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Recently, Hensel Phelps encountered a problem many contractors have faced: As soon as the demolition crew tore down walls to renovate a restaurant, team leaders realized the as-built drawings were inaccurate. And problems with the as-builts meant problems would arise with the renovation. How could Hensel Phelps be assured the new construction would line up with the old?

Project Engineer Chad Neukirch solved the problem by using a 3-D laser scanner to capture the actual dimensions, accurate to the millimeter. The design team used that point cloud to revise the plans. From there, it was simply a matter of generating paper drawings from the job trailer’s HP plotter, a Designjet T2300 multifunction printer.

These are just a few examples of jobsite technologies making construction teams more productive. The following case studies illustrate what other companies are doing, too.

Breaking the Challenge Into Parts
Hensel Phelps has a two-fold challenge in getting model information into the field, then transferring electronic data to paper to make it available to team members who work without computer and tablet screens.

“Subcontractors still use paper to build from,” says Maurice Clarke, Hensel Phelps’ virtual design and construction manager. “We would love to keep everything electronic and digital, but that’s not something we can force on our partner companies.”

Nonetheless, the trend is clear: People rely on jobsite technologies that improve digital information creation, sharing and management.

For example, Hensel Phelps views plans and specs on tablets. When employees get together to discuss tasks, they capture their meeting notes using SMART interactive whiteboards. Additionally, they rely strongly on Prolog project management software in concert with Bluebeam plan reviewing software.

Clarke cites jobsite technologies such as the Autodesk BIM 360 Field app, 360 Glue cloud-based BIM management, and Autodesk Point Layout software, which enables teams to apply BIM coordinates to the field.

Capturing field information digitally is part of the contractor’s goal of providing owners with files they can use for facility management.

“Laser scans that verify field installations give the owner some basic information that can be used throughout the life cycle of a facility,” Clarke says. “It can be just the raw scan data or a model created from that data, but either way, it’s often more than the owner expects, which is good for repeat business.”

One Canadian contractor takes it a step further. It relies on the SmartUse app to view, distribute and mark up drawings on a large touchscreen at the jobsite. At the end of the job, the contractor gives the whole apparatus—the app, its data and the table mounted screen used to view the drawings—to the owner as part of project handover.

Focusing on the Process First
“Our approach to technology in construction is that you should figure out what your process is, then bring in the technology to enhance the process,” says McCarthy Building Companies Quality Director Chad Meadows. “For example, we have a process to determine the floor flatness and floor levelness of our poured decks. We’ve brought in laser scanners to cut time and increase accuracy of this process by scanning the pre- and post-pour these decks.

“Using technology to make our program easier improves acceptance of the new technology,” Meadows adds. “I think the ‘process before technology’ rule is why some technologies, such as 3-D printing, have a harder time being adopted; they don’t fit to a normal process.”

McCarthy takes steps to provide a single source of truth: one set of documents used by project stakeholders to design, coordinate, review and build.

“That source should contain all the hyperlinked as-built, RFI or submittal information,” Meadows says. “It should be easy to use, so that a person can find the information they’re looking for within four to five taps or mouse clicks.”

Going Paperless
“Using digital documents is a huge part of our strategy to minimize paper waste on jobsites,” says Scott Cloud, regional director of virtual design and construction for Brasfield & Gorrie. “When we do print, it’s only a sheet or two at a time, which is why we use plotters with integrated scanners on our jobsites. The device serves dual purposes, either putting digital information on paper or importing information from a sheet of paper to a digital format.”

A few of the jobsite technologies Brasfield & Gorrie employs to go paperless include the cloud storage services Box and Dropbox integrated with PlanGrid and SmartUse PDF viewing apps and Bluebeam PDF software.

The apps pull the PDFs from the cloud storage services. Upload an updated PDF to the cloud, and that’s what appears on the tablet or computer screen because the plan viewing software checks for updates.

“Getting to what a user needs in just a couple clicks is the best reason to keep the technology simple,” Cloud says.

One advantage of plan viewing software is that it ensures people work from the latest iteration of the plans and specs, which is important when a fast-track job will include 30 or 40 addenda in quick succession.

Brasfield & Gorrie also makes use of interactive touchscreens that range from tablet-sized to large enough to display full-size plans.

Smart printing (plotters connected to the Internet) also have a place in Brasfield & Gorrie job trailers, as do Leica total stations onsite.

Jobsite Tech Survey Highlights
A recent survey of 44 commercial contractors with active U.S. projects valued at $5 million or more reveals the extent to which firms have adopted jobsite technologies. When asked whether they felt the use of jobsite technology has helped them win new business, 83 percent of survey respondents answered “Yes.” However, most respondents focused on the ways new tools have solved old problems. When asked to share problems solved by jobsite technologies, some answers combined tools found in the office with tools used onsite:
  • “A subcontractor said it did not get the plans, but we had documentation showing what it downloaded and when.”
  • “We no longer have to go back to the office between meetings to get paper documents.”
  • “We used a digital plan table and tablets to complete the project without using paper.”
  • “We streamlined and truncated the punch list process by instituting field ‘pre-punch’ using tablets, our BIM models and PDF viewing software.”
  • “Nearly everyone downloads drawings from an online plan room and estimates costs on screen. Contracts refer to an electronic set of plans and their issue date, not rolls of drawings that are physical attachments.”
For more information about the construction industry’s use of jobsite technologies, register for a free report at www.newforma.com/construction-executive-the-intelligent-jobsite.

Ron Perkins is director of business development for NRI and president of Jobsite Tech Group. For more information, email rperkins@jobsitetechgroup.com or visit jobsitetechgroup.com. Dan Conery is vice president of construction and owner solutions for Newforma. For more information, visit newforma.com or smartuse.com.

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