High demand for data centers goes hand in hand with our high consumption of data. With the number of online devices expected to reach 29 billion in 2030, up from 18 billion in 2018, the industry is looking at ways to scale rapidly. They work against aggressive timelines but face endless hurdles that make it difficult to deliver on schedule and under budget. Teams need to work together to get ahead of project disruptions and quickly respond when unforeseen changes take place.
Here are some key ways to do that:
Finding opportunities to prevent disruption is key
While developers look for ways to streamline and accelerate the construction process, the rapid pace of technological advancements and starting work in new regions means builders face hurdles throughout the development process. The complexity of data centers is similar to hospitals; because of all the electrical equipment in the fit-out, structural demands of the data hall, and occupant needs in the admin center. Power density has doubled in recent years, so teams are constantly working with new materials, equipment and layouts. That makes it difficult to manage the sequence of activities needed to deliver data centers on schedule.
Builders don’t have the luxury of slack in their schedule, and labor and supply constraints mean they need to make the most of their resources to get the job done. Any change can impact the bottom line, especially if rework is required, materials are scrapped, or crews aren’t available to add shifts to make up for lost time. Even when components are prefabricated off site, they frequently need field fits to actually make them work. Even if builders are getting ahead by pre-staging materials, surprises and delays by last-minute changes in equipment are unavoidable. This results in costly schedule delays, increased safety risks and profit erosion.
The first place they can look for opportunities to prevent disruption is in preconstruction. Effective teams pull in the knowledge of everyone from designers to trade partners to anticipate problems before they come up. Preconstruction teams may use BIM models to surface design conflicts and use tools like the ones Procore offers to mark up the models before they move even into the build phase of the project. Those issues can easily be tracked in Design Coordination to help get “clash-free” models faster. These models come in handy later as field teams take them with them to the job site for reference and additional comments.
High standards means getting clear visibility across all projects and teams
Once the team has aligned on the model, it’s time to build. Developing in new regions, and high demand for labor, means builders may be working with inexperienced teams. Hyperscale projects have hundreds of workers on any given day. Crews may be used to a set of processes that works in another industry, but not for mission-critical builds or the operator’s specific needs. In order to keep the high standards needed, they need clear visibility across all projects and teams; and excellent collaboration with all teams on site.
Are all the teams entering daily logs and being diligent about reporting safety issues? How are they coordinating complex workflows across multiple teams over extended periods of time? Procore’s Project Management, Quality and Safety tools help inform and track the work to help prevent issues from coming up. The Action Plans tool lays out the exact steps needed, far beyond the capability of a checklist, especially if multiple parties are involved. Using such tools helps set expectations up front and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Delivering on plan means catching and fixing issues quickly and early
In order to keep the project on track, all stakeholders need speedy responses to their questions. Developers need to know the progress against the plan and whether builders are on track to deliver on time and on budget. Builders need quick responses to RFIs. Decisions need to be captured and open actions tracked to completion. By using BIM models on mobile devices, field teams can elevate any issue in Design Coordination to an RFI within the Procore platform and attach the issue context to simplify communication.
Financial teams need visibility into outstanding budget risks from potential change events to provide accurate forecasts. They need to forecast accurately and take action to mitigate possible risks. As inevitable change events occur during construction, all stakeholders need visibility into pending decisions so they can keep the project on track. Later, they need traceability on the reasons for decisions and a register of lessons learned, which in turn can improve processes in the future.
Delivering on plan means catching and fixing any quality issues early. Walking the job, a manager may notice an incorrect installation. With Procore, they can capture it on their mobile device, with the corrective action, and track it to resolution. Closer to delivery, they can capture images of punch list items in the field, assign responsibilities and track them to completion. Later, that information is available for analysis to improve processes in future projects.
Having effective communication processes not only enables teams to respond quickly in a dynamic environment, but it also makes them valued team members. Developers and GCs need to know they can count on the teams they select for their jobs. And we are at a point where the trades can be selective about which jobs they want to take, as many of them are highly specialized with long backlogs. If project timelines slip, it can impact their other contracts and partners outside the current project. Data centers are a high- performing industry that needs high-performing teams.
With strong processes in place, teams can stay in sync in a dynamic environment. Everyone on the team can weigh in on potential risks, to prevent problems before they arise. And when they do come up, fast communication processes between stakeholders enable them to quickly respond and adjust course.. Teams with effective ways of work set themselves up for success on current and future projects.