15 High-Tech Tools You’ll Wish You Had a Long Time Ago
One of the best ways to make your projects run smoother is to select and use the best possible tool for the job. That may mean breaking out classic hand tools, but it can also mean embracing cutting-edge technology. Here are 15 amazing high-tech tools and accessories that will help push your projects to the next level.
A constant problem facing remodelers is uncertainty about structural conditions that are obscured from view. You can do all the prep and estimation you like, but until you open up a wall there's no way to know what's inside. Unless, that is, you have the right technology! Scanning tools such as the DeWalt DCT419S1 give you a better idea of what lies behind that wall before you start tearing it open. Knowing how to anticipate the unexpected is a key skill to develop when starting a remodeling company.
Tool Tracking System
If you've ever arrived at a job site and realized that you failed to bring the needed tools, you know how important proper preparation can be. You can use paper checklists and processes, but that becomes significantly more difficult when you have multiple tasks and rotating personnel. A tracking system (such as this one from Share My Toolbox) tells you where your tools are, and who had them last. Here are more helpful tips for tool and equipment transport.
Jobsite Cameras for Security and Analysis
Jobsite cameras aren't new, but the ability to upload video remotely to the cloud means that the latest generation provides an unprecedented level of security and record keeping. Companies that cater to the construction industry, such as TrueLook, allow you to see what's happening on your site 24/7. In addition, they can help you find weak spots in your job flow—for example, if there is a particular time when most of the crew is standing around waiting for materials or another trade to finish their job. Check out these important tips for jobsite security.
Cameras for Promotion
Just as jobsite cameras are useful for contractors, they can also be eye-opening for customers. All jobsites are potential marketing tools, allowing you to show potential clients how fast, effective and tidy your crews can be. This kind of real-world proof carries significant weight when customers are selecting contractors. This Construction Pro Tips article provides a detailed walk-through of time-lapse video with industry expert Josh Banks.
There's no disguising the fact that jobsites are dirty places. Dirt, dust and debris come with the job. Unfortunately, they can wreak havoc on expensive electrical tools such as laptops and tablets. "Ruggedized" electronics are specially sealed and treated to resist dust infiltration and withstand high heat and extreme cold. There's a full range of options available, and while ruggedized equipment carries a higher price, the overall cost may be significantly lower than replacing standard consumer items every few months, especially when you've turned your work truck into an office.
When they soar into the sky and capture video, drones have given contractors the ability to put eyes on parts of the structure that were previously difficult to reach or even inaccessible. Drone companies such as Propeller provide tools specifically built for the construction industry. It's one reason why jobsite drones made the CPT list of how technology is making the construction industry safer.
Smart Monitoring Systems
For contractors, the Internet of Things (IOT) is both a selling point to customers and a potential time saver. An increasing number of residential and commercial fixtures and mechanical systems are interconnected, from fire alarms and thermostats to refrigerators and toaster ovens. And with benefits to everything from safety to convenience, homeowners are increasingly drawn to wired devices. For a deeper dive on this topic, here's how to grow your plumbing business with smart water tech (shown here).
This is one for the landscapers who aren't afraid to tackle challenging lots, or homeowners who take their lawn care seriously.
This new generation of riding mowers is able to tackle steep inclines (up to 25 degrees) without covering your acreage with wheel ruts. The Cub Cadet Pro Z 972 SD (shown here) is a zero turn mower that can take a beating but keep turning out perfectly manicured lawns.
Thermal imagers are useful in almost any of the trades. Anyone who has to deal with creating a solid seal, or insulating one space from another will be able to diagnose issues faster than ever before by adding one of these gadgets to their toolbox. More on thermal imagers from a home inspector.
A CNC machine is a computer controlled device capable of making incredibly precise, repetitive cuts that would make most human carpenters' eyes glaze over. Adding one of these tools to your shop opens up a wide variety of custom projects, and is especially useful for larger tasks that will be assembled on-site. Many are fairly simple devices, such as this BobsCNC, but others are capable of milling metal, and can produce a shocking range of objects. Check out the CNC Shark on the CPT list of top tools to splurge on.
A few years ago 3-D printers were only found in specialty "maker" labs, where they would labor all night in order to produce a single, simple shape. Modern 3-D printers are small, portable, and affordable. If you find yourself wishing you had specialty parts on a regular basis, you may look into investing in one of these tools.
With some 3D printers are even large enough to print entire structures, the entire industry will likely see them in wider use. It's no wonder that many pros are wondering if 3D printing is the future of construction.
Augmented reality (AR) puts a layer of information on top of an existing display. A perfect example of this is The Sakrete App, which places a measuring layer over a smart phone screen, allowing users to tweak the measurements and get material orders right the first time.
This technology can also highlight parts of the jobsite and display pop-up reminders whenever workers look at specific materials.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) can be used from pitches to clients, through material acquisition, to installation. It's expensive, in terms of software and training, but it essentially moves more of the project workload to the front-end, making actual installation go smoother.
Apps such as Gamma AR use the detailed information provided by BIM to overlay an augmented reality image over a smartphone or tablet display. This allows field workers to see exactly how a finished project will fit into the space, and helps them to identify possible issues before work begins. This kind of visualization is a boon to both workers and customers, as shown in this article on Focus 360.
We're not talking about having the Terminator wandering around a jobsite waving a hammer, but there are a growing number of automated robots on jobsites. Especially useful for larger jobs, once you see one of these robots actually laying bricks or pouring cement, it will change the way you think about automation.
Chances are you've already seen simpler robots, such as this gutter-cleaning model from iRobot, but you're likely to see more soon. In fact, autonomous heavy equipment is already heading to jobsites all over the world.
Post-Completion Apps and Portals
Just because the job is done doesn't mean the work is over! Mobile apps and web portals allow you to maintain an ongoing relationship with your customers. From allowing them to track their energy savings to providing simple ways to log potential warranty issues, post-completion service tools create long-term relationships between client and contractor. This pays huge dividends as the referrals and repeat business begins to roll in.
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