In an an industry where an estimated one-third of costs are accounted for by material waste and rework, being able to quickly identify where there are cost overruns or poor quality control could make the difference between delivering a project on time and on budget or going out of business.

It’s no surprise that some of the most profitable and productive construction firms can immediately see what’s going on across all their projects and make well-informed decisions to help them build high-quality projects faster, leaner and safer. How do they do that? By mining usable data.

Leveraging big data to gain valuable insight is nothing new for the science, retail and automotive industries. However, the construction sector has been slower to adopt because the tools to capture, store and analyze this information have not
been made readily available.

“We’re moving away from paper, filing cabinets, and spreadsheets and finally moving to more digital data that is in a usable format,” says Kris Lengieza, director of virtual design and construction at Florida-based Stiles Construction. “Everything is data. How we make sense of it is the hard part.”

Capturing Data in the Cloud

Consider the entire community of individuals involved in a single project—owners, general contractors, architects, engineers, superintendents, project managers, subcontractors, sub-subcontractors—and the thousands of emails, RFIs, change orders and other transactions between them. Assembling and organizing the vast amount of data via paper-based documentation is extremely difficult, if not impossible.

In the case of construction data, size doesn’t really matter. Contractors don’t need big data; they just need the right data and the software solutions to help harness it and put it into action.

One of the ways more construction companies are leveraging usable information is through comprehensive, cloud-based construction management platforms, customized reporting, and dashboards that capture and summarize valuable data throughout the course of a workday. This information doesn’t require a computer science degree to understand.

Control Issues Ahead of Time

For instance, project or company dashboards make it possible to summarize large amounts of information captured in real time that can give insights into projects in a way that is easy to understand and put to use. Contractors can monitor things like fee erosion or safety hazards before they occur. With this type of data, projects are easily managed, and identifying which ones are healthy and which ones are potentially at risk is simplified.

There’s more to data than just solving present risks that can halt a project. When contractors take a step back and look at data across all of their current projects, they can start identifying trends that give valuable insight into future work.

For instance, if the data shows a particular subcontractor doesn’t perform very well on projects that are four stories or higher, the contractor can choose another firm that is better suited for those types of jobs. Or maybe a subcontractor does exceptional work, but struggles to deliver that same level of quality on a certain type of project.

“We manage five or six projects at a time and need a snapshot of how our projects are doing,” says Lengieza, who recently rolled out dashboards at Stiles Construction. “There already have been some quick wins, like someone using the information they were able to get instantaneously without having to run five or six reports.”

Use It or Lose It
The real value of data is making it work. Contractors can amass a mountain of usable information, but valuable insight is lost without a system in place to turn that data into action. The great news is the construction industry now has the tools to mine the data that help contractors build smarter. 

Don’t let data go to waste. A treasure trove of insights is only a few clicks away. 

Fatima Howes is a product manager for Procore’s Insights platform. For more information, visit procore.com.