Five Steps for Construction Companies to Transition to a Digital Worksite

Finding the time and resources to onboard to a digital worksite can be seamless with the right partner and tools. There are five steps to transition to a digital and connected worksite.
By Igor Avlijas
May 3, 2021

With the construction industry seeing shrinking labor output over the past 40 years—including less time-on-tools and more cost overruns—it’s not a surprise companies are transitioning to a digital and connected worksite. In addition to zero-harm safety commitments, contractors are being asked to identify, undertake and deliver innovative initiatives improving project efficiency, productivity and savings.

Integrating a Digital Worksite to Recover Lost Productivity explains what a digital worksite is and how it benefits construction worksites. With countless factors impacting a construction site daily, such as managing the activity and safety of hundreds of contractors and vendors, a digital worksite brings greater line-of-sight to the frontlines. This empowers site managers with the fact-based data needed to make informed decisions.

With safety and operation managers so focused on the job, it can be difficult to find the time and resources to onboard to a digital worksite. However, with the right partner and tools, the transition is seamless. There are steps any construction company can take to convert its projects to a digital and connected worksite.

Step 1. Determine the Why and What the Company Is Trying to Gain

The first step in the digital worksite transition is determining the “why,” or identifying what the company wants to gain from the switch.

For example, a contractor may be seeking a more modern and safer workplace, which can help attract stronger talent. It may want to improve the utilization rate of on-site project resources to improve schedule certainty. For other contractors, it may be a point of differentiation when bidding on jobs, an opportunity to enable and drive continuous improvement and a way to solidify a relationship and become the contractor of choice. A company may be in the middle of a generational shift where baby boomers are retiring—along with their decades of knowledge—and digital resources can help better manage and develop younger generations and future leaders.

Whatever the “why” is, it will inform the “what”—in other words, what is holding the company back, what KPIs are needed to measure and what information or data needs to be collected?

Step 2. The “What” Part A – Recognize What is Holding the Company Back

In many cases, the most significant operational challenge or constraint that construction companies face is the lack of visibility into its frontlines. Site managers may have an idea of tradespeople activity, but they often don’t have a clear picture of insights, such as how long the wait for materials to arrive is or what risky behaviors occur daily that go unreported. Without these clear insights, it’s impossible to make meaningful worksite changes that are grounded in evidence.

Beyond operational challenges, many organizations also face budget constraints that limit its ability to address these site obstacles and scale up in-house analytics and information capabilities. While budget is a key component, it’s important to first focus on what day-to-day operational constraints that are a barrier to achieving the “why.”

That’s because modern digital worksite solutions are flexible in how they are modeled—if the company has a few very specific goals and challenges, it can deploy a budget-friendly solution with the right partner and tool.

Step 3. The “What” Part B – Determine the KPIs to Measure

Once goals and challenges are identified, site managers can determine the metrics they want to measure to monitor progress toward their objectives. Examples might include the percentage of time a tradesperson spends on tool, or the amount of time the average tradesperson spends alone each day in hazardous areas.

No matter the KPIs, these metrics will ensure a construction firm’s success measures are clear and align with its ultimate goals of realizing a digital worksite's game-changing ability to enable contractors to provide a new level of customer experience, strengthening the long-term relationship.

Step 4. The “What” Part C – Identify How to Collect Site Information or Data Today

The final step in the “what” is identifying how the company already collects site information today. For construction companies, this varies greatly from compiling information through testimony or paper surveys, to Excel or built-for-purpose construction management programs—all of which may leave gaps in safety monitoring. For example, a lone worker may not report a minor safety incident to avoid potential retribution or the paperwork. That small event could put another tradesperson at risk later because data collection practices were not more robust or automated.

Regardless of how a site gathers information, identifying those compilation processes will help the right partner advise the company on how to make those practices more efficient and centralized, closing information gaps.

Step 5. The “How” – Find the Right Partner and Tools

The final step in converting to the digital worksite is establishing how to make the transition.

First and foremost, it’s critical to partner with an organization that has experience in the respective construction trade. This group must understand the construction industry and the vertical it works in, whether that be commercial, industrial, offshore and so on.

With this experience, the partner should be able to guide the company through digitizing its portfolio of worksites, anticipating challenges it may encounter and advising how to solve them. The partner should also offer the flexibility to work within the budget, supporting the company with consistent remote or on-site assistance or scheduled check-ins. Ideally, the partner helps the company stand up the systems and provides training to grow in-house capabilities.

Additionally, the right partner should provide the tools to track and upload worksite data to a platform via the cloud so real-time and historical insights are available at any time—either for one or multiple projects at a time. The tools should be scalable, secure, quickly deployable and should not add infrastructure that limits the speed of ramp up and down periods and hinders cost certainty.

And to bring everything together, the right partner should have the capability to translate all the worksite data generated by these tools into timely, digestible and actionable information for the teams.

Transitioning to a Digital Worksite is Easy and Effective

With all the benefits a digital worksite can bring to construction firms, companies can address declining labor output quickly and strengthen client relationships. The transition to a digital and connected site is seamless with the right partner who understands the industry and the right tools that can deliver the insights fast. By working with a partner to executing these simple steps, any construction company can be on the way to stronger labor output and better safety in a matter of weeks.

by Igor Avlijas
Igor Avlijas, P.Eng., leads the Digital Worksite program at Blackline Safety, where he and his team of data scientists, analysts, subject matter experts and industry partners are delivering value to construction, turnarounds and maintenance programs. Igor received a BSc in Electrical Engineering from the University of Calgary in 2004 and later completed his LEAN Construction and Six Sigma Black Belt certification.

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