Why Digital Progress Tracking is important to improve Construction Productivity

When the physical construction world goes digital, it is a significant change. You were used to visiting the site, spending the whole day in the dust and grime of the place, noting every change at the construction site on your checklist. You take two or three days of looking at the blueprint and monitoring the site, ensuring that everything is going according to the plan. But, being in the construction business, you already know that this is not as simple as the description above.

Many players are involved in the construction project. These players include the architect, designer, contractor, and subcontractor. The construction progress depends on how fast teams communicate and pass the baton of work to the next group. In an ideal scenario, this process is seamless, and each party knows what their job is, communication is on point, and construction happens well within time and budget. In an ideal scenario, the progress on a construction site is meticulously monitored, and someone is at the site giving progress reports regularly.

As against the idea scenario given above, research suggests the opposite is true. Recently, Levelset surveyed over 540 construction businesses. The chief issue that emerged in the study was that construction companies suffer from poor job planning. Managers spend time assigning work, and subcontractors and contractors mark time.

Some more interesting statistics according to the research are:
  • 70% say poor job site coordination almost always causes projects to run over budget or past deadlines
  • Only about half of construction businesses (53%) use some type of digital application to manage tasks or coordinate fieldwork in real-time
  • Also, fewer than 1 in 3 use software, and 20% do not use any construction software at all

Two aspects need to be addressed here, which are:
  • Job Planning
  • Technology Adoption

Job Planning is a different ball game altogether. Here the sequencing of the build is reasonably well-defined. What complicates the matter is the multiple parties involved - contractors and subcontractors dependent on each other. One party must finish their work before another set of jobs can begin and vice versa. Another party that is affected by this back and forth are the Project Managers. They oversee how much is getting done and how fast. Their feedback is necessary to prioritize and fasten parts of the project work as required.

Most of the job planning process falls under as-and-when-required and is absent in most cases. Project managers heavily depend on reports from contractors who rely on subcontractors to get the build's right picture. Visiting the site has been the only way in which Project Managers and Contractors take pointers away. Post that, manual data is fed into existing systems or spreadsheets to figure out numbers. But as the numbers above already show, poor job planning leads to delays, rework, and added costs.

Technology Adoption

What can help among the parties out is a monitoring system that can give appropriate feedback at the right time. However, the construction industry has been slow to adopt technology when compared to other sectors. During the last ten years, piecemeal solutions have come about, allowing for organization and data capture in some aspects of the construction. However, for an efficient build, a 360-degree picture is required. Some technologies present in this space are software for financial planning, construction material monitoring, etc. For keeping a tab on the construction progress, BIM comparison drone and digital picture documentation have recently emerged, and their adoption rate is low. Additionally, integrated software solutions that help capture all data in one place to give an overall picture are only emerging.

According to a statistic, big construction projects factor in a rework expense of 3-4% and around 25% (in civil constructions) of their overall budget! Construction industries worldwide have different government regulations, but two factors - budget and completion-are a big concern everywhere. Hence in the past, the focus on technology was not even there! The industry acknowledges that adopting technology is the final frontier, and faster adoption is required to achieve increased efficiency.

Basis For Efficiency In Project Completion

What is the basis of success for any project? Why are we focussing on job planning and technology? The ultimate answer to these two questions is Progress Tracking. If you are a construction company or a project manager, progress tracking is the answer for the project to be completed without delays and increased costs.
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Relationship Between Digital Progress Tracking & Construction Productivity

To understand digital progress tracking, we must first delve into construction productivity. Productivity factors need to be monitored so that overall progress can be accurately measured.

How Do you Define Construction Productivity?

In the construction industry, productivity is defined as “is the ratio of output to all or some of the resources used to produce that output.” However, productivity is divided into several forms. These are single-factor productivity measures and multifactor productivity measures. Under single-factor productivity measures, only one factor is studied to find out the impact on productivity. Whereas multiple factors are taken into account to study their effects on productivity and multifactor productivity measures. According to Honer 1982 factors that affect productivity are

  • quality
  • number and balance of labor force
  • method of construction
  • the complexity of work
  • the motivation of labor force
  • continuity of work
  • the required quality of finished work
  • type of contract
  • degree of mechanization
  • quality and number of managers and weather

Furthermore, factors impacting construction productivity performance are divided into two aspects: internal and external (Olomolaiye, Jayawardane, & Harris, 1998). The former included: management practice, technology, and labor skills and training, whereas the latter contained: design, weather, changes made by a client, level of economic development, and political stability".

Above are the levels at which monitoring systems must be activated to give all parties involved in the project a better picture of the progress.

Progress Tracking is an amalgamation of tracking the interior and exterior construction, without which a complete picture may never emerge. To increase efficiencies in all segments/ sections of the build, Project Managers and Construction Companies need to accurately review the exterior and the interior of the project and verify it against the drawings and/or BIM to ensure that the construction work progresses as it should be. As you might know, it is not easy for the industry in this department as well.
Only 53% of construction companies use software to manage tasks or coordinate fieldwork in real-time and nearly 20% use no construction software at all! A majority of the 53% are working on excel to collate data and provide some progress tracking. A very small percentage of the remainder of companies have deployed software, used drones, and employed digital photography, BIM comparisons to monitor construction progress.
Unfortunately, these efforts still do not give a 360-degree picture to anyone. Since vendors use different software to track financial dealings, managers use another software to note down inventory, and architects use BIM- all these entities work in silos. The result is miscommunication, wastage, and rework.

What is Digital Progress Tracking?

In the last decade, the construction industry began warming up to technology. A few players understood the sector and started to offer tech solutions to solve pressing issues. The industry has got started with photo documentation, drone-based tracking, however, construction leaders are steadily recognizing and acknowledging that they require more than simple photo documentation tools to improve productivity on the construction site.

Post-construction monitoring using drone technology is favored more than during-construction technology. For example, Shell uses drones to inspect worksites and reach physically challenging places for workers to approach. The petroleum industry is known to use drones for exploration and operations apart from monitoring purposes.
An example of during-construction technology usage is of a United Kingdom-based multinational infrastructure company named Balfour Beatty. For its construction projects, it uses a primary drone and a secondary drone to monitor progress.

Types of technology currently in use are:
  • BIM Management Platforms allow the 3D representation of the project but have problems being updated on time and do not validate project requirements.
  • Picture documentation and virtual walkthroughs enable picture record visuals with the help of cameras mounted on hard hats.
  • Drone Technology is the latest in construction progress monitoring technology, and its usage is just being explored. However, it is clear that this tech is evolving swiftly and may be used pre, during, and post-construction.
  • Remote Construction Progress Monitoring Platforms is an integrated platform which uses data from multiple technologies such as BIM, drones, cameras etc. to give a live view of the construction site and status of work from any remote location
  • Digital Twin is an advanced form of Remote Construction Progress Monitoring It has the capability to integrate more information from third party systems such as SAP, ERPs etc. A Digital Twin is a live replica of the real construction project.

Advantages of the Remote Construction Progress Monitoring Platforms

This all-encompassing technology aims to solve many problems that face construction companies in progress monitoring. Despite being touted as expensive, these can save nearly 50% of rework costs that companies incur annually. Advantages are listed below:
  • Speedy Capture Drones take a fraction of the time, and capture the pictures of the exterior of the building. 360 degree advanced cameras capture building interiors photos that are stitched together when downloaded.
  • Accuracy The drone and the 360-degree camera feed is consumed by advanced software to create a very accurate representation of the site.
  • Deviation and Rework Identification This digital twin is mapped against the BIM of the project. Any changes in the BIM or the drone images or any mismatch in the mapping is easy to spot. These stitched images can accurately map the thickness, height, and width of walls, floors, and pillars within a centimeter of the façade.
  • Reaches Difficult Spots Drones are small and easily controlled. They also can capture challenging and even dangerous areas.
  • Monitor360 Degree Inside and the outside of the building project will be captured and automatically stitched.
  • Get Live Updates Get as many updates as you would like
  • No Manual Inputs Days, when technology required manual input to churn out a result are over. The drone captures data using inbuilt precise cameras, eliminating the need for data entry.
  • Location no constraint Are you in Germany and overseeing a build in the USA? You can still receive reports as and when you require, as the remote-set up allows for it.

Impact of the Remote Construction Progress Monitoring Platforms

Project Managers have a lot of work and no time. This technology can free a big chunk of a Project Manager's time which is spent collecting updates, manual data entry jobs, miscommunication, money spent on numerous flights, travel, and hotel costs, telephone bills, and oversight! This technology takes cognizance of what the Project manager wants to take stock of, be it safety, build progress, material storage, compliance issues, from the ease of his office.

With the pandemic, more offices will want to switch to this kind of technology, saving a massive amount of time and money for the organization.

Now, more than ever, construction companies must embrace technology and invest in it to make their life simpler and the process of building more efficient and enjoyable.

About 3RDi

3RDi is one such organization that provides Remote Construction Progress Monitoring technology to the world. Based out of Hyderabad, India, its founders are secure in knowing that the industry sector is at an inflection point. This technology will take the construction industry to newer heights. The USP of 3RDi is automating construction progress monitoring and becoming a platform that enables the end-user to get all its different software on one software to get a 360 degree understanding of the construction project.
3RDi’s automated construction project site monitoring is the game-changer that has been the missing piece in the construction technology puzzle. The platform also enables a wide array of integrations with other ERPs or technology platforms that gives teams unparalleled visibility into their project construction progress and intelligent insights such as machine-driven defect identification etc. which empower project managers to drive greater operational efficiencies.
3rdi goes above and beyond to give a defect resolution or deviations resolutions saving your time, reducing rework cost, and giving the right picture of progress tracking.

To know more about what we do, reach out to us, and we will be happy to help!
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