How the digitisation and standardisation of information helps construction firms gain competitive edges on their projects

The golden thread is a concept that contractors in the UK have been hearing about for a few years now, but what exactly is it? Simply, it is the concept of a thorough and complete audit trail throughout the lifecycle of a construction project — from materials sourced in the supply chain through to project completion and maintenance. Identification, collaboration and clarity before, during and after a project are key to the golden thread being successful.

What stops the golden thread in construction?

There are many ways that the thread of information can become broken, some of which are surprisingly common. At a project communication level, using email or basic file sharing platforms can cause out of date information to be shared, or files to be misplaced altogether.

When on site, using paper to record and sign off snags, write up health & safety reports, or sign off the day’s work, also increases the chances of lost and inaccurate information. The term ‘a single version of the truth’ is often used alongside the golden thread, as outdated information can be just as dangerous as missing information when it comes to construction. Making sure that all teams are viewing the same up to date information is vital to achieving the golden thread.

How is the golden thread different from audit trails?

Firstly, all information should be digitally held to achieve the golden thread. Contractors, subcontractors and asset owners have long kept records and copies of relevant safety, supplier, and project information. However, the disconnect between a main contractor and its subcontractor’s supplier, for example, would mean that these audit trails are rendered useless when retrospective action is needed.

Moving this information to digital formats and connected workflows via the cloud, allows information to easily be updated and viewed as necessary. This is the key difference between the golden thread and traditional audit trails, where manual and paper-based data collection or disconnected software programs can muddle the process.

Another differentiator is open collaboration. At Trimble Viewpoint, we often talk about teams on construction projects working in silos and the benefits of breaking these down. The more transparent, real-time and collaborative a project can be, the more beneficial the golden thread can be for everyone. Using the golden thread in turn can lead to benefits reaching beyond increased safety and quality such as time-saving and cost-saving.

Can standardisation and classification help with the golden thread?

Definitely! The idea is to create a universally understood way of working that is accessible by everyone.

Trimble Viewpoint’s BIM Strategy & Partnerships Manager, Ben Wallbank, says “everything that we can do that will make the way that you do things more regular from project to project, from team to team, the better.”

Standardisation will help to create greater interoperability between companies and software providers, which goes back to the idea of open collaboration and breaking down silos.

Modern construction technology’s part to play in the golden thread

Naturally, as all project information needs to be held digitally to achieve the golden thread, businesses are looking towards software solutions to help facilitate this. Trimble Viewpoint’s solutions, for instance, are purpose-built for the industry and well-positioned to help construction  organisations navigate towards the golden thread throughout every project:

Viewpoint For Projects (VFP) is a document and information management solution which allows customers to share, control and collaborate on project documents and work to a single version of the truth. Additionally, the functionality of ISO19650 naming conventions to documents comes as standard.

Viewpoint Field View is an on-site mobile application that replaces pen and paper forms to streamline quality, safety, project delivery, and closeout/commissioning processes.

Further resources

There are lots of great resources available to begin to get to grips with what the golden thread should look like day-to-day. The government has created a basic factsheet on how they hope for construction to achieve the golden thread.

Trimble Viewpoint recently hosted a webinar in partnership with Building Magazine and customer Galliford Try, where the importance of streamlined construction data was discussed. Among the topics: ISO 19650, Uniclass, and data standardisation in the industry as a whole. It is available to watch on-demand here.

Additionally, BSI has a brilliant page full of information on ISO19650 and its applications, and for information on Uniclass 2015, the NBC has an extensive explanation.

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