A look at how tech solutions help construction managers and their maintenance teams.
Digitization is a common buzzword these days, and a key initiative of almost every company today. Like their industrial brethren, construction companies are intrigued as to how the digital revolution can help their business, but perhaps wary and conservative.
As a sector, construction has lagged behind in adopting smart technology. However, as industry insiders have started to understand the value in digitization, the construction sector is beginning to catch up.
Information has always been valuable in the construction industry. With the amount of information increasing exponentially over the last decade, the mission is becoming how to deliver the right information to the right person, at the right time. Technology can help – and this article will explore some technologies that help the construction sector.
Mobile Device Management
Mobile devices have made job site work more manageable by allowing immediate access to project information. Virtually every facet of a construction project can be managed with software – pre-construction planning and scheduling, work orders, progress, time reporting, maintenance, safety, accounting, and more.
Mobile devices are a must in today’s face-paced environment, where real time data is needed to make the best decisions for a business. For example, the central office may see a project is slipping behind schedule and adjust manpower that day.
In another case, devices are used to help track preventive maintenance tasks. It is much more valuable when a technician can check equipment history when he’s standing right next to it. In practicality, almost every aspect of a construction project can be assisted similarly through mobile devices and software.
Another enabler for modern technology in construction is cloud storage. As others have pointed out, data will be a linchpin for operations in 2020. Building on the previous section on mobile devices, cloud architecture allows several benefits for the construction industry. Cloud-based solutions generally offer faster data processing speeds than traditional hardware, along with more flexibility and scalability as the business evolves.
Of course, proper security measures should be in place to avoid theft or loss of data. But cloud architecture is often as safe or even better than traditional architecture, with suitable security protocols in place. A proper security strategy should be developed alongside a move to cloud-based architecture.
Managing the location and status of assets at a large construction site can be very difficult. Thankfully, asset management has been made easier with readily available low-cost technology.
With electronic tags, RFID chips, or other similar technology paired with software, important assets can be located electronically (likely with the use of a mobile device). Thus, workers will no longer waste valuable job time locating important equipment. Similarly, planners can know where important assets are – at all times – and adjust schedules accordingly.
This concept of asset management can be extended to human capital as well. Construction sites are using wearables as a method to improve site safety. Wearables can be built into PPE, employee badges, or apparel.
Using personnel location information, a site safety manager can tell if a person is entering a hazardous area, and whether they have the appropriate training. Taking this a step further, wearables with biometric feedback can determine more complex hazards. A worker might be overheated and in need of a break. Another may be repeating motions and in danger of an ergonomic injury. Using these concepts, there are many possibilities to stop an incident before it occurs.
Building Information Management
Building Information Management (BIM) uses digital depictions of actual buildings to foster communication and teamwork at a construction site. Using scanning cameras, an interactive 3D model is built which can then be used for many purposes.
A new, updated model can be built on demand, allowing all stakeholders to view the most recent status of the project. This up to date model can be used to visually review progress, without even visiting the site. Thus, all team members can clearly understand the goals, expectations, and status of the project.
BIM can be used for many other purposes – job site training, future planning, even demolition and site closure. As digital technology adoption will only increase going forward, BIM usage will also increase.
Augmented Reality (AR) uses technology to add digital visuals to a real-world picture. With a supplemented visual, an AR user can gain valuable insights quickly.
For example, AR can be used to remotely direct a worker requiring expert guidance. The specialist can point to specific items in the workers sight, allowing for a rich and efficient collaboration. This type of process allows for a rapid response to a specific problem.
AR can also be used in conjunction with a BIM to provide an endpoint to the existing view. A project manager can walk through a construction site and visually determine where the project stands. When the work is done, the manager can compare the design to the actual build.
Another natural use of AR is through troubleshooting. A remote specialist can easily work together with an onsite worker using AR, directing them through visual indicators.
There are many more potential uses of AR – training, work instruction, collaboration, and more. As digitization booms and mobile devices multiply, uses will likely increase.
Traditionally wary of change, construction companies have begun to embrace new information technology. They are starting to see the benefits – improved communication, safety, all while finishing projects more efficiently.
About the Author
Talmage Wagstaff: Co-Founder and CEO of REDLIST. Raised in a construction environment, Talmage has been involved in heavy equipment since he was a toddler. He has degrees and extensive experience in civil, mechanical and industrial engineering. Talmage worked for several years as a field engineer with ExxonMobil servicing many of the largest industrial production facilities in the Country.