Despite increasingly sophisticated projects and buildings, the way tasks are completed and managed on site has changed very little over the last 30-40 years. The majority of project leaders and crews still rely on paper and pen, emails, phone calls and physical proximity to manage operations and communicate project changes or issues. This reliance on manual processes and legacy, on-premise systems “traps” information at the jobsite, resulting in diminished construction project performance, disconnected data flows and siloed project stakeholders.
Compare this to your personal life, where the Internet of Things (IoT) is ubiquitous and connection is the norm. Smartphones, for example, instantly connect you with people or information around the world, and connected everyday objects, such as your smart thermostat, allow you to control your home’s temperature from any device at any point in time. The IoT also enables new insights and understandings; With an objective, digital record of your home’s energy consumption, you can identify trends, change settings, and save energy and money.
This network of data collection points is transforming the way business is conducted around the world, and construction is no exception. Although construction has traditionally been slow to adopt technology, that is changing, as leading contractors embrace technology that enables total digital visibility and real-time collaboration and communication between different teams and stakeholders. Though change is always scary, failing to embrace digital and connect your jobsite is much scarier. When project information is trapped at the jobsite or stored in physical filing cabinets or email inboxes, it negatively impacts the ability to make decisions, manage projects, and ensure consistent project quality and execution.
Consider how disconnected versus connected data affects the following aspects of construction projects:
#1 – Administrative Work
Simply put, the more papers to shuffle, the more trips to make, the more unnecessary idle time spent not working on the task/project at hand. In contrast, a connected jobsite, and connected data, means that the latest information is available to whoever needs it from any smart device, at any point in time. If a foreman, for example, needs to review a specific change-order or equipment operator certification, he or she can log into a dashboard and view the latest information.
A disconnected jobsite also impacts workforce, safety, and quality performance. Construction is a fast-moving, high-stakes industry, and when project leaders, foremen, supervisors, and even laborers to make decisions based on outdated or incomplete information, mistakes happen, and those mistakes have significant time, financial, and safety consequences.
#2 – Communication
When you stop to consider all the moving parts on a construction project, it can make your head spin. Time and time again, across industries, studies show that communication is critical to success, and construction is no different. On a disconnected, paper-driven jobsite, however, effective communication is near-impossible. With so many project participants (owners, architects, engineers, contractors) spread across different areas, it’s tedious and time-consuming to communicate project progress, changes, or issue. Right now, for example, how can an owner check in on the progress of a project without physically going to a jobsite? Or how can a general contractor see which workers are on site and how many safety incidents have occurred across trades? Without streamlined communication, mistakes are made, time is lost, accidents happen, and everyone involved loses.
#3– Risk Exposure
Last, but most certainly not least, a disconnected jobsite negatively impacts safety and risk management. Without a complete picture into what’s happening on site, it’s difficult to stay on top of safety issues and ahead of potential dangers. Job sites are large, diverse, chaotic environments – which is what makes “disconnected” the default – and when it’s difficult to spot safety incidents, identify hazards, or seamlessly evacuate a jobsite, worker safety is compromised. A disconnected jobsite means incomplete information, which leads to delayed – or incorrect – communication, and on a construction site, that can have severe consequences.
Construction projects are like interconnected telephone lines, and each section of line represents a different resource, task, client, or stakeholder. When one section of the line is broken or missing, some of these links miss out on important conversations, and the entire project suffers. However, when all the lines are in place, everyone can pick up the receiver and communicate effectively, which facilitates a more streamlined project and satisfied clients.
It is possible to link all the different facets of a disconnected jobsite with new, IoT-enabled technologies. These technologies are designed to provide a solid link between each important part of a project. They record and transmit vital information to everyone in real time, allowing improvements in terms of safety, efficiency, satisfaction, and even revenue.