By Matt Desmond
Rising materials prices, fuel, trucking, extended lead times, and tight labor situations are leading contractors to implement digital technology to make processes more efficient, cost-effective, faster, and safer.
Rates for construction materials and equipment are continuously increasing. The last few years have challenged contractors to be more creative and innovative in the ways they plan and execute projects. Aligning service providers, deadlines, and resources are key to delivering projects with efficiency, precision, safety, and profit.
All the above factors affect construction project schedules and budgets, making effective estimation, planning, and management of construction projects more important than before. And, contractors can better manage projects by employing Advanced Digital Construction Management (ADCM) solutions.
Employing Advanced Digital Construction Management
ADCM refers to a new approach to construction, the implementation of which is being pushed by the US Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act; it includes a set of technologies used to help minimize project risks and provide transparency of project progress throughout the construction life cycle. The use of ADCM principles is designed to improve the interaction of people, machines, and material across all construction phases by placing digital tools in the hands of construction stakeholders to help:
- Boost productivity;
- Manage complexity;
- Reduce project delays and cost overruns; and
- Enhance safety and quality.
ADCM can be applied to numerous aspects of the construction process; eight aspects that provide the greatest make-or-break opportunities are:
1. Design. The design provides an understanding of what is being constructed, allowing for informed decisions.
2. Revisions and change requests. Revisions can be updates to a design, and change requests will alter project tasks and scope.
3. Back-up. Every company will need contingency plans and support from suppliers and others during construction.
4. Terrain. Knowing the terrain of the job site will help plan for its physical transformation.
5. Resources. To plan for an accurate level of resources, you need to understand what needs to be measured and how to measure it.
6. Data management. Your plan for assessing, preparing and distributing information to the right teams and machines at the right time and in the correct file format.
7. As-built information. As-Built reporting is the process you create to share project progress with key stakeholders.
8. Team preparation. Choose the right people for the job and communicate responsibilities, timelines, risks, and other necessary project information early in the project.
The degree to which a project fails or succeeds strongly correlates with the company’s performance in the above eight elements.
Changes begin during pre-construction
Contractors should deploy an ADCM strategy starting in pre-construction as they are collecting site data to see the greatest results.
You can’t produce an accurate estimate without accurate site data, which is crucial to creating a profitable and competitive bid. Remember, you don’t want to submit the lowest bid; you want to submit the lowest profitable bid. So, you need to fully understand all the quantities (volume of earth to be moved, concrete to be poured, the length of pipe to be installed, the number of lights to be installed, etc.). Although no money is made during the takeoff stage, the data collected and decisions made at this stage will determine your project’s profit or loss potential.
Getting unit quantities right is just the first step. Then you need to break down the project into stages, attach tasks to those stages, and attach resources (money, materials, men, and months), which requires a lot of extrapolative thought and imagination.
The goal is to produce a takeoff which an estimator will use to bid the work.
“When you think about engineering sense, we start with raw data,” says Ken Fritts, takeoff manager, Goodfellow Bros. “In this case, plans or information of what we want built. The challenge is we don’t always get consistency on that data, and we must take that information to try to get as much data out of it as possible. Our takeoff software helps us take that data and move it along to the desired product.”
Better data collection and communication
The latest research from Dodge Data & Analytics 2021 has revealed that “increasing sophistication in data collection and gathering will help the civil construction industry improve productivity, safety, and profitability” by:
- 56 percent improved bid estimation;
- 52 percent improved productivity;
- 51 percent improved budget performance; and
- 48 percent improved safety.
“We use the same technology to merge take-off data with model data with field-provided drone data,” says Fritts. “By having a product that can handle all three types of data from three different construction stages spanning months or even years, we greatly enhance efficiency and accuracy while making it easier to collaborate with colleagues.”
Managing data throughout a project is a struggle for many contractors. Using inaccurate or outdated data can result in poor decision-making and planning, leading to resources not being available when needed, delays, and an increased use in the number of contingency plans, which increases stress for management and the client doubting their ability to deliver. It can also lead to more rework and delays due to miscommunication or RFIs (requests for information), resulting in days –and dollars –lost.
Plus, there are other missed opportunities, such as discovering ways to create efficiencies, identifying risks or issues prior to the deployment of resources (when project delays are more expensive), and the ability to automate certain functions so you can streamline processes.
Analyze your data management practices for all eight aspects of the construction process to determine how your data management can be improved. Doing so will allow you to complete projects faster, at less cost, and feel more confident about projects going according to plan.
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Learn more about Hexagon’s Heavy Construction Solutions:
Hexagon offers an array of solutions for heavy construction. From bidding, to planning, to construction and maintenance, we empower companies to master their project timelines and costs with dependable solutions that ensure productivity, safety and sustainability.
With an exceptional wide-range of innovative construction solutions, we are focused and dedicated to providing technology with the construction professional in mind so that projects can be completed on time, on spec and within budget. Our heavy construction solutions include simple-to-use technologies, seamless workflows, collaborative deployments and digital solutions that enable data-driven transformation.
Hexagon is a global leader in sensor, software and autonomous solutions. We are putting data to work to boost efficiency, productivity, and quality across industrial, manufacturing, infrastructure, safety, and mobility applications. Our technologies are shaping urban and production ecosystems to become increasingly connected and autonomous – ensuring a scalable, sustainable future.
Matt Desmond is President Agtek, Vice President Heavy Construction, Construction Management Solution at Hexagon.