Smartphone Apps for Skilled Trades

Smartphone Apps for Skilled Trades

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It’s a smartphone world. The iPhone and Android mobile phones have been around for less than a decade, yet with every day that passes, more and more users wonder what they ever did without the gadgets. 

Believe it or not, they aren’t just for playing Angry Birds and Words with Friends, or tracking your local pro sports team, seeing what friends and family are up to on Facebook, or Tweeting to the world what you think about the issue of the moment. 

As any user already knows, and the growing number of converts are about to find out, there are a nearly infinite number of apps out there — tiny, dedicated programs that can fetch your email, manage your grocery list, connect you with your bank, even help you keep a diary of your favorite beers. And that is just the beginning. 

“There’s so much information and so many things you can use them for,” says Lyle Balistreri, president of the Milwaukee Area Building and Construction Trades Council. “With a smartphone, you’re carrying around a mini computer in your pocket.”           

Younger generations of workers are particularly attuned to smartphones as part of their everyday lives, Balistreri points out. “They don’t communicate in the same way we did when we were young — they utilize those phones for everything.” 

The building trades council represents the labor side in joint labor-management apprenticeship training programs, and is eager to recruit new apprentice candidates to give the employers working with the council’s member unions a steady supply of skilled labor into the future. So Balistreri’s organization is putting together new campaigns to recruit candidates for those apprenticeship programs that make use of smartphone technology: the brochures will have QR codes that can be read with a smartphone to unlock information about career opportunities in the trade and lead the reader to Web links with information about employers. 

Balistreri points out that not every employer welcomes smartphones on the job — for fear that they will be a distraction at work rather than a useful tool. 

But as the gizmos become even more ubiquitous, you can expect to find more and more of them used at work, not just at play. 

We took a look at the sorts of apps out there that could be especially interesting to people in various skilled trades. There are a lot of them; here are some we think you’ll find the most useful, depending on your specific line of work. 

Unless otherwise indicated, those listed here are Android only; some providers have promised iPhone versions but unless indicated, they are not yet available. 

Click on the app name to go directly to the app store.

MANAGING THE FLEET

tpMobile
Cost: Depends on fleet size
Developer/Provider: XRS Corp. (formerly Xata Corp.)
Website: www.xrscorp.com 

This mobile Android app helps drivers and fleet managers stay in compliance with hours of service (HOS) regulations for drivers while also tracking a range of other vehicle data, from fuel economy to engine repair warnings. It requires a subscription to the Turnpike package, produced, like tpMobile, by XRS, formerly XATA. 

Fleet managers can obtain the data for their crews from a secure website. The app keeps driving logs that help drivers and employers avoid inadvertently violating HOS terms. A separately ordered RouteTracker device can be connected to the smartphone via Bluetooth wireless technology. 

BigRoad
Cost: Free
Developer/Provider: BigRoad
Website: www.bigroad.com 

BigRoad is free electronic driver log app; it works by itself, but also is a marketing gateway to the company’s BigRoad Web-based fleet management app, which costs $15 per month per truck registered with it. 

The app keeps daily driver logs and tracks U.S. and Canada HOS rules. It offers vehicle inspection reports as well as GPS-based location check-in. It has a variety of locating features (for truck stops, dealers, weigh scales, and so on) and provides GPS-based real-time traffic monitoring. Additional features coordinate with the fleet management web app. And there’s two-way messaging with other BigRoad users in the fleet. 

GET ORGANIZED 

Construction Daily Report Log
Cost: $4.99
Developer/Provider: Hurov’s Pocket Pro Apps
Website: www.hurovspocketproapps.com 

The Construction Daily Report Log from Hurov’s Pocket Pro Apps generates daily project reports, able to be emailed as PDFs (daily huddle, today’s progress, problems/discussions/delays, rentals, materials). The developer describes it as suitable for a wide range of trades as well as allied businesses, including insurance adjusters, IT, and mold remediation, just as examples. 

The providers of this app also have a number of others for the industry: 

Punch List
Cost: $4.99

This app offers users one central location to store daily project lists. You can manage multiple projects, email project details as PDFs or spreadsheets, attach photos from a camera or a phone, and add comments. 

Time and Material
Cost: $4.99

This app allows you to document additional work demands that go beyond the customer’s contract, complete with software to generate change order proposal letters as PDF files. There is even an additional work authorization signature screen. 

Handy Construction Calculators
Cost: $7.99
Developer/Provider: Sidetop Software
Website: www.sidetop.com 

Handy Construction Calculators from Sidetop Software are some 70 different calculators used by contractors, with drawings and layouts to help analyze the output as well as choices for measurement units (metric or English). Everyone from carpenters and roofers and electricians, HVAC, paving contractors and plumbers is included. 

Contractor Expense Log
Cost: $4.99
Developer/Provider: Marketing Streams/Cosey Management LLC
Website: www.marketingstreams.com 

The Contractor Expense Log app from Marketing Streams tracks rent, utilities, supplies, property, business travel and meals, loans, taxes, other business expenses, and so on. (Although the developer does have some iPhone/iPad apps, Contractor Expense Log is Android only.) 

Construction Master Pro
Cost: $19.99
Developer/Provider: Calculated Industries
Website: www.calculated.com 

The Construction Master Pro calculator app from Calculated Industries includes a wide range of specialized construction situations. The same provider has similarly priced apps for specific trades: 

Pipe Trades Pro
Cost: $19.95

The Pipe Trades Pro app is specifically designed for plumbing industry tradespeople. It calculates pipe lengths and fill weights and flow rates and pressures for any pipe size, type or distance. 

Plumbing Toolbox from Glowworm
Cost: Free
Developer/Provider: CDA Communications
Website: www.cdacreative.com 

The Plumbing Toolbox app from CDA Communications offers contact management so you receive notification as soon as customer requests happen, sales-lead development, information storage, networking and product leaflets. 

Electrician Calculator Pro
Cost: $24.95
Developer/Provider: RFX Labs
Website: www.rfxlabs.com 

The Electrician Calculator Pro from RFX Labs is much pricier than others, but it appears to be much more user-friendly than some. It can be used in five languages including German, Spanish, Italian, French and English. The app saves you time and reduces calculation errors.



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