How Disconnected Construction Data Hurts Your Project
Written By Carol Dunn

I just ran across an article about the renovation of the Great Hall at Denver International Airport being delayed by up to three years at a cost overrun that could increase the project cost by 50% beyond the original $650-million budget and extend the completion date by four years. Some of the issues involve changes to the project that are unresolved, including altered technical specifications. Yikes!

It reminded me of 1995, when I lived in Denver and we all anxiously awaited the opening of our beautiful new DIA with its remarkable woven fiberglass and Teflon fabric “roof” and fully automated state-of-the-art baggage handling system. But that baggage system ended up delaying the opening of the new airport by 16 months and adding $560-million to the cost of construction. A manual system was installed so the airport could even open and function. I’d already moved away from Denver by the time a partially operational automated baggage system was in operation, and it lasted only 10 years. By the time I moved back, that system had been abandoned. Many studies of that project’s disaster have concluded that poor communication on the project contributed to the failure to meet the schedule and budget. For instance, key stakeholders – the airlines – were not even involved in the planning discussions for DIA. Once they were asked to weigh in, after construction began, the project required major redesign and rework to accommodate features that were non-negotiable.

Unfortunately, delays in construction projects are far from rare. A McKinsey report in 2016 stated, “Large projects typically take 20% longer to finish than scheduled and are up to 80% over budget.” The report determined that paper-based processes still being employed do not allow for collaboration, which is critical for the real-time decision making needed to make construction projects successful.

Many refer to overruns as a chronic problem. Fingers can point in many directions, but the bottom line is that most jobs gone wrong were a result of “disconnected job sites.” The disconnect can take the form of outdated plans, errors in data, miscommunication or non-communication among teams, and/or lack of data sharing.

In its January 2018 article, “5 Ways Disconnected Construction Data is Hurting Project Performance,” Connect&Construct published the following infographic to illustrate the myriad difficulties that result from a disconnected jobsite.

Beware the following symptoms of a disconnected job site:

Job Superintendent Working from Outdated Information – On an active project, things can change hourly. The job superintendent has to be aware of and address issues and requests for information as quickly as possible. And unless s/he is the best multi-tasker in history, something is bound to eventually get missed. This points to the need for a document manager.

Need for a Document Manager – Each team on the job generates important documents that other teams need to be aware of and react to. Someone needs to organize the flood of information and make sure the appropriate people on the job are aware of the things that affect their piece of the action. And that someone, if they are human, is subject to making mistakes. If the documentation is not managed well, problems arise with tracking issues and RFIs.

Problems Tracking Issues – Issues must be resolved promptly for a job to proceed smoothly. RFIs must be answered. If they are not brought to the attention to the correct teams and addressed in a timely manner, work can grind to a screeching halt. Someone has to track the progress on issues, create a transmittal that proves the issue has been resolved, and then get the project back on track. If this doesn’t happen, the field teams can make costly mistakes.  

Mistakes by Field Teams – When working from paper documents, it can be far too easy to end up using the wrong ones, especially when they get stuffed under someone’s truck seat with all the other documents. Using outdated information inevitably results in mistakes on the job. Waiting for answers to RFIs wastes valuable time and dings the project budget.

Data Security Risks – Most teams know that communication on the job is important. They try to do their best. If a process is not in place to facilitate communication, they’ll create their own process. Such workarounds can end up risking the security of job-related data, both from file corruption and from theft.

The industry-trained specialists at eVolve MEP have their finger on the pulse of the construction industry with all of its ups and downs and nuances. Contact eVolve MEP today for a brief discovery call about how your firm can improve productivity and efficiency. You can rise above the world of disconnected data.

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