Create a suite of construction management tools, enabling people in the field to collaborate and manage every aspect of a construction project.
Prototype, design, and develop this suite of web and mobile construction management tools within the agreed-upon timeline.
Katerra is a technology-driven prefab construction company backed by the $100B Softbank Vision Fund. To facilitate faster construction timelines with less waste Katerra plans, designs fabricates and assembles most building components at offsite manufacturing facilities and trucks the components to construction sites for installation. Today, most construction companies invest less than 1% of their annual revenue into software and technology. Katerra hopes to disrupt and transform the construction industry by investing a large portion of profits into technology that improves processes and reduces the cost of building new homes and buildings.
In the early days, Katerra relied on a licensed construction management product to help manage project communications, financials, and resources on one open platform. While the third-party product had an API, Katerra realized the web and mobile apps weren’t flexible enough to handle Katerra’s ever-evolving needs. To remedy this, Katerra decided to green-light the development of a custom construction management platform with a suite of tools and services. Because Katerra owns the intellectual property (IP) to their custom construction management software, they set priorities for new features and updates when new business requirements arise.
We worked with key members of Katerra’s software engineering team to define a minimum viable product (MVP), proving we could build a few core features required by construction workers in the field. Once Katerra ran a successful pilot with the MVP, they agreed to utilize our team to build their multi-month long backlog of features.
During development, members of our team wrote the APIs that were integrated into the native iOS and Android apps built by our mobile engineers. We recommended writing the mobile code in Swift for iOS and Kotlin for Android because native apps provide a better user experience and allow offline access, which was a core requirement for remote job sites. The designer assigned to the project kept ahead of the development team by creating wireframes for each new feature and user flow. Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines were followed for iOS design assets, and Google’s Material Design Guidelines were followed for Android design assets.
Over time our team designed and developed a complete construction management platform, including features such as:
Safety Observations - Construction workers can record safety-related incidents or violations while working at a project site, which triggers notifications for training and corrective actions that must be made. Workers take pictures to reference incidents such as exposed live wires, labeling hazards, and missing caution signs, and these Safety observations are assigned to a team member. Once a Safety Observation is noticed, the assigned person resolves the issue, responds to the observation via the app, and closes the Safety Observation.
Drawings - Project documents such as drawings, blueprints, and diagrams are accessible using this feature. By storing all documents related to each project in a single cloud-hosted and version-controlled tool, workers and managers can be sure they’re completing the most current version of the plans. Stored drawings can be attached to any RFI, Observation, Inspection, or Submittal. For easy navigation and retrieval, the drawing files are categorized based on folders.
Daily Logs - Creating daily construction reports has always been part of the construction tracking and project management process, but the methods have evolved over time. For years spreadsheet software was adopted to create and share daily construction logs. The Daily Log feature we built for Katerra has the same ease of use as spreadsheet software, but it has version control and validation to reduce mistakes when project managers complete daily reports for manpower, equipment, vehicles, and visitors. This tool allows users to search for and sort daily log notes to find the information they need.
Inspections - Safety and quality control remain the key concerns for all project managers because defects or failures in construction projects can result in large cost overruns. The Inspections tool creates standardized templates to monitor and control quality and other measurable parameters. This tool allows project managers to track all issues that need to be addressed and stay on top of problems as they arise.
Observations - Observations record valid findings by employees or visitors regarding any inaccuracies or non-conformances, and these observations are sent to relevant project team members. Construction defects such as chipped surfaces, incomplete paint jobs, and inaccurate column angles can be referenced and reported. By creating an Observation and assigning it to a Project Administrator, the worker responsible for making the correction clarifies the issue, resolves it, posts a reply, and closes the Observation.
Photos - All project related pictures are stored in an organized manner. All app users can create Photo Albums, upload photos, and add descriptions and location details. Stored photos can be attached to RFIs, Observations or Inspections.
Request For Information (RFI) - The RFI feature is used by workers to ask questions they have while working on a project. Questions range from asking clarifying questions about a drawing or specification to asking for help from Katerra’s structural engineering team. Workers ask questions to specific project members or the Project Administrator if the worker doesn’t know who can answer their questions. A Key Points of Contact directory guides workers to ask questions to the right person.
RFI Tasks - RFI Tasks are a collection of all RFI Tasks from all the RFIs in a Project. Workers view the total number of open tasks, edit tasks, view RFI Tasks assigned to them, and close Tasks.
Katerra eliminated the expensive licensing costs for their third-party construction management tool and reinvested those savings into the continual development of their homegrown construction management suite. Now, Katerra’s construction management apps get better each sprint as new features are requested, and processes are improved.