The Dirty Dozen Battle the Data Dozen

Using technology to improve labor productivity and reduce costs means gaining access to accurate data and performing meaningful analysis of that data for making timely, better-informed decisions.
By A. Vincent Vasquez
November 7, 2019

A deep dive into a telematics solution, Enhancing Productivity With Connected Scissor and Boom Lifts, was a major motivation for JLG to deploy telematics to improve labor productivity and reduce costs for its customers.

Jim Negron, CEO of Corna-Kokosing, discussed telematics and more generally the use of technology to help improve labor productivity and reduce costs in the construction industry. He shared what he calls “The Dirty Dozen”—the 12 things that can reduce labor productivity and ultimately hurt margins at the jobsite:

  1. material not being onsite;
  2. design errors;
  3. fabrication errors;
  4. poor workmanship by another trade;
  5. mistake made in layout;
  6. weather;
  7. poor communication;
  8. lack of planning;
  9. equipment downtime;
  10. damage by others;
  11. poor workmanship; and
  12. lack of coordination of trades.

Bringing the two points together, telematics is about gathering accurate data from the equipment working in the field with one overall objective to combat The Dirty Dozen. For instance, United Rentals Helps Customers Optimize Equipment Rental discussed how telematics was used to reduce equipment rental costs for the building of a solar energy project partially by reducing equipment downtime.

Before telematics and in a more analog-based construction world, a contractor might start a project and it could take weeks before the team had access to enough information to make meaningful adjustments to beat The Dirty Dozen. Now, contractors can look at the information coming from telematics-enabled equipment and make productivity improving adjustments in near real-time.

Negron also mentioned that highway contractors provide a good example of why this is important. On a particular project, eight million cubic yards of dirt may have to be moved. Just a 2% or 3% change in productivity one way or another can make or break a job’s profitability.

At its core, utilizing technology to improve labor productivity and reduce costs is really about gaining access to accurate data and performing meaningful analysis over that data so timely, better-informed decisions could be made. In a way, it’s about utilizing data to fight off The Dirty Dozen.

For example, flying a drone over a jobsite to more accurately measure the volume of onsite materials can help reduce the risk of material not being onsite when it needs to be or utilize augmented reality to catch design errors earlier in pre-construction versus when trades are already on-site colliding with each other.

The list goes on. And therein lies much of the complexity for contractors—the list does go on and on.

To put this in perspective, here is “The Data Dozen”—a dozen technology genres that provide data to help the digital contractor improve labor productivity and reduce costs, while also enhancing worker safety:

  1. artificial intelligence and machine learning;
  2. augmented reality;
  3. building information models;
  4. drones, laser scanning and photogrammetry;
  5. management and analytics software;
  6. network connectivity;
  7. prefabrication;
  8. robotics and autonomous vehicles;
  9. safety management software;
  10. security solutions;
  11. telematics and fleet management; and
  12. virtual reality.

Some of these, like building information models, are fairly entrenched in the construction process today. Some of these, like pre-fabrication, are gaining momentum with leading edge contractors. Other technology genres, like artificial intelligence, can be found more on startup drawing boards and being rolled out as pilots. But regardless of which technology genre, they are all available in one form or another—today.

Negron makes an additional point: He warns that technology is creating a training gap. The mason of tomorrow will not only have to know how to lay bricks, but will also need to know how to tend to a robot. And this tomorrow is actually happening today. SAM the brick-laying robot is a good example of this.

To apply this to each individual involved in the construction industry, to improve productivity, contractors will need to learn how “The Data Dozen” can be applied to their jobs, so ultimately they can triumph over and not get trapped by “The Dirty Dozen.”

Complacency and relying on analog building methods that may have served for the past decades isn’t going to continue to pay the bills when others are learning how technology can make them more productive, differentiated and competitive.

by A. Vincent Vasquez

Vince Vasquez has more than 30 years of experience in enterprise sales, marketing and engineering. Working with 20 industry leaders, he is the co-author of Precision Construction, which teaches the fundamentals of IoT with a focus on the construction industry. He is also the co-founder and CEO of PrecisionStory, which brings Precision Storytelling—a new and innovative approach to enterprise storytelling—to market. Vince has an MBA from Stanford University, an MS in Computer Engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University and a BS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley. 

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