Why You Need Tech Literacy to Manage Stockpiles and Worksites Today

It’s not a stretch to say that in the past 30 years technology has revolutionized every industry and every job — including the management of stockpiles and worksites. A great deal of the work that was done on paper only a few years ago is now done digitally, and managers today regularly use tools that simply did not exist 10 or 20 years ago.

To understand the tools necessary to the job, managers need a basic level of tech literacy. Reaching beyond the basics, however, can have profound benefits for your worksite, your team and your career. Here’s how.

 

What Do We Mean By ‘Tech Literacy?’

Broadly speaking, tech literacy is the ability to select and use the right tech tool for the job at hand, according to Caitrin Blake of Concordia University Nebraska. Tech literacy operates in the realms of problem-solving, communication and the evaluation and analysis of information.

Tech literacy helps both students and professionals function more efficiently in today’s tech-saturated workplace. It also improves decision-making, both by offering opportunities to gather more information and by providing more tools for analyzing that information.

In addition, the demand for technologically literate professionals in every industry is growing. A report by the Georgetown Public Policy Institute estimates that jobs in tech-heavy fields will expand by 26 percent between 2010 and 2020 — and that 95 percent of these job postings will demand extensive tech literacy as demonstrated by a college degree, a technical certification or other postsecondary education.

At The 74, Vince M. Bertram notes that the majority of people who use tech in their daily jobs aren’t employed in the traditional STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields. They work as business development reps, or as journalists or as inventory managers.

Jobs that demand tech literacy pay better, too. Fast Company’s Lydia Dishman estimates that positions in which tech literacy is essential pay up to $22,000 per year more than jobs in which tech literacy is optional. Dishman also notes that one particular tech literacy skill — the ability to write code — is becoming ever more important.

At Bridge, Troy Anderson notes that “digital literacy is the new literacy,” and it’s essential for managers. Among other reasons tech literacy needs to be a top concern for anyone in stockpile, site or area management:

  • The right tech can help you spot problems and solve them before they cause major setbacks.
  • Good tech can lead to better customer service, with the ability to respond more effectively and efficiently to problems.
  • Tech makes measuring ROI and other factors easy — which makes managing them easier.
  • Tech literacy can help you articulate goals and set your team on a path to achieving them.

In short, tech literacy makes people who manage worksites more effective at their jobs and better able to carry out their work.

architect showing new house project with tablet

How Technology Is Used in Worksite Management

With the vast proliferation of technologies in every conceivable industry, tech literacy matters — but it’s only as valuable as a manager’s ability to apply it to the technology most commonly used in their industry. Here are several of the ways in which tech is employed in stockpile and area management.

 

Forecasting Demand

Humans are notorious for attempting to predict the future based on what we recall about the past. We’re also notorious for selective and patchy recall of past events, resulting in our future predictions often being less than reliable.

Analytics software, however, doesn’t suffer from these problems. The right analytics tools, paired with a strong system for collecting and storing data, can make stronger predictions about where materials, equipment, labor, and other resources will be needed and when, according to McKinsey & Company. This kind of insight can help managers ensure that their work proceeds more efficiently, maximizing revenues and protecting the productivity of their teams.

 

Eliminating Waste

Every stockpile manager is conscious of the waste problem. As SmartData Collective’s Rick Delgado notes, many companies lose product during the transportation process — and lose revenue along with it.

Analytics tools can help companies determine where the leaks are occurring and find ways to prevent them, protecting revenues and improving the shipment of stockpiled aggregates and other materials to their final destinations.

 

Detailed Data Collection

When it comes to detailed data collection, drones are edging out human survey teams in a number of industries and applications, from stockpile management to crisis response in the wake of natural disasters. Drones can travel places humans can’t, Kristin Musulin at Waste Dive argues.

Drones can also gather more detailed information about topography, composition and other data points, making them more efficient at stockpile, site and area data collection than their human counterparts, notes Andrew Kahler of John Deere. Some drones can even be equipped with analysis software, so by the time they return to their operators, they’ve not only gathered more data than a human team would have, but they’ve crunched the numbers, as well.

 

Working More Efficiently

If stockpile managers ever had the luxury of sitting in their offices while their teams did the legwork, those days are long gone. Today, managers juggle a number of tasks, from keeping track of workers and equipment to meeting complex project deadlines. Often, these managers must stay on top of a site even if they’re not physically present.

Enter tech tools. Today’s mobile work environment has generated a wide range of apps and tools that can help worksite managers handle operations even if they’re not on the ground. Popular options include

  • GenieBelt, which helps worksite managers coordinate and complete projects;
  • APE Mobile, which manages construction site paperwork;
  • and BuildSourced, which combines QR code technology with a smartphone app to help teams keep track of equipment and materials during a large-scale operation.

 

Protecting Data From Attack

As ever-increasing quantities of data are created and stored online, companies become the focus of potential attacks from hackers worldwide who seek to exploit that information for their own uses. A 2015 PriceWaterhouseCoopers report estimated that the number of global cyberattacks on mining companies alone jumped from 3.4 million in 2009 to 42.8 million in 2014 — a span of just five years.

Unsurprisingly, tech tools are at the forefront of protecting this data from attack. Understanding the risks and the tools available to combat those risks are essential for any stockpile, site, or area manager.

 

Improving Communications

Like all managers, stockpile and site managers thrive on good communication. Communication is essential to ensuring everyone knows what they need to do in order to get the job done. Strong tech literacy skills can improve communication, ensuring that problems are addressed and work proceeds smoothly toward its goals.

Tech literacy is essential to good communication, journalism professor Aaron Chimbel says. “If we value clear writing and the ability to communicate clearly with people,” he writes in an article at MediaShift, “we should value teaching our students the basics of computer languages and digital communications.”

For stockpile and area managers, the value of good communication more than outweighs the effort required to improve the very tech literacy skills that will promote strong communication abilities.

manufacturing worker using digital tablet at work

Promoting Tech Literacy on Your Team

As tech literacy becomes essential to effective and efficient worksite management, increasing numbers of managers and executives are looking for ways to promote these key skills among members of their own teams. Here are three ways to do that, courtesy of members of the Forbes Technology Council:

 

Focus on Developing Problem-Solving Skills

As Cristina Dolan of the MIT Enterprise Forum NYC notes, you can’t create a technological solution to a problem — or implement the technologies you already have — until you can first clearly define the problem. Work on teaching teams to identify and explain problems before you turn to the tech.

 

Get Team Members Familiar With Coding

You don’t need to be a programming genius, but understanding the basics will help you understand what options are available and “talk shop” with the programmers who will ensure your tech tools do what you need them to do, notes Yocale’s Arash Asli. Understanding the basics of coding can also help you better articulate problems and explore solutions, ZipBooks’s Timothy Chaves says.

 

Learn From the Experts

“I don’t think everyone needs to code,” Chalmers Brown of Due says. “It’s good to stay tuned into the tech world by reading and engaging with tech experts.” Brown also recommends talking to developers and attending the occasional tech conference to learn more about how tech is being employed in the stockpile, mining and aggregates industries and how you can employ tech tools to solve worksite challenges.

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