Blog Published: 13/11/2018

Blogger - Carl Spalding

Digitisation: Thinking Big, Starting Small

As the construction sector looks to embark on a long overdue transition to digitisation, driven by a need for everyday effectiveness, it is time for companies to stop focusing on cost and start to look at the bigger picture. Granted there will be a cost, there always is, but considering the low investment in digitisation across the construction sector to date, this day was inevitable. The real question is where to invest and more importantly why. 

In construction it is simply the ‘I’ in BIM, Information, that should get us all excited. It’s not just about getting information or keeping it, protecting it, sharing it, tracking it, using it, or possibly most importantly of all, ensuring it is always the most up-to-date versions. It’s also about connecting it with other sources to surface invaluable insights, predict issues or risk, and leverage this knowledge to avoid delays and improve quality and safety.  

What ‘Going Digital’ Means for Construction

Let’s consider a scenario where information being captured on site is related to a defect. Imagine everything about the project is digital, the people, the process, the delivery schedule, everything. This not only allows real-time information to be captured about the defect itself but also sub-sequential information too - the status of the site, the surrounding area, time of day, weather, light conditions, humidity, people on site before/during/after, and so on, automatically, or near enough. This information could also potentially be cross referenced with other sources such as contractor performance, personal health and safety factors, hours worked in the day, time and duration of last break, duration of last shift, and so on. 

Digitisation means more data captured and accessed (permissions controlled of course) about every day workings. The information captured about the defect could therefore be cross referenced with infinite sources to better determine multiple scenarios which could have contributed to cause the defect in the first place and therefore be prevented in the future. 

I’m not merely suggesting information in your possession about the current project, the project teams involved, or even previous projects for that matter, that would be aiming a little low. I’m suggesting all other information sources available: traffic conditions around the site or faced on the way in to work for each worker, if the International Space Station was passing over head, the Pollen Count on the day, ... the possibilities are endless. Beginning to get the picture? 

The possibilities are indeed endless, but don’t for one second think you are a million miles away from being able to achieve this, you are already doing it, but just not digitally. Going digital will no doubt increase both the volume and complexity of the information you capture, but this is happening regardless. The key is to be ready to take advantage of this information and use it to your advantage to deliver faster, reduce risk, gain more control and increase profitability. 

Baby Steps – The What

With the ability to leverage magnitudes of information, new levels of sophistication can be adopted to drive better company performance, increase quality, reduce risk, pretty much predict and prevent multiple recurring episodes on site across all future projects, ever. Knowing where to start is crucial to avoid wasting time and money.  

The key is to think big, always keep the bigger picture in mind, and then start small. 

Begin with digitising your everyday processes. This establishes the baseline needed to measure patterns or anomalies and detected bottlenecks or irrelevant processes. Look at all your processes. Any process that still captures information on paper (check lists, snags, defects, health and safety reports…), or is recorded in a spread sheet (transmittals, schedules, …), and so on, all need digitising. No exceptions.

Thinking Big – The ‘Why’

Thinking big but starting small will guarantee the end goal is driving the change and investment. This will help focus on the desired outcome or result (What the process is achieving) rather than the process itself. This approach will ensure the traditional ‘we’ve always done it this way’ approaches are not inadvertently overlooked. 

Consider: What are your biggest risks? What are your company’s goals and aspirations? What would you need to know as business leaders to make better, quicker decisions? What have you not even thought of yet? These types of questions help to bring context to why change, why digitise, why invest. It’s not just about revenue recovery, it’s about strategy, vision and long-term growth. It’s about being prepared, being ready and being able to take advantage and grow, expand, increase, reduce, improve. It’s about profitability, accuracy, quality, risk prevention, capability, expansion.  It’s about scalability, predictability, preservation and intelligent automation that is going to be needed to compete in the digital world. 

Think Cloud – The ‘How’

It’s time to accept the cloud is here to stay and its only getting better. In the Construction world cloud solutions offer much more than just storage, way more in fact. Construction centric cloud platforms like Autodesk’s BIM 360 offer more control, more flexibility, more security, rapid disaster recovery, and a plethora of process, job-role and functionality benefits that it’s simply too difficult to ignore. 

Unlike your everyday cloud storage (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc), BIM 360 offers unique functionality honed around construction workflows. BIM 360 offers a common environment for all your project data and with unlimited storage, but it’s ability to interact with, view, mark-up and even visually compare 2D and 3D CAD files directly from a web browser, are just some of what sets it apart. Being able to compare CAD files in BIM 360 immediately introduces time-saving workflows that were otherwise impossible. It replaces several inherently disconnected processes, the need for downloading files altogether, managing and storing files locally, as well as the need for complex often expensive software just for viewing CAD files. Whilst this is justification enough to deploy BIM 360, this is only scratching the surface. 

The potential of digitisation is not only self-evident it is also inevitable, with the early adopters gaining a distinct competitive advantage and reaping the greater harvest. The key is to get started. Be sure to draw on the expertise and knowledge Excitech has gained helping others to guide and support the execution of your strategy. 

About the author

  • Carl Spalding

Carl Spalding

Head of Portfolio Management

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