The connected construction site can lead to better, faster, more cost-effective outcomes for contractors and owners. Capturing, sharing, and managing construction data in real-time makes every aspect of the process run smoothly.
However, there's a catch. Too much data without the ability to organize and manage it can turn into "noise" that causes more problems than it solves.
In 2018, over $1B was invested in construction software across the country. This investment represents a trend toward the nearly universal use of mobile technology. Exponential growth in mobile device use has led to almost double the amount of data collection over the past two years compared to previous years.
Having all that data sounds like a good thing, but it raises problems, too. For one thing, there's so much of it that it can be impossible to know which data to pay attention to. And for another, most of it exists in silos–different software formats, different technologies, various contractors and subcontractors, and other stakeholders.
The problem is so bad that a 2018 FMI and PlanGrid Report found that 48% of rework can be attributed to poor data capture or data not being leveraged effectively.
St. Louis-based PARIC Corp - that is consistently in the ENR 200 - is one company that has invested in solving the problem of "too much data" and truly harnessing the power of breaking down silos and integrating workflows to access predictive project insights and improve construction safety, quality, and timelines.
PARIC is a full-service construction company that has stayed competitive over four decades by marrying its strength and longevity to practical, forward-thinking innovation and delivering the highest quality and best outcomes to clients.
Andy Leek, Vice President of Technology and Innovation at PARIC, says the company has always been data-driven, even from the very start. But the technology has changed. He says there are three key steps to apply data and analytics effectively on the modern construction site.
"At every phase of every project, there are so many people that it's easy for communication to get messed up," says Leek. "Meetings used to be how we communicated, but now it’s text and chat boxes, and emails and Zoom and Microsoft Team calls. The information is scattered all over."
He says that about eight years ago, the organization made a big push to uncover new ways to support their projects, understand their goals, mitigate risk, and provide value to the entire team.
"An approach we took early was to democratize the process," he says. To do this, they needed to make sure the information was in everyone's hands. That goal required a new platform.
To support their democratization, the platform needed to be:
The platform they settled on was Autodesk Construction CloudTM, the cornerstone of which has been BIM 360.
"This gets rid of silos," explains Leek. "And brings value to the project team at large. That's where we started, and we grow from that."
PARIC delivers projects across the country and all levels of complexity and scale. A recent high-risk project in a downtown district in the midwest, where it can rain, snow, and sunshine all in one day, is an example of the organization's accomplishments.
"We created an environment with our owners and stakeholders, where they know they can get the information they need and have valuable conversations."
And this begins before the project does.
PARIC uses over 20 SaaS-based products, which they use to create an experience for all stakeholders, starting in preconstruction and through to facility management and operations.
"We set the project up in BIM 360 as soon as we're able to start collecting information before we even win the bid," says Leek. "Even if all we have is a name. We set up this single source of truth, with a dashboard, and the dashboard creates an interactive environment. Some people consider it fun."
Using the open API and data capture technology, everything that happens on the project from preconstruction to handoff is captured and funneled to the single source of truth.
"Production tracking, drone data, and people walking around the job with cameras on their helmets," says Leek. "These pieces alone provide insight into the project."
They are connecting all of this data into a central dashboard, where project stakeholders can view all of the relevant information and insights they need at a glance.
And to sort the data and make the dashboards useful? PARIC uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).
It's not unusual for a project to generate hundreds of issues. Understanding how to sort and understand and make these issues actionable is the work of machine learning.
"We have machine learning in the background serving up the issues that are higher priority," says Leek. "We can manipulate that, and then the AI learns from us to deliver better results. We're learning, and the system is learning, and that's value for everyone."
"A partnership is critical to create an effectively connected construction site," says Leek.
Early on in this journey, PARIC approached several potential partners and finally selected BIM 360 as the data platform because of Autodesk's eagerness and commitment to partnering with them to make the platform do what they needed it to do.
As the platform evolved, Leek reached out to several of their partners to integrate. Their first such partnership was with a reality capture company that helped PARIC connect and leverage drone scanning, laser scanning, and survey control information more efficiently, and gain more value from it.
Together, these partnerships led to a streamlined workflow that hosts all the information in one place and makes it available to the people and technologies where it's accessible.
"We want to predict and prevent problems," says Leek. "And you don't want people standing around on a jobsite waiting for materials or information."
Investing in virtual technology, BIM, job site cameras, drones, AI, and integration has helped them to improve quality and reduce safety incidents.
'We've been very successful, and it continues to be a big thing," says Leek. "We ultimately want to deliver an excellent build experience. Eliminating change orders and RFIs, while enhancing communication, all put together, improves our process, margins, and safety."
Capturing and analyzing construction data can be a daunting task, but it is a project that returns valuable dividends in quality, safety, and time. It enables continuous learning and improvement, both for the existing project and to enhance projects moving forward.
Getting started is challenging, but with the right partners, best practices, and tools, you'll be well on your way.
Are you interested in learning more about data management and PARIC’s journey? Listen to a recent Construction Executive webinar where Andy Leek talks about the road to better data management and how PARIC uses BIM 360 to synthesize and find value from their data.