Integrating a Digital Worksite to Recover Lost Productivity

A digital worksite leverages technology, using data to gather facts about the physical site to make smart decisions grounded in evidence–helping a site become more productive and profitable.
By Sean Stinson
April 3, 2021

Over the past 40 years, labor output in the construction industry has declined. Meanwhile, most other industries have seen their productivity metrics increase tremendously—and there’s a very clear distinction between construction and other sectors that proves why.

High-efficiency, labor-intensive industries, such as manufacturing, have improved efficiency significantly because of its investment in methods such as LEAN and Six-Sigma, which exist solely to improve tools and processes that increase productivity. As part of these methods, the agriculture industry has even implemented GPS-remote-controlled tractors into its operations.

The common denominator among high-output industries is its transition to a digital and connected worksite and using data to make smarter, more effective business decisions related to both productivity and safety. It’s an area of great opportunity for construction, an industry where tradespeople focus on tasks only three-of-10 hours of a regular working day.

With the countless number of factors that impact a construction site daily—such as managing weather delays, contractors and vendors, and even travel times from the lunch area or tool crib—the construction industry can better understand where productivity roadblocks might be and recover hours with a more systematic, modern approach to its projects. It’s called the digital worksite.

What is a digital worksite?

A digital worksite is the process of leveraging technology to supplement a physical worksite, using data to gather facts about workforces and make smart decisions that are grounded in evidence—helping a site become more productive and profitable.

The idea of a digital worksite for construction companies has been around for some time. Leading consulting firms rolled out early versions of a digitized site about five years ago with the goal of learning about the workforce itself in order to establish baselines, set KPIs and identify those roadblocks and surface improvements that could be made on the fly. While these early versions helped take transparency and visibility to new levels, they often focused only on productivity and were difficult and costly to both deploy and scale.

Building on these early solutions, the digital worksite has been innovated to focus on the term “connectivity.” From connecting the workforce with each other to linking learnings and occurrences from various work zones on a site, the digital worksite aims to bring everyone and everything together for greater visibility and decision making.

This level of transparency provides site managers with a stronger sense of reality on a worksite and how it lines up with pre-project planning and expectations. Sometimes, the results may surprise organizations, but these findings are presented in real-time and allow for quick and flexible day-to-day improvements.

An effective digital worksite enables organizations to manage their projects similar to how a successful football team would approach each game. With the technology available today, a good coach and his or her staff develop a detailed game plan to take advantage of strengths and address weaknesses well in advance of game day. They are also able to discuss and make adjustments throughout a game based on what they are seeing in order to give themselves the best chance to win. After the game, they conduct a post-mortem to learn what went right and wrong based on their game plan in order to improve for next time.

A digitized worksite operates in the same fashion, enabling organizations to better prepare for a project, make adjustments on-the-fly and host an effective Monday-morning-QB session to look back with facts and identify improvements for the next project.

Solving Problems with a Digital Worksite

Incorporating the right digital solution enables construction companies to operate with military-like precision and efficiency during their projects. Organizations will be empowered with the ability to capture key insight into what is happening on their worksites and where—providing them with a 360-degree view that eliminates any need for guesswork.

Whether a company is aiming to minimize contractors’ travel time to other projects or walks to the tool crib, or decrease long-term exposure from volatile organic compounds, a digital worksite provides the evidence that allows for calculated decision making.

Some key advantages are that these insights can be leveraged in real time, and no matter where the data is sourced from, a digital worksite collects and centralizes everything into one, easy-to-digest location. As soon as a worksite has its data compiled and organized, the learnings are available often at a click of a button.

Imagine what will happen when a site manager learns that contractors spend up to three hours per day traveling back and forth from one area of the site to another. That is time and money lost simply because of how the worksite is organized. Capturing and acting on these learnings quickly is a powerful capability of the modern-day digital worksite.

Incorporating a Digital Worksite into Operations

Supplementing a physical workspace with a digital worksite provides construction companies with a greater time-to-value, helping them see insights in real time, better coordinate workforces, call audibles quickly and, ultimately, recover the productivity lost over the past 40 years.

Getting started is easier than one might think. For tips, see Five Steps for Construction Companies to Transition to a Digital Worksite.

by Sean Stinson
Sean Stinson oversees the data science, product management, user experience design, sales, client success and customer care teams at Blackline Safety. He received a BSc in Electrical Engineering from the University of Calgary in 2002.

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