One of the many ripple effects of the pandemic is the glaring need for roofing and exteriors firms to embrace and capitalize on technology.
Faced with needing to get work done remotely, many roofers discovered the benefits of using technology to improve workers' efficiency and productivity. On the customer side, online sales suddenly became vital and created new digital sales tools and techniques that many customers have come to expect.
Still, making the digital pivot remains challenging for many roofing and exteriors contractors. In fact, 42% of our Power Players—who are leaders in the industry—didn't even mention technology adoption as one of their strengths, which reflects larger construction trends.
On the other hand, the 58% who are embracing tech provide an excellent roadmap for firms on not only how to best pivot to the latest system, but also how much it can transform a company. That said, even these companies recognize that tech adoption isn't easy.
"Adopting new technology is often an uphill battle for a small business that has to weigh the added costs, staff's time and ability to master the technology, and the ROI on the capital investment," acknowledged Wendy Dishman, controller for Cross Timbers Roofing. "We've learned that each change does bring progress and improvement to our organization, and we've learned to all work together to make sure we laugh a lot throughout the learning phase of each technology transition. We are no longer afraid to adopt new technology and welcome the opportunity to grow together as a team."
Here's a look at four ways Power Player companies are growing their firms through adopting new technology:
1. Investing in cutting-edge technology such as drones and virtual/augmented reality systems
The first step in making a pivot to new technology is to invest in it. Here, Power Players who named tech adoption as a strength came out in force, with 97% naming this strategy. Of course, the details of how they're doing this were as varied as the companies. But here's a sampling of some of the more ambitious examples.
"A few years ago, RoofClaim.com started offering drone inspections. These drone inspections are done 100% remotely, meaning no one has to physically go to the home or property to inspect the damage. Many homeowners like this option as it allows them to go about their daily lives without the disruption of an inspector coming to the house to inspect damage," explained Zena Matti, sales and marketing vice president for the company with $50 million in annual sales.
"The final picture and measurement package of the damage is shared with the homeowner and insurance company," Matti said. "In areas hit with major storm damage, drone inspections allow RoofClaim.com to provide drone reports and diagrams to insurance companies before they can even dispatch adjusters to the area. Drone inspections prove to be all around easy, timely and efficient."
But companies don't have to be huge in order to take advantage of technology.
"Advanced Roofing & Construction utilizes technology in several areas of the company's daily operations. For example, measurement technology such as EagleView and Hover is used during the estimation process to collect data to improve accuracy in estimating and material ordering," said Brandon Foote, president of the company with $6 million in annual sales. "CompanyCam is used to increase efficiency in photo gathering and communication among team members regarding job details and work completed."
2. Using tools such as customer relationship and project management systems to streamline workflows and create efficiencies
CRM and project management systems improve customer service and are a proven way to up sales with automated processes such as drip marketing and juice efficiency. And 93% of Power Player companies investing in tech are also investing in these systems.
"Because change in the business environment occurs rapidly, Antis continually looks at the technology we use to be efficient, deliver quickly and communicate successfully," said Cori Vernam, director of marketing and cause for the company with $14.8 million in annual sales. "Our customized data management software system is not only used in the office but also for field communication. We photo-document every job with the field technicians using iPads to record the fieldwork, which provides immediate information processing to the central office, allowing all employees to pull electronic records, access photos and provide job status updates. When the customer's job is finished, they receive a comprehensive, photo-detailed report for their records."
Roofing Solutions, with $76 million in annual sales, is going even more high-tech. "Roofing Solutions is one of the first roofing contractors in the U.S. to perform all its shop drawings using 3D BIM (Building Information Modeling)," said Tupac de la Cruz, owner and founder. "Roofing Solutions' preconstruction, remote project management and estimating departments employ more than 35 construction professionals, including architects, construction engineers and civil engineers, who are trained to perform BIM, CAD and other value-adding technologies for clients.
"The latest in technology is incorporated at all its jobsites. Drones, for example, are used regularly during every stage of a project—preliminary site surveys, progress mapping, documentation and finished work. The information is then used to record best practices and chart a course for continuous improvement."
3. Using apps and other tech tools to gather and use data for insights and decisions
With just about everyone carrying a smartphone, mobile apps have become a powerful way to incorporate technology into the jobsite and business.
Kelly Roofing excels in this area. "Since 2012, Kelly Roofing has utilized the full Microsoft Dynamics 365 suite of software, providing a single solution for all software needs. We won the Microsoft Visionary Award, one of 13 companies worldwide," said Ken Kelly, president. "Over 12 apps are utilized to streamline business operations, eliminate paper printing and speed efficiency. It's the most advanced computer system in the roofing industry today. Our development partners help with design, programming and best practices. Almost all processes are completely automated without human interaction."
MG Roofing, with just $4.7 million in annual sales, also flexes its app muscles. Company president Montey Gaisser gave a detailed description of the apps his company uses—and how they improve business:
- CompanyCam—This app has proved to be an invaluable tool for MG Roofing. This app allows our team members to snap photos and videos of the project they are working on. Photos/videos are uploaded immediately to the website. Items are available immediately for viewing by project managers and staff. This keeps job photos organized by project and keeps our entire team on the same page.
- FaceTime—MG Roofing uses this app to share information between crew members and management. Crew members and management use FaceTime to solve obstacles that may be encountered during a project. Management can view the jobsite in real time and collaborate with team members for solutions.
- TSheets (now known as QuickBooks Time)—MG Roofing uses this app as our time-tracking software. This mobile app allows management to access employee time data at any time. Employees clock in using this app. Management can see where and what employees are working in real time.
- Verizon Connect Reveal—MG Roofing uses this tool to assist management in speed tracking and fuel data for the company trucks.
4. Working with a consultant or technology expert on solutions and adoption
There's a lot of tech available to companies, and that in itself can be confusing. That's why savvy firms often hire consultants and experts to help them make the best investments, including 62% of Power Players.
Corey Construction provides a good roadmap for using consultants. "Our leadership, sales, marketing and production teams believe that investing in new technology, tools and software can be instrumental in being successful in today's marketplace," said Dana Broom, marketing director. "We recently purchased a new integrated software system that includes ERP (enterprise resource planning), financials, commerce, inventory management, HR, supply chain, CRM and more. This system helps us work more effectively by automating core processes and providing real-time operational and financial performance insights. We have multiple consultants that we are working with to ensure that we use the new tools effectively with maximum benefit."
Antis' Vernam puts an exclamation point on that sentiment. "We have also used multiple consultants and programming companies to customize programs for our customer tracking, estimating, bidding, technician forms, photo documentation, payroll, job costing and more to provide quick and efficient work processes.
"In the last year, we have automated packaging, so information from the inspection is sent immediately to estimating. When the work is completed, information moves immediately to the accounting department to invoice. Lunches are now automated on our roofing technicians' schedule, saving our scheduling department 30 minutes a day from manually adding it to their schedule. Antis now has automated 'scheduling confirmation' emails, saving time from typing out each email for each job scheduled."