Crain Construction grows its 80-year-old business with iOS, Android tablets

March 25, 2013

Rankin is vice president and overseer of pre-construction projects at Crain Construction. The 80-year-old Nashville, Tennessee-based company specializes in commercial, industrial, retail, and telecommunications buildings and structures in 12 states. The firm currently has 60 employees.

In a classic case of BYOD, Rankin says he purchased a first-generation iPad and began working with it two years ago.  Rankin also coordinates with subcontractors, making it critical for him to have as much information at his fingertips wherever he is.

He says his top three reasons for using a tablet at work include having accessibility to documents, productivity that comes with taking notes and creating tasks, and document manipulation.

“It’s very convenient to have the iPad with me all the time,” Rankin told TabTimes. “In the construction world carrying a tablet, instead of rolls of blueprints and plans, makes your site visits so much easier. I can review documents, sign off on contracts, and communicate with the office all on one device.”

Android in the mix

Like a pebble in the water, Rankin’s iPad inspired other executives in the office to adopt tablets as well. But unlike a me-too approach, not everyone has the same model or the same operating system.

“We have three project managers in the office. One has an Android tablet, the other two have iPads,” Rankin said. “Our business development manager has an iPad, but my brother who serves as president of the company, runs an Android.”

Syncing between the various tablets is not an issue, Rankin added, as the company standardized the software it licensed long before tablets were available. One key piece of software Crain adopted for smooth transfer of documents is Citrix ShareFile. The program allows management to view documents securely, make adjustments and store documents on their company servers.

Management’s adoption of tablets has now prompted discussions among Crain’s Board of Directors regarding arming project superintendents in the field with iPads.

“I would like to see laptop replacement in the field,” Rankin said. “One thing it could do is allow the onsite managers to use the tablet to file timecards and daily reports and links directly to their accounting. With a laptop, the managers would write their notes in the field and then have to trek back to the office trailer to type it in. A tablet can get the job done so much faster.”

A tablet construction tool belt

While each executive uses his or her tablet in a different way, Rankin’s setup reads like a construction manager’s tool belt.

For starters, Rankin installed PDF Expert for viewing and marking up PDF documents. The app even lets him sign documents with a finger or stylus.

As mentioned, Rankin’s iPad uses Citrix’s ShareFile for document storage, Task Task to coordinate tasks with the company’s Microsoft Outlook program, NoteShelf for jotting down ideas, and DropBox for sharing some types of files.

For other document viewing and manipulation, Rankin says he has QuickOffice installed specifically for Excel spreadsheets, but he uses Apple’s Pages app for text document creation and control.

Because the construction industry relies on computer aided design (CAD), Rankin says he has AutoCad WS installed for viewing CAD files. 

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