Construction has always been data-heavy, but thanks to the recent flood of new technologies, the industry is awash in data.
In the old days, it was predominantly paper files. They were kept in a binder and often scattered around various offices or job sites until eventually being filed away and forgotten. Some took a form of offline spreadsheets that required manual updating. In today’s digital world, however, data gathering and collection have been supercharged by technologies from software to drones to wearable sensors.
But with all that data quite literally at our fingertips, how well are construction firms actually putting it to use? Does it improve their bottom line or enable them to deliver better, more efficient service?
Smart Jobsites + Construction Data = Game Changer
A new SmartMarket report from Viewpoint and Dodge Data & Analytics examined how C&E firms are using their data, interviewing nearly 200 industry professionals from GCs to design-contracting companies. The report analyzes details regarding their data storage and gathering methods around 5 key areas: equipment management, safety, productivity, project progress, and man-hours.
One key takeaway of the report’s findings is that although 64 percent of those surveyed reported “improved or significantly improved” capabilities around data, more than half of the survey respondents (54%) acknowledged the need to improve their data gathering over the next three years.
“The smarter job site will transform the industry, but companies need their data gathering and analytics fundamentals in place before they can fully profit from all of the exciting technology that is now emerging, funded by an influx of venture capital, and directly addressing industry needs to reduce risk, improve productivity and improve safety,” wrote Steve Jones, senior director of industry insights research at Dodge Data & Analytics.
The contractors who took part in the survey were asked to identify the three main benefits of better data analysis, Building Design + Construction wrote. They cited improved ability to keep project budgets in line (53%), increased productivity (47%) and boosted profits (46%).
The Solution? Cloud Storage
Cloud storage provides the ability to move data beyond physical locations, making project data accessible from anywhere at any time. While adoption of cloud platforms has seen a significant uptick in recent years, almost two-thirds of the professionals surveyed still keep the bulk of their data on on-premise servers.
Of course, unlike cloud, servers take up physical space. They also are subject to crashing and data loss, even with a strict back-up regimen in place. Additionally, servers require ongoing maintenance to ensure their software remains up to date and to safeguard them against the latest threats.
As for the devices used by contractors to gather all that data, 80 percent of respondents said they use mobile device apps, and 68 percent said cameras, followed by drones (28%) and sensors (9%).
In most cases, contractors readily admit their current data analysis methods leave much to be desired. Nevertheless, many are at least aware of what missing factors are holding up their progress.
A Slow Transition
As for the respondents’ biggest needs to improve their use of data within that three-year timeframe, 54% cited the ability to gather accurate data from the field. The ability to perform trend analyses and gather comparable data across projects was mentioned by 45% and 44% of respondents respectively. Forty-two percent said the ability to gather prompt data from the field topped their wishlist.
The authors of the report provided guidelines for companies to review and improve their use of data:
- Determine what aspects of project delivery would benefit most from better information to guide your data strategy,
- Identify which types of field data will best enable the proper analysis to generate critical decision-support information. Consider the minimum level of completeness, accuracy, and timeliness required for each type.
- Develop a focused technology and plan for collection and analysis that incorporates the specific data needed and types of analysis required. Include information about financial and human capital investments, the time frames for implementation, clear roles of responsibility, and measurable goals for success.
Even if contractors haven’t brought their companies totally up to speed with the latest data technology, it’s a heartening sign that they know exactly where the shortfalls are.