Crescent Construction Services

“We cut out eight hours a week per employee in paperwork by having our guys gather data while they’re performing the service, on location, using iPad.”

Julian Clayton,
Vice President of Research and Technology,
Crescent Construction Services

Building apps, building business.

When Julian Clayton of Crescent Construction Services (CCS) needs to check a blueprint or consult an electrical diagram, he doesn’t unroll a sheaf of dusty papers, flip through a notebook, or even wait for his laptop to boot up. He reaches for his iPad.

“Everyone in the company has an iPad and iPhone,” says Clayton, the company’s co-founder and Vice President of Research and Technology. “It just saves us so much time. I don’t have to lug a load of paperwork or anything else. I can do anything I need to do on iPad.”

Construction Made Mobile

Industrial clients such as Southern Company and major retailers like Food Lion and Harris Teeter turn to Crescent Construction Services for “commissioning,” an integrated set of inspections into a building’s core systems, from drains to roof. CCS flags any design or construction problems in both new and existing structures, and verifies that these buildings are ready for the final stages of development.

Together, iPad and iPhone are the perfect tools for the job. CCS’s inspectors, project managers, and other staff can rapidly collect information for their comprehensive reports, transmit the data from job site to office, and convert it into final documentation for clients.

iPad and iPhone give the company’s perpetually mobile workers instant access to schedules, contacts, email, and other business resources via its Microsoft Exchange-compatible Kerio Connect server. And with FaceTime, and the built-in front and rear cameras on iPhone 4 and iPad 2, workers can deliver video feedback to clients and coworkers in real time. “If the customer says, ‘Walk around here and show me what that looks like,’ we can do that,” Clayton says. “That really makes a customer’s eyes pop.”

The large, clear, LED-backlit iPad display makes it easy to read notes, enter data, and see the details of technical drawings, even in dark interiors. “The battery life is fantastic,” Clayton says. “And the screen real estate enables our guys to do a lot of their reviewing on the road, literally in the passenger seat of a truck. They can read, correct, annotate, and send out reports very quickly. That used to be a round-table process that had to happen in the office.”

To document issues they find on site, workers take high-resolution photos and videos with the iPad or iPhone camera, then add the images into reports alongside their written findings.  With these devices, Clayton says, “The guys can get out of the truck and start working as they walk across the parking lot. It’s a benefit to the customer as well, because we can get more things done in the time we have.”

Hard-Hat Apps

To streamline data collection onsite, Crescent Construction Services has developed a series of customized data-entry templates using the FileMaker Go for iPad app. The data entry templates take full advantage of the Multi-Touch technology on iPad, allowing workers to enter essential information with a few quick taps on radio buttons onscreen.

“For an electrical inspection, we used to go in with a ton of blueprints and a spreadsheet with 700 items to check,” says Clayton. “Now our information is more accurate, it’s out there faster, and it’s more detailed. And it takes seconds, as opposed to minutes. We cut out eight hours a week per employee in paperwork by having our guys gather data while they’re performing the service, on location, using iPad.”

CCS relies on a variety of other business apps from the App Store as well, including Keynote for iPad. “We use Keynote to design most of our reports,” Clayton notes. “You can drag and drop images, place things quickly, and duplicate and edit pages. We have complete control over the document.”

The company also uses iPad apps such as OmniGraffle to add drawn-to-scale objects to blueprints; myCoordinates Pro for iPad to copy and paste geolocation information; iAnnotate PDF to mark up PDF reports in review; and Clinometer – level and slope finder to identify even the slightest slope in a floor or drain line.

Building Better Tools

In addition to pushing the limits with third-party apps, Crescent has begun developing apps to help their employees be even more productive. His first release is PunchList, an iPad app available to the public on the App Store, which lets users annotate PDF or JPG files and give clients detailed visual feedback with notes on building site issues that need rectifying. “We start with the image, drop points on it, and say, ‘These are our problems,’” Clayton explains. “Essentially the report is completed before they leave the building.”

Clayton is also working on several other apps, including a floor flatness and floor levelness calculator and a mobile-friendly document management system, as well as an app that allows users to edit and search for IPTC metadata in photographs. “So if I want to find every image taken at a specific place, and we’ve used this app to add location information, I can just search the network and find it through that metadata,” he says.

Even for an experienced developer like Clayton, the iOS Software Development Kit (SDK) helps simplify the process of building apps. “It’s all there,” he says. “That’s the amazing thing about the SDK. Xcode is very easy to use, and Apple’s documentation is pretty spot-on. If I need to know how to do something, I can come up with the answer fairly quickly. It’s been that way from the get-go, and it’s only gotten better.”

All Systems Go with iPad and iPhone

iPad, iPhone, and specialized apps such as PunchList haven’t just made Crescent Construction Services more competitive — they’ve turned the company into an unparalleled force in its industry.

Thanks to the creative use of technology at Crescent, they have a head start at developing new processes for all their customers. “A customer describes their need, and we develop a process from the ground up to meet that need” Clayton says. “iPad and iPhone are integral to that process.”

“These devices do everything,” he adds. “They make the jobs take less time, and when the jobs take less time they become more profitable, because I can do more jobs in a week. As far as money spent versus money gained, there’s no comparison. A guy can walk into a job with his iPad and start working immediately. With iPad, you just start using it.”

Company Snapshot

“I don’t have to lug a load of paperwork or anything else. I can do anything I need to do on iPad and iPhone.”

Julian Clayton,
Vice President of Research and Technology,
Crescent Construction Services

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