Connecting data, people, and technology – A ‘golden’ key to unlocking performance improvement in construction
As technological innovations continue to accelerate digitalisation in construction, business leaders face tough decisions on where to invest their precious resources to achieve better business outcomes. And if recent statistics are telling, construction professionals will need to choose wisely considering growing global building and infrastructure need.
According to the latest United Nations (UN) data, urbanisation combined with the overall growth of the world’s population could add another 2.5 billion people to urban areas by 2050. In the Asia Pacific region alone, number of urban dwellers is expected to rise to more than 2.8 billion in 2030 and reach nearly 3.5 billion in 2050. Those numbers equate to adding four Tokyo sized cities every year (United Nations, 2019).
Nevertheless, the growing demand for urban infrastructure developments is challenged by workforce shortage and poor productivity. As per the latest studies in the UK, construction businesses struggle to recruit for one in three roles. When considering the main barriers to productivity in their own business, industry professionals most commonly point to skills shortage, disconnected data, and lack of collaboration – leading to costly rework, delays, and waste.
If construction productivity were to catch up with the progress made by other sectors over the past 20 years, it is estimated that this could increase the construction industry’s value added by $1.6 trillion a year, according to a report by McKinsey Global Institute.
With today’s next generation cloud technologies, businesses have democratic access to a completely new set of connected capabilities from connected teams through to connected data and workflows. In turn, new opportunities exist to improve productivity and performance and meet the world’s growing urban and infrastructure needs.
The Impact of Connected Data
With the advent of next generation connected technologies, construction teams are able to collaborate in real-time, seamlessly connect data from various sources, and coordinate with teams with more accuracy using up to date information in the cloud. This level of connected capabilities has significant potential to improve productivity and address labour shortages in our industry.
Consider a typical construction project. It involves several independent stakeholders including the client, designers, main contractor, sub-contractors, and product suppliers – all generating and exchanging large amounts of data throughout the project lifecycle. Thus, connecting the same data seamlessly throughout the project lifecycle means enhanced collaboration, reduced project risks, and improved outcomes for all stakeholders.
Below, we’ll dive into the specific benefits of connected construction data.
During design development, the architects, engineers, cost consultant, contractors, and the client work together to develop a design option that can meet the brief and parameters. In the process, the teams generate and exchange vast amount of intelligent design data including complex BIM models, drawings, specifications, and visualisations. Sharing design data seamlessly is a real challenge with traditional practices such as uploading, downloading, and aggregating data manually – causing time waste and errors and leading to partially resolved designs.
Connecting data during design using next generation technologies means designers, QSs, contractors, and the owner are able to collaborate in real time irrespective of their location, reduce errors, and achieve better solutions faster. Connected data also improves communication amongst the stakeholders, improving productivity and reducing ‘time’ waste.
- Better Design – With real time collaboration and visibility of the up to date design information, clients can achieve better design solutions that are sustainable enough and generate positive outcomes.
- Enhance Design Coordination – Having continuous access to different disciplines’ design information, designers are able to coordinate designs more efficiently and produce well-coordinated designs suited for modern construction methods and operations.
- Greater Client Engagement – Connected data fosters informed decision-making, allowing designers to increase client engagement at every step of the design development process.
Planning is all about the ‘right’ timing. Having the right information at the right time is critical for successful planning. Once design is developed enough, planning and preconstruction teams start to plan buildability, site logistics, labour, materials, and safety. To do so, they need instant access to accurate data related to design, site conditions, procurement, safety, and labour. Traditionally, planning teams spend a lot of time finding and collecting data from various teams to feed into their planning processes. Also, when any information is revised, the planning team must wait until the revised information is issued to them – causing inefficiencies and errors in planning.
Connecting design data with buildability, site conditions, safety, labour, and material enables the planning team to allocate and plan resources accurately, improve plan to actual ratio, and provide an opportunity to build faster.
- Collaborative Planning – With real time connection to data and geographically located teams, planning can be a real ‘total-team’ approach rather than traditional siloed planning.
- Shared Understanding – Real time access to connected data fosters shared understanding amongst design and construction teams, improving collaboration and transparency
Minimise Delays – Analysing actual progress against planned activities in real time reduces the chance of delays and improves certainty.
Procuring the best teams and products is vital for any construction project around the world. Procurement involves engagement with thousands of suppliers and going through a rigorous selection process. Having early access to accurate design data, quantities, schedules, and benchmark data in the cloud means the procurement team can go out early in the market and find the best suppliers at favourable conditions. Cloud-based connected construction data can also open up doors for global procurement opportunities.
- Competitive Advantage – Having easy access to product suppliers and installers globally through next generation cloud technology opens up global procurement opportunities, providing a competitive advantage to project owners.
- Enhance Partner Selection – Automating tendering process and tender return analysis helps procurement teams make informed-decisions and de-risk the whole procurement process.
- Enhance Benchmarking – Benchmarking procurement data across projects, regions and businesses through connected cloud technologies improves predictability and reliability of benchmarking data.
Ensuring the quality of the final built asset is important for a builder’s reputation. Quality involves both the quality of design in addition to the quality of construction. Through connected data and teams, project team can deliver error-free design and plan well in advance. During construction, quality management involves robust control processes and inspection plans. Carrying out project activities as per the latest approved information and conducting ongoing inspections of as-built conditions against it leads to defect free construction.
Providing real time access to design, planning, and inspection data in the field on mobile devices means site teams are able to collaborate more efficiently, improve site productivity, and reduce defects.
- Reduce Defects – Defects during handover can be drastically reduced by identifying and fixing issues throughout construction through connected workflows and improved collaboration amongst design, site, and manufacturing teams.
- Decrease Rework – With better insight into project data and improved collaboration, teams can ‘get it right first time’ reducing rework and its cost impact.
- Reduce Buildability Issues – Managing buildability issues throughout construction requires efficient collaboration and communication amongst all project stakeholders. Using connected data in the cloud, or on a mobile device, teams are able to collaborate in real time and address issues proactively before they become costly to resolve.
Safety remains the number one priority for all in construction. To that end, site teams continuously explore innovative ways to improve site safety. An increasing number of construction professionals believe that the primary causes of jobsite injuries and fatalities —falls from roofs, ladders, and scaffolds; soft-tissue injuries from material handling, burns from hot work – could be greatly minimised with advanced planning, coordination, and communication using latest digital technologies.
The next generation of connected technologies can bring construction teams closer to design teams early on and improve safety risk assessment and planning during preconstruction, enabling ‘prevention through design’ approach.
- Reduce Accidents and Injuries – Error-free design and well thought out installation sequence enabled through digital technology can significantly reduce probability of accidents and injuries on site.
- Better Safety Planning – With the latest design and planning data made available in the cloud, preconstruction and construction teams are able to identify safety risks earlier and put preventative measures in place before it’s too late.
- Enhance Safety Management – Day-to-day implementation of safety provisions and safety inspections on the jobsite can be improved through digitally connected sites and better insight into safety issues across teams and projects.
The project handover phase is very important to establish smooth transition from construction into operations, giving owners a ‘soft-landing.’ During handover phase, a large amount of project data is collected from various sources including testing and commissioning data, warranties, operation, and maintenance manuals, health and safety material, as-built records, BIM models, and regulatory compliance certificates.
One of the most powerful ways to ensure successful project handover is to have an integrated technology solution that allows you to capture data in the field in real time and in a structured way such that owners can validate data more efficiently and have a positive mobilisation experience.
- Enhance Client Experience – Handing over project and associated data in a structured way using an integrated technology platform can enhance client experience through handover and mobilisation, improving operational readiness from day one.
- Reduce Post-Completion Disputes – Capturing testing, commissioning, warranty, and other project data progressively throughout construction in a structured way reduces post-completion disputes as teams are able to search information instantly with a proper audit trail.
- Reduce Handover Costs – Traditional handover practice meant delivering vast amount of project data in paper format and on portable memory devices. This way, it is very challenging to search information and most often information gets lost over the years. Digitising handover data in a structured way in the cloud, allows construction teams to deliver project data more efficiently and reduces handover costs.
Not only built assets are becoming more complex, but they are now being expected to perform better. This expectation to improve asset performance is both through regulatory reforms, such as lower energy consumption and maintaining up to date record of assets, and through financial pressure, where asset owners can’t afford more downtime and need better operational delivery. With all the handover information available instantly in the cloud and connectivity with operation and maintenance systems, facility teams can manage assets more efficiently and optimize asset performance throughout the asset lifecycle.
- Reduce Operation Costs – Instant access to operation and maintenance data in a structured way in the cloud improves efficiencies and reduces overall operation costs significantly.
- Improve Post-occupancy evaluation – Having access to accurate project information during operations can allow building owners to evaluate performance against the design brief and optimize performance throughout the lifecycle.
- Increase Asset Value – With most up to date operations data being captured throughout the asset lifecycle, owners are able to build a ‘digital twin’ and connect with physical assets for better asset management, enhancing overall value of the assets.
An International Framework for Managing Connected Data
Technology alone is not going to help the construction industry improve performance. It needs to be underpinned by robust processes and data structures. To that end, the International Standards Organization (ISO) has published ISO 19650 series of standards, “Organisation and digitisation of information about buildings and civil engineering works, including building information modelling (BIM) – Information management using building information modelling,” providing an international framework for managing information through collaborative working using BIM.
“ISO 19650 was developed on the basis of the tried-and-tested British standard BS 1192 and publicly available specification PAS 1192-2, which have already been shown to help users save up to 22% in construction costs,” says Jøns Sjøgren, Chair of the ISO technical subcommittee that developed the standards.
“Taking this to an international level not only means more effective collaboration on global projects, but allows designers and contractors working on all kinds of building works to have clearer and more efficient information management,” he said.
Connected Data – A Step Forward in Digitalisation
Most engineering and construction companies have embraced the idea of digitalisation and are investing heavily in technologies and training for their workforce. Combine this with new international standard on information management, now is the time for E&C companies to prioritise their connected data strategy in order to improve productivity and see their digitalization efforts bear fruits.
With Autodesk Construction Cloud™, teams now how the right technology to support workflows from design though construction and power digitisation to improve efficiency and productivity. Our initial integrations focus has been to ensure that the design data created in our authoring tools – Revit and AutoCAD is readily available to construction project teams. To learn more, visit our website.