Leveraging data to apply lessons learned
by Chad Hollingsworth
July 12, 2018

Construction is a low-margin industry facing a skilled labor shortage and increasingly complex, fragmented projects. While every project is unique, with countless moving parts and diverse physical, environmental or regulatory challenges, that doesn’t mean lessons learned at one site can’t be applied to the next. By failing to capture, unlock and employ insights from one project to the next, owners and contractors miss out on a critical opportunity to make the industry safer, more efficient and, ultimately, more profitable.

So, how do you unlock insights from one site to better plan and manage projects across your portfolio? It starts with the ability to automatically capture data from the jobsite. By leveraging the internet of things (IoT) to systematically measure commonalities across sites, construction business owners can better analyze and learn from these issues and share strategies to improve project outcomes across their organization.

Addressing Safety Challenges

Worker safety is a top industry priority, yet it also remains a challenge, due in large part to the industry’s continued reliance on manual processes and paper-based reports. The majority of contractors still have no way to see which workers are active on site; where the workers are located; as well as if and when a safety incident has occurred on one site—let alone across an entire region or all active projects. Contractors still use binders, emails, text messages, phone calls and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to document site safety, report incidents, monitor worker certification information and ensure compliance. With this information trapped on-site—unavailable for practical analysis and implementation—construction business owners and their industry partners are failing to take advantage of a substantial opportunity to figure out what’s working, what isn’t and what can be improved, as well as why and how to do so.

Fortunately, the rise of IoT technology on the jobsite is providing unprecedented, data-driven visibility into safety incidents and hazards. Wearable devices, sensor technology, drones, site cameras and more are not only helping to detect and alert management to safety incidents and site-specific hazards, but they are also aggregating and categorizing this information for easier access and analysis.

With an objective safety log—including who, where and when a fall occurred; how high it was; what certification the worker has; and what the weather conditions were at the time—contractors can begin to identify the riskiest trades, subcontractors, times of day and project locations to help improve conditions. In the near term, site supervisors can use real-time data to identify unsafe behaviors and intervene, reinforcing proper safety procedures or adjusting site processes as necessary. On a larger scale, with easily accessible information across all sites, including different regions, projects and construction types, business owners can scale insights to better predict and prevent safety incidents from occurring. 

As of now, this is only possible on a large scale through the use of IoT technology that automatically captures and quantifies worker and resource activities or behaviors and transmits them to the cloud for analysis and action.

 

Uncovering Obstacles to Productivity

Jobsite data from IoT devices is not only being used to tackle safety challenges, but efficiency challenges as well. With new, data-driven understanding of worker movements, equipment run time and/or power tool utilization, contractors can better coordinate and deploy resources to minimize downtime and prevent cost overruns. Real-time data enables real-time project assessment and management. Contractors can proactively manage equipment to keep workers, machines and projects productive instead of waiting for a project close out only to realize that delays were caused due to equipment sitting on site unused or not having enough equipment on site to begin with. Real-time information is now accessible across all of an organization’s jobsites, allowing  contractors to better estimate how many resources are needed and how long a project will take, helping future jobs be more profitable.

While this currently may be happening on a one- or two-off basis at project sites, it’s not possible to gather and share key insights enterprise- or industry-wide without broader digitization. Through IoT technology, which connects traditionally siloed information, construction business owners can collect and mine their data, allowing them to share lessons learned regarding how to build safer, more efficiently and more profitably than ever before.