It is no secret that our industry is awash with numbers, data and information.
But as we all know, numbers and data in isolation are largely meaningless; it is through their context that we can make sense of them and turn them into insights. And when we do so, we can use insights to make informed decisions; surely the goal behind the use of any data set or collection of numbers?
A dashboard without context is pretty pictures. A document without interpretation is text. And as an industry that relies on numbers, we are increasingly under pressure to make sense of the information we have and to create interconnected data sets that can drive project performance and improve outcomes.
There is no doubt that construction project information is going to be at the forefront of our thinking as an industry. Those who change, adapt, and leverage data will reap the rewards in the long term. So, where do we begin?
Firstly, construction project information is split into two core elements:
- Information coming into a project – what we require to build and maintain a piece of infrastructure; essentially BIM
- Information created by a project – what we did to deliver a piece of infrastructure; all of the tasks and activities that are undertaken as part of a project
Secondly, we need to clearly articulate the core components of each element, because by taking a complete approach to data as an asset we can have a markedly beneficial impact for our sector.
Information Into A Project
“Give me a design and I can build it” is often the core mantra of a contractor, and the information coming into a project should communicate the task to be completed. Most of this information is in the form of documents and drawings or attributed models (BIM) and has relevance changing with the constructed asset into an operational resource. It is unique to the project and has a long life expectancy.
It can be enhanced and complemented during the construction and commissioning process and goes on to form a component of the digital twin. As such, system like Aconex, PlanGrid, ProjectWise, Procore and Teambinder help with the management of this content during construction.
It should also inform how a project should operate. For example, Contracts, Schedules, Work Breakdown Structures (WBS), Standards, people/organisational and financial information. It is corporately governed and is largely documentation, but not entirely, it may also arrive as ‘master data’ from Enterprise systems like finance, HR and scheduling.
This information is managed by enterprise systems and often includes the project systems mentioned above.
Information Created By A Project
Anyone who has had any involvement with the delivery of a piece of infrastructure understands the sheer scale of the information that is created by a project:
- Actuals (start and finish dates)
- Site attendance records
- Site supervisor diary
- Weather records
- Equipment engine run hours
- Weigh-bridge records
- Material delivery dockets
- Material test results
- Truck count sheets
- GPS and Telemetry from fixed and mobile plant
- Safety inspections
- Progress records (quantity, rule of credit, etc.)
- Unplanned project activities (scope, site conditions, material defects, equipment breakdowns, etc.)
And many, many more.
This information is critical for the project budget and the schedule, the speed at which this information is available makes a significant difference to reporting, decision making, resource allocation, cost control, claim management and more.
Don’t Overlook Valuable Data Due to Industry Focus
Many are turning to BIM as a collaboration and communication solution via the digital twin, which releases intelligence lost to paper and design archives. BIM also provides architects, engineers and construction professionals with the ability to design, construct and manage projects more efficiently and collaboratively.
Due to this, BIM is currently the main data-led focus of our industry. That presents a significant risk; that we overlook all other data sets because we are caught up in the latest industry trend. This is not to dismiss or downplay the importance of BIM, it will and should play a vital role in the future of infrastructure delivery, but it is essential that we focus on all available data sets to truly maximise value.
Site captured data such as Site Records including Diaries, Photo/Comments and Events as well as activity codes such as the capture of direct labour, subcontractor labour-hire and equipment hire are as important to the success of a project as the modelling and information captured in BIM.
The reason is that we are able to turn that data into real-time reporting that can allow timely and informed project decisions to be made. With our industry delivering ever-increasingly large scale and complex projects, decision making and project controls are more critical than ever.
This is what site data can give a project because through real-time capture and push of a button reporting we will be able to manage project performance more efficiently and effectively than ever, as we will no longer need to rely upon the traditional end of week or month reporting. Instead, we will be able to monitor activity, track costs and schedules, improve the claims process and have a complete line of sight on a project at any time.
So while BIM is the future of design, construction and maintenance, its power alone will not improve the project overruns in our industry. That will only happen if we look at all available data including the application of core project data gathered during the construction phase.
By utilising the two core types of construction data, we have the potential to improve all that we do.