Project control software is a tool to enhance processes and outcomes. For construction, project control software can be the difference between the successful completion of projects on time and on budget. We sit down with InEight to find out what this success looks like.
Technology, artificial intelligence and automation have become an everyday function in many people’s personal lives through phones, intelligent speakers and smart televisions. However, the uptake of technology and automation in the construction industry has not been as swift.
In 2009 research company Gartner performed a survey of more than 65 countries and 1756 companies, it found the construction industry only spent 1.3 per cent of its revenue on Information Technology (IT).
Despite this as projects grow, alliances and stakeholders become more diverse and projects become more complex the importance of IT in construction only increases.
Technological solutions have the power to improve efficiency and transparency on projects while tracking progress and success. With turnovers sometimes equating to billions of dollars, construction projects have a major opportunity to reduce risk with project control software.
Although the benefits are well recognised by some, there is a cultural shift slowly sweeping through the industry which is moving towards project control software. This happens as the technology demonstrates its advantages from boardroom to base laying contractors.
InEight’s EVP for Asia Pacific, Rob Bryant explains the successes he has witnessed within companies that share project data through technology.
“There are three main areas of advantage we notice by using technology and data. The first is visibility of progress, second is the ability to share information readily and third is the ability to benchmark results and compare progress between projects,” he says.
“Project contractors and owners tell us that with real time data sharing they are able to get a better sense of where a project is on the time-line, as compared to manual reporting which might be finished a month after the event.”
As for the live feeding of data, Bryant explains this is advantageous as the data collected is turned into analytics almost instantaneously, this information can then be shared between collaborators increasing transparency.
Both during and long after a project, he says this data can be used as a benchmark to compare projects.
“You have the ability to see the results for potentially hundreds of projects based on the utility of the solution with key indicators, all of which can be presented in a single dashboard. This helps people to understand which projects are lagging and which are leading in terms of efficiency and performance.”
This data and evidence can then influence budgeting, planning and scheduling for future projects.
“It’s often ambitious schedules and budgets that cause over-runs and perceived delays because a time-frame was unrealistic originally,” Bryant says.
“An overview of past and present project data provides a sound base for the schedule. Using project controls, you can get a better estimation of where the costs and schedules should be and ensures you can allow for variations that may come into play.”
When scheduling future projects, past information can be fed into the project control system and artificial intelligence will make recommendations based on past projects for the required length for each task and what risks need to be considered.
This is one of the major benefits seen when to using end-to-end platforms or all-inclusive software. End-to-end solutions keep the data in one place which can be referred to throughout the project.
“Everything from your work breakdown structure, cost allocations, tracking the schedule or viewing data in a model can be consistent so you can view and interpret the data confidently. This removes the need to invest in complex integrations or dedicate personnel to compile information,” Bryant says.
“We want all collaborators on a project to have a stake in the schedule and agree it is realistic from the outset and are able to view that throughout the process so there is a level of trust in the collaboration so decisions are always joint,” Bryant says.
One example of a contractor recognising a need for a more connected data environment is Decmil. Decmil is an Australian-owned business with significant experience in infrastructure engineering and construction, delivering multidisciplinary projects in sectors such as transport, utilities, water, defence, corrections, health and education.
Decmil was originally searching for a document control solution, and instead decided to undergo a complete digital transformation by reducing its 60+ systems from over 20 vendors into five primary systems from 3-4 key vendor partners.
By implementing a more connected technology approach, Decmil is seeing an increase in cross-team collaboration and is able to mitigate project risks by leveraging as-built information from past programs and apply lessons learned to active programs and identify opportunities for more efficient outcomes.
With a single source of truth in place, companies like Decmil are now able to build an internal knowledge library by capturing productivity and performance data. Project teams with the ability to surface this key information are better equipped to analyse cost and schedule risk and make necessary adjustments to drive better results.
One of the main barriers recognised in the construction industry’s transformation to technology is familiarity. Examples such as Decmil, however, are increasingly common and demonstrate the real benefits of the technological shift.
“This technology is such a great enabler, it’s just about knowing how to take advantage of what is available and to experience how the data can be used to make better decisions,” Bryant says.
Project control solutions can help throughout a project lifecycle, but especially at the beginning and end. Contractors are now using this technology as a unique edge when bidding for projects.
“These solutions can give transparency from the contractor to the client about how they arrived at certain cost and schedule estimates, taking into account risks. A contractor can also offer to give clients access to the project dashboard so that project progress can be tracked at all stages.”
During the handover phase at the completion of construction, end owners, and in some cases government, are also interested to have a breakdown of the works required to build the asset.
“Project control software is an initial investment and takes time to really see the benefits of the technology. For instance, the handover and commissioning phase project is where technology can show its real value,” Bryant says.
“Collating project data is often expensive and time consuming, but if you gather the data as you go, when you finish the project you aren’t far off producing the handover documents.”
Over the past few decades as construction businesses have begun to realise the benefits of technology for project control, the online solutions themselves continue to adapt, removing barriers for a wider audience.
For InEight this now means improving the visual interpretation and tangible experience of projects provided by their solution, some of which is already a reality.
“This means collating the data in a 3D model environment to help with interpretation. For the construction of a road you could have a flyover view where can look at what is coming up at each stage of construction and what is to come from a project gallery perspective,” Bryant says.
“The common accessible point from the field to the boardroom and connecting those environments will continue to be key for us. The use of project controls can bring perspectives from the field and the boardroom much closer and help to deliver trust and better project outcomes.”
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