While site- and job-generated data is incredibly useful in construction from design all the way to handoff, there is very quickly becoming too much of it, literally on the verge of becoming too much of a good thing. If you’re not figuring out a way to take advantage of the appropriate data that comes packed inside your project, you could end up looking like someone who just missed the cruise ship by five minutes, standing on shore and waving good-bye.
There’s an incredible number of ways to collect data compared to the ways to manage it in useful ways for communication, decision-making, conflict prediction, collaboration, and just plain making the job proceed in the most efficient manner. In an August 2019 ConstructConnect article, How Do Data-Driven Decisions Benefit Construction Businesses?, the author lists four ways that companies can use job-related data to improve a project’s timeline and profitability.
A hundred years ago, no one would have envisioned seeing a model of a project before it was built, unless someone spent a month building it by hand out of balsa wood and toothpicks. But here we are in the new millennium, and we have collaborative tools like Autodesk Revit to “build” that model. All of the teams on a job can anticipate issues and conflicts on a project before construction even starts and make informed decisions based on the data collected. Modeling helps avoid the redesign and rework that so many construction companies have simply come to anticipate as a cost of doing business. But analytics need to start at the beginning of a project and build as the project moves forward. By moving data beyond individual silos to a centralized location, all teams on the job can gain insights from it and better manage risk and project outcomes. Next-gen project management tools like the family of Autodesk BIM 360 products help streamline this process.
Data-based decision making can help the project manager allocate funds effectively for big ticket items like equipment. Purchase or lease? Every expense has a break-even point on a job. Using the BIM process, you can make advance projections for how often a piece of equipment will be used. Then you can determine whether it will be more profitable to lay out the capital for long-term use of heavy equipment or just rent it for a portion this job.
All of the teams on a job have a common goal: bring the project to completion on time and within budget. But it’s a long way from initial sketches to the day the building is handed off to the owner’s facilities manager. Architects, engineers and construction crews all have different workflows to reach that goal. Project models are loaded with data that is useful to every team on the job and can keep everyone on the same page. When you link all of that data together and make it accessible in a central location (like the cloud), there’s a much better chance the architect’s concept can be accomplished by the engineers, and the complex engineering can be installed by the workers in the field.
A general manager once told me, management would be a lot easier if we didn’t have all these people. Human interactions make the world go ‘round, but on the job they can sometimes bring a project to a grinding halt. Usually communication, or lack of it, is the root of problems. That’s where project data helps grease the wheels of job progress. Having as much information about a job available for all the affected teams goes a long way to heading off problems before they arise. Questions get answered faster; changes are approved and put into effect quicker; teams aren’t at each other’s throat for holding up the job.
The demands on the construction industry to do more with less money and labor continue to intensify. Using project data wisely pre-, during and post-construction enables a business manager to make better decisions, build better projects and improve profitability. By planning ahead and taking advantage of the appropriate data at the right times, you’ll be one of the people on the cruise ship waving good-bye to the person standing on shore who just missed it by five minutes.