Success in commercial roofing requires skill, an understanding of the craft, and meaningful jobsite experience. Nothing beats the know-how of an expert, the competent approach of a roofer familiar with the required materials and techniques. Technology, however, can enhance already-existing skills and make a roofer’s job a little bit easier. Some of the innovative products available today can help you prepare for projects, streamline your work, and stay on top of your business.

A View from Above

When preparing for a job, it helps to have a clear sense of the property in question, as well as its surroundings. Looking down on a project before it begins can help prepare you and your team for the challenges that may lie ahead. Google Earth is a good option for a valuable view from above. Free and easy-to-obtain, Google Earth images can be useful in early discussions with building owners or property managers. A top-down picture of a project can give you an idea of what to expect — from overhanging trees, nearby buildings, challenges to building access, or the existing roof itself. EagleView, a global provider of aerial imagery and data analysis, can also provide a helpful measuring tool. Their camera systems provide high-resolution images that can help you make the best possible planning decisions. A drone can provide another form of bird’s-eye view with video and photographs of a roof, but proceed with caution: depending on the location, drones are highly regulated, and flying one without the proper clearances or filming a building without authorization can get you into trouble both legally and financially.

Organized Management

Once a project is up and running, accurate running records keep the entire team on track and also help with client relations. New technologies allow us to bid farewell to the days of personal notebooks and notes scribbled on loose sheets of paper. Project management software such as Dataforma makes photos, notes, and all other important project-related documents accessible to anyone involved in that project via an app on a smartphone or tablet. My company has used Dataforma for quite some time, so we’ve developed a great long-term relationship with the company, and the representative we work with has prior experience with a roofing contractor firm, bringing specialized expertise to the relationship. He assists us with expanding how we use the software to organize service work: dispatching to jobsites, organizing notes, keeping records of service calls, and maintaining copies of warranties.

With this type of platform, employees can access records from anywhere — the office, at home, the jobsite — keeping everyone on the same page, including building owners and property managers, who can see via the running records what’s happening on a particular roof. This is especially helpful for out-of-state building owners. Readily available before-and-after photos can document completed work, and clarify for clients the issues you’ve addressed and what might need to be handled down the road. Those photos can also ensure that damage caused between service calls by other individuals with access to the roof does not become your responsibility. You can never have too much information on a roofing job. Making sure everyone has the same information can be a game-changer.

If safety and reliability are top priorities — as they should be — vehicle-tracking software can keep those priorities top of mind. Such software gives business owners the ability to know where company vehicles are at any given moment. This information is essential for planning purposes: knowing where your vehicles, equipment, and team members are allows you to manage these resources and determine what’s available for projects running at the same time. Safety-wise, if an employee makes a habit of driving recklessly or running late, you’ll know it and can address it appropriately.

Enhanced Project Preparation

Computer-aided design (CAD) programs make it possible to draw the end result of a roofing project, making the plan and its details far easier for everyone involved to visualize. Even if you’re bidding off blueprints, a CAD drawing is useful to have as it’s easier to carry around than a big set of plans and can be viewed on a tablet from anywhere.

Speaking of bidding, computer-based bidding programs can ease the process of estimating the cost of a project and keep you and your team organized. A dropdown box within the program allows you to select a particular type of roof for a particular building. The program, loaded with pricing and specifications from different manufacturers, will provide a list of everything that project will require: insulation, fasteners, roofing materials, and accessories. If you’re called to provide new pricing for a job, all you have to do is change the information entered and the program will populate with pricing and a list of all the materials you’ll need. It also allows you to enter notes regarding special pricing from a supplier, as well as keep a historical record of past bids and outcomes.

Oldies But Goodies

Just because something has been used for years doesn’t mean it’s no longer useful. Some older technologies continue to have use in commercial roofing. In this case, age definitely doesn’t matter — roof moisture meters and infrared studies of roofs can help identify areas in need of special attention. And let’s not forget the most important oldie of all: boots on the roof.

New or old, technology can certainly help with your roofing project. But nothing can replace good old-fashioned expertise. If you do use the latest and greatest in technological innovations, make sure it’s to enhance an already skilled, detail-oriented team — not just to look good or impress potential clients with fancy equipment. Focus on skill and high-quality customer service and supplement with effective technologies, and you’ll have a winning combination for success.