Brandon Oliveri-O’Connor of Procore discusses how the UK construction industry can benefit from integrated technology and data
At a time when industries and markets are evolving more quickly than ever, technology is proving to be a solution. Historically, the construction industry has been slow to adopt technology and those that did invest often sought to use technology to address specific problems, such as snagging, document management and safety compliance. But, this reliance on point solutions has resulted in the construction industry operating within silos, having separate solutions for different areas of operations such as Requests for Information (RFIs), BIM and financial management.
As the industry adapts to the “new normal” of Covid-19, organisations within the construction sector have a particular incentive to review the technology currently in use and assess what is required to help their businesses thrive both today and in the future.
Today, integrated technology solutions, like platform technology, have emerged to meet the complete needs of a business. By connecting business applications and storing relevant information all in one place, platform technology allows applications and tech tools to talk to each other. One area where platform technology particularly shines is in its ability to help construction companies gain visibility over data to improve workflows and processes – something that is more challenging with point solutions, Excel spreadsheets and traditional pen and paper.
Data is the future. The ability to process and integrate large amounts of data has had a transformative effect on construction and society at large. Construction already deals with large volumes of data, much of it unstructured, and this is expected to increase exponentially with the growth of IoT, sensor networks and Building Information Modelling (BIM).
Integrating data through a single platform, and ensuring it arrives in a structured way through easy-to-use mobile tools delivers a range of benefits from allowing real-time decision making to keeping everyone aligned and safe.
So how can the UK construction industry benefit from integrated technology and the data analytics it offers?
Increasing project visibility
Because the construction industry generates enormous amounts of data, there is a large opportunity to use this to improve outcomes. At a basic level, owners, operators, project management and subcontracting teams often hold meetings to communicate and collaborate.
In the past, preparing data for these meetings has been a time-intensive process of manually collecting data from various point solutions into a static PDF dashboard, which was then distributed to teams. The data was out of date from the moment it was collected and senior individuals needed to regularly engage to collate and analyse insights.
Thanks to a single integrated platform’s ability to collect and analyse data with live dashboards, this process can now be automated – reducing the amount of time to collate data, eliminating manual errors in data collection and freeing up resources to spend time on higher value activities. Furthermore, greater visibility can be achieved. A contractor might, for instance, use the number of open RFIs at the start of a project as a leading indicator of likely project delays. By identifying this early, a contractor can take remedial measures to drive improvements.
Preparing for audit
The UK benefits from a strong safety culture and compliance with standards such as ISO9001 and ISO45001 – these are a key part of how contractors differentiate themselves. Despite this, the audits involved are one the most stressful areas of any contracting project.
With so many moving parts to keep track of, automating key administrative processes and having real-time oversight and actionability through a single platform makes all the difference. For example, a platform solution can enable a contractor to check licences, complete QSHE checklists, inspection checklists and document everything in one place – allowing them to demonstrate due diligence to regulators and ISO auditors easily.
As an added benefit if, for example, a contractor is concerned about risk and record-keeping, they can also use such integrated technology to generate inspections and forms that include photos and cataloguing of inspections, turning a very painful and manual process into a few clicks on the iPad or phone. By attaching this to an Inspection & Test Plan for the project, contractors can ensure that improvement plans are followed through and that clear goals for continuous improvement have been set.
One of the areas that is generating the most interest in the UK construction industry is predictive construction. Predictive analytics in construction may sound like science fiction but the use cases are easy to understand and becoming more common if integrated technology is applied.
One benefit of predictive analytics is in its ability to offer a next step on the journey to incident-free sites. Imagine, for instance, that a particular task, done the way it is always done, under specific conditions, increases the chance of injury by 200%? Or that a particular tool, used by carpenters when an alternative tool isn’t available, results in shoulder injuries three out of five times?
Initial research into the efficacy of predictive analytics is very promising. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University studied four years of real workplace safety data and built predictive models that could predict the number of injuries a jobsite will have with 80% to 97% accuracy rates.
A prerequisite to harnessing predictive analytics is collecting data through a single integrated platform. By collecting information through a single platform, construction companies can ensure that they are collecting and analysing all of the data from their incident and accident reports in a structured way. Crucially, an integrated platform can apply predictive analysis at source, without the need for expensive external consultants or time-consuming manual processing.
It’s time to look to the future as we head towards a new era of smarter construction. The widespread adoption of integrated technology and the usage of data will ultimately transform the UK construction industry into a more efficient and profitable enterprise. Real-time progress monitoring, improved quality and safety, and even better stakeholder communication are just a few of the benefits that the industry will realise. Now is the time for UK construction companies to consider how they can best invest in single platform technology to safeguard their workforce and improve business efficiencies.
LinkedIn: Procore Technologies