Technology is changing the way people work, and roofing professionals are no exception. Whether it's an app that simplifies the roof estimation process or customer relationship management (CRM) software that provides a turnkey system for managing project materials, invoices and more, most roofing professionals agree using the right technology helps make their businesses more efficient.
To help sort through some of the abundant technology options in the industry, IKO North America, Brampton, Ontario, interviewed a few professional roofing contractors to discover their roofing technology preferences and identify the tools that make their jobs and businesses more productive.
When it comes to choosing the appropriate technology for your business, there is an abundance of options available for a variety of roofing applications.
For example, there are many roof measurement tools that provide aerial photography services to assist with estimating commercial and residential projects, including RoofSnap MAX, Skyview ESTIMATOR and EagleView® Reports with Pictometry® Imagery to name a few. Some roofing product manufacturers offer incentives, such as special member pricing and other benefits, to help minimize the costs of these services.
Several roofing manufacturers also offer interactive shingle visualizer tools to help homeowners decide the shingle type, design and color and provide upsell opportunities for contractors. And some retailers, such as Lowe's, are experimenting with augmented reality technology that allows consumers to experience an enhanced home remodeling project through a virtual lens.
Most recently, on June 21, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a long-awaited rule addressing the commercial and educational use of small unmanned aircraft systems, commonly referred to as drones. The new rule went into effect Aug. 29 and could have a substantial effect on the future use of drones in the roofing industry and the way roof measurements are taken.
Because technology is ever-evolving, it's wise to stay informed about tools that can help your company streamline its processes. The following veteran roofing professionals share what currently works well for them.
Peter Horch, owner of Horch Roofing, Warren, Maine
Most used roofing technology: FCSControl (CRM software) and Fleetmatics® GPS Fleet Tracking Solution
When Horch Roofing's founder, Peter Horch, attended an industry conference a few years ago, he received a critical piece of advice that has been imperative to growing his residential roofing business in Mid-Coast Maine.
"At a conference, I learned technology was the future of the roofing business," Horch says. "To keep up, we needed to invest in technology to streamline our operations. Within the past four years, Horch Roofing has grown 200 percent, and technology has been a crucial part of that growth."
Horch emphasizes a CRM system is "irreplaceable" for business success. He and his team use FCSControl roofing software daily to manage Horch Roofing's customer database, estimate projects and create automated customer proposals.
Additionally, each member of Horch Roofing's sales team carries a Samsung Galaxy Tab® to every job site, providing instant access to the company's customer database. In the field, his crew also uses Google Earth™ (a mapping service) on tablets to evaluate the roof structures and surrounding landscape of new projects, which also can be shared with customers on-site.
"Technology has made the roof estimating and proposal process easier, but it's still important to always have feet on the ground assessing a job site," Horch adds. "Most of our customers are located in remote or rural areas with lots of vegetation, and we must understand the topography of the land in addition to knowing the roof parameters."
Horch says the Fleetmatics GPS Fleet Tracking Solution also is critical to his business.
"We have a fleet of 30 vehicles and use Fleetmatics to understand where our crew and sales team members are at all times," he says. "The software helps manage itineraries and provides daily reporting, but most important, it also can assist with customer emergencies. If we receive an urgent request in a specific area, we can quickly identify the closest team member for rapid maintenance or assistance."
Horch also stresses the importance of maintaining an active social media presence "to show relevancy and legitimacy as a professional contractor." As such, Horch Roofing maintains an active blog and social media presence on Facebook, YouTube, Houzz (an online community for home improvement projects) and Google+.
Mike Davis, roofing automation consultant at East Fork Roofing, Carson City, Nev.
Most used roofing technology: Citrix® Podio (CRM software) and RoofSnap MAX app
After 25 years in the roofing business, Clay Davis founded East Fork Roofing in 2005 to provide reroofing, roof maintenance and repair services to residential and commercial properties throughout northern Nevada.
Clay Davis' son, Mike Davis, joined the family business in 2011 as a roofing automation consultant and has been instrumental with growing East Fork Roofing's customer base. In fact, during the five years since Mike Davis joined the company, he has helped triple East Fork Roofing's revenue and expand its internal staff significantly.
As part of the company's growth, Mike Davis also helped institute a customized end-to-end CRM system for the business. Through Citrix Podio project management software, East Fork Roofing has access to an online and mobile platform that facilitates all aspects of the roofing workflow process—from lead capture and management to estimating, material selection, invoicing and more.
"We've found implementing an advanced CRM system has been just as beneficial to us as it is to our customers," Mike Davis says. "When customers request a quote from our website, they're automatically entered into the system. From there, they receive a quote for approval and then they can schedule a preferred installation time, receive daily project updates with photos and even receive a final invoice through the system."
According to Mike Davis, the CRM system also automates project management for his team. Once a job is entered into the queue, the project foreman quickly can access all job and customer details, including schedule, location, project scope, shingle type and color, and more.
East Fork Roofing also occasionally uses the RoofSnap MAX app. Compared with other measurement tools in the industry, Mike Davis notes the RoofSnap MAX app is inexpensive (about $100 per month) and effective for mobile roof measurements and estimations using aerial photography.
Gary Harvey, general manager for NRCA member Wedge Roofing Inc., Petaluma, Calif.
Most used roofing technology: EagleView Reports with Pictometry Imagery and Apple® FaceTime®
Since its founding by Ralph Wedge in 1976, Wedge Roofing has grown to become an award-winning roofing business serving residential and commercial customers in California's North Bay area.
Of the roofing tools General Manager Gary Harvey frequently uses, Eagleview Reports with Pictometry Imagery is one of his favorites for project bidding purposes because it delivers more advanced imagery than satellite photography. He regularly purchases premium Pictometry Imagery reports that provide him with various details regarding roof slope, area, orientation, eaves, rakes and more.
"Pictometry reports help reduce a need for rooftop access during the initial project bidding phase," Harvey says. "It's especially useful for commercial facilities where my team typically would spend an entire day on the roof measuring and analyzing, which is time-consuming and costly."
Another tool Harvey uses is Apple FaceTime for video-conferencing on job sites.
"Our crew members in the field are equipped with Apple iPhones," he says. "So we often use FaceTime for instant communication between sales reps and project foremen to resolve issues or reassess a project scope in real time."
Harvey also understands the importance of social media as "the modern day word of mouth." Wedge Roofing has an in-house communications team that assists with publishing content and engaging with potential customers through its company blog, along with multiple social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Houzz and more.
Ken Ross, general manager for NRCA member Gorman Roofing Services Inc., Phoenix
Most used roofing technology: EagleView Reports with Pictometry Imagery and iPhone®
Gorman Roofing Services is a nationwide roofing company that works primarily with commercial customers on reroofing projects for multifamily residences.
Similar to Harvey, Gorman Roofing Services' general manager, Ken Ross, also uses EagleView Reports with Pictometry Imagery for nearly every project.
"Pictometry provides me with aerial photography that gives a 360-degree visual of an individual property or building," he says. "It allows me to get an idea of the dimensions and scope of a particular project for bidding purposes, which I can do remotely from the office no matter where the project is located."
Ross also notes different versions of Pictometry Imagery reports are available—from basic to premium. He typically purchases the basic version to assess a building and determine initial project costs and then the on-site team measures the roof dimensions to confirm.
Ross also uses Pictometry Imagery reports to share progress regarding a particular project with customers by shading in completed areas on aerial visuals. He noted they are even useful for showing the on-site crews where they should park during project construction.
Ross acknowledges maintaining regular communication with the field team is important for being successful in his job.
"Never underestimate the importance of a cell phone as a useful tool for gaining real-time updates on projects or issues," Ross says.
Technological advancements have changed the way many roofing contractors do business and manage their projects. Similar to what these interviewed professionals have shared, the proper roofing technology can help your business remain competitive and efficient and even maintain better job-site communication. Although it may seem a daunting challenge to keep up with the rapid pace of evolving technology, it is worthwhile and will help you save time, and even money, in your business.
Jeff Williams is brand director for IKO North America, Brampton, Ontario.