly accessed from any mobile device, whereas using paper would mean workers having to wait until a new paper document was printed off and delivered to the site.

Use the cloud

The cloud has become a versatile and increasingly popular tool for businesses to adopt, in order to reduce the amount of paper that they use. The technology allows businesses to store digital documents in the cloud and safely backed up so that employees can access them from anywhere and at any time. This addresses the issue with workers having to carry around large paper files and documents whilst out in the field, which in hazardous working conditions, increases the possibility of an important document being lost or destroyed.

Introduce paperless working policies

It is estimated that businesses are wasting around £2,000 per year, per employee, every year just from printing off paper documents. For companies that employ large numbers of on-site and off-site workers, this could amount to an extensive sum of money (e.g. a company that employees 50 people would be spending £100,000 per year on paper). And as two-thirds of businesses in the construction sector are still heavily reliant on paper, the sector may well be losing large amounts of money, which could be easily saved and put to better use, such as in staff training and making construction sites safer.

Implementing paperless working policies, whether that be limiting how many documents staff can print off or encouraging them to use more technology to reduce the amount of paper that is wasted, could be an effective environmental and cost-saving solution.

Use augmented reality (AR) to reduce paper and make things visual

For staff working between sites, juggling paperwork is often a big part of the job, but it is far from ideal when operating remotely, as there is a high chance that documents could go astray.

Thanks to the development of interactive technologies, such as AR, the need for physical paperwork on-site could be eliminated. For instance, workers could wear an AR headset and pull up useful information on their display about a particular job. So, if a construction worker was tasked with a housing development project, they could use an AR device to check the blueprints and design plans, instead of having to follow a paper-based document to continuously check to see if the build is on target, which if lost or damaged could hold up the project.

Technology is helping to revolutionise the working practices of a whole magnitude of industries by removing their reliance on paper. However, the construction sector seems to be slow to adopt new working practices, with an out-of-date reliance on paper putting businesses at risk of losing an important document, which costs time and money. Construction firms must look to invest in paperless technologies, otherwise, they could find themselves having to battle with serious compliance issues and long project delays.


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