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Let’s get one thing straight from the start: there is a lazy stereotype that the construction sector is behind the times when it comes to technology. Nothing could be further from the truth. The biggest tech challenge facing the construction industry today is not lack of technology, but a lack of technology integration.

Walk around any jobsite and you will see as many tablets and smartphones as on any tech campus. At the same time, the typical tech environment of a construction project is a virtual wild west of point solutions and niche software applications. Buildings are planned with sophisticated CAD software, projects are meticulously costed and risk managed with estimating and scheduling programs, and owners keep tabs on it all through project management platforms—yet none of this data is connected.

From the drafting desk to the jobsite, every construction project is a treasure trove of data, with no good way to centralize it, access it and learn from it. This means that in an industry plagued by flat productivity and rising costs, almost everyone is missing the bigger picture when it comes to how the work really gets done—and missing a massive opportunity to take construction work to the next level.

Connecting the Dots

Connecting construction data for a complete view of work happening at every phase of a capital project promises to unlock the productivity and efficiency gains that have proved elusive for a sector overrun with point solutions.

In the context of a large project, a holistic view of the data can make a big impact. For example, according to the construction plan, a team is set to dig foundations in a particular segment of the jobsite. The equipment and crew are ready to go, when word comes from the foreman that the materials for the foundations have been delayed. So, this work cannot be performed according to plan. The crew moves on with the excavation, so the site is ready when the material arrives.

What if the crew’s time could have been better spent elsewhere that day? Maybe the next job for that team could have been reprioritized, saving time later? Maybe another job elsewhere could have benefited from the use of the crew that day? Had information about the delay been shared as soon as the procurement team found out about it—and shared in an integrated way—workflows could have been reprioritized to minimize disruption and maximize productivity.

Another example: the use of telematics. Telematic sensors relay data on the use and condition of various pieces of equipment in real-time, allowing for smarter use of resources. Take fuel trucks: historically, they would make rounds going from piece of equipment to piece of equipment, checking fuel levels and seeing what they need, making sure equipment can run as often as possible. If telematic data tells us that the site’s 10 JCBs did not run last week, we know the fuel supplier does not need go to them. It becomes easier and cheaper to keep everything fueled-up and ready to go at all times.

But benefits are not restricted to individual projects. Over time, a body of data is built that can help any construction business bid, compete and build with more confidence. Perhaps there is a particular job combined with a particular weather pattern which commonly leads to delays or safety incidents; by sharing data across and between organizations, those patterns can be recognized and lessons can be learned once, rather than over and again. These can then be applied throughout a firm’s project portfolio to help construction businesses make some of the complex decisions they face every day with increased certainty.

Getting to the next level

Depending on the stage of your business and its maturity as a data-driven organization, the approach may look a little different, but it is still easy to begin or even to accelerate use of data to guide business decisions. The key is to start slow, introduce small changes that will yield proven benefits first, then pause and assess. Then repeat the process but do a little more the next time. The benefits will begin to compound, and any initial reluctance will soften.

As contractors continue their data journey, more and more of the bigger picture will become clear until they have a complete view of the full project lifecycle, from design to delivery, and the ability to drive optimal outcomes as every stage. That is what it looks like to take construction work to the next level.


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