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Mon August 02 2021

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Using data to unlock the full potential of smarter construction

20 Jul The construction industry has joined the great data race.

With data comes endless possibilities, but owners and contractors will only unlock its full potential if used correctly and built upon in the right ecosystem. The appetite for this already exists, grounded in instant network access, utilisation of 5G and adoption of BIM. Combined, these all work to achieve a greater visibility of performance of construction projects, through data insights. Empowering teams to streamline processes, communicate effectively, work more efficiently, productively and build faster by creating a single source of truth. By using a single-platform to connect the data points, contacts and on-site staff, we can really work to improve the lives of everyone in construction.

Procore's recent research conducted with Sapio, exploring how real-time insights are transforming construction and building a better future, found that 90% of construction managers in the UK and Ireland believe their company has some form of visibility of performance. A positive sign that these types of insights are already a central part of most construction companies’ business strategies. However, only 32% rate the visibility of their organisation’s performance as “very high”. Many stated that they are left with incomplete, inaccurate and outdated insights. This raises the question of why, when many are already in possession of large amounts of data, are they not using it to its full potential to work smarter? 

The state of play in construction

As construction projects are evolving to become more complex, and with technology more closely integrated into each area—from tender to completion—project and performance management must evolve too. 

Contractors are changing to remote working practices, with the global pandemic acting as the catalyst for change. Shifting to incorporate more collaboration through digital solutions, connecting remotely with stakeholders and improving client relations, every facet of the industry is now being influenced by the readiness of digital information. Project management, as a matter of priority, must keep up.

According to research from FMI, 95% of construction data is still unused, and construction managers spend 13% of their time sifting through large volumes of data to find the right information. Digesting and accurately using data is one of the greatest challenges for construction managers as they embrace digitisation.

And without this accurate data, managers are unable to create a more productive, safe and efficient project environment. Utilising data more effectively will help to elevate the construction industry in new ways, by speeding up project timelines, adapting to changing customer demands and analysing predictive insights.

What will the impact on the industry on both a business-wide and project specific scope be when they achieve full visibility of performance?

Decrypting the role of data in achieving project success

There is a small but consistent group of issues that construction companies run into when looking to implement insights across their projects. Sub-standard communications across project functions, a failure to scale operations to match client demands, bad cost and schedule management and perhaps most permanently, a lack of reporting of project performance.

Access to data insights from performance metrics is vital to help collect and quantify all ongoing activity on any given project. Viewing—in real-time and retrospectively—actions being taken on-site, across teams, at what cost and when, all empowers data-driven decision making at speed and scale. This will help to deliver valuable projects and wider business benefits. Clearly, visibility of performance can have a tangible impact on the bottom line. Since achieving it, we learnt from our research that nearly half of construction managers in the UK and Ireland saw an increase in overall efficiency and productivity in how their projects run.

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Improving profits isn’t the only benefit to making use of data and insights. Compliance, quality and safety can also be improved from the use of real-time data. Almost half (49%) of respondents with this capability registered fewer defects and 48% found they had better tracking of safety records, with 46% reporting that visibility helped support their compliance with standards such as ISO 9001/45001. It’s clear that the benefits are widespread and far-reaching, not just isolated to specific use cases.

Effective data implementation

When it comes to accurately adopting and managing a data-first approach, there are three main areas that when achieved individually, combine to create success. 

Data quality is perhaps the most important of the three. Organisations must have confidence in the data being collected on and off site. Incomplete, inaccurate and poorly organised data can be less valuable than no data at all. To create insights that will inform project and business decisions, the data must be high-quality. For this, the point of entry must be completed in the right way through a single-platform. Collecting data on-site using a platform that everyone has access to from anywhere will go a long way in making it easier to use throughout the whole data lifecycle from collection to insight. Providing easy access during all stages of the data process helps to avoid duplication, information silos and lack of transparency across the business.

This has been seen first hand with some of our customers. For example, Procore customer HBS Group Southern, a mechanical and electrical subcontractor, creates custom data fields for each aspect of the job using the single-platform. This allows the team to have real confidence in the data that is coming from the site. From this they create project level dashboards giving granular insight into project performance enabling data-driven decisions to be made to improve individual projects and the business as a whole. 

Finally, data must be measured in real-time. The nature of construction is that it is constantly changing which results in information becoming outdated very quickly. If only working to outdated insights, businesses can’t effectively improve forecasting accuracy, risk analysis or benchmark results against industry standards. Information has to remain up to date at all times where possible.

An industry improved

Data insights are giving businesses a boost in productivity and finances. Our survey found that every manager, on average, saves almost a full day of work (almost 5 hours) every week. This translated into the business saving upwards of £253,000 per year.

Through connected business applications and purpose-built technology powering the change, construction organisations are gaining the ability to improve workflows and processes. Challenging the status quo of construction towards a new era of smarter ways of working is making those operating in the industry more efficient and profitable. While many industries are managing large-scale direction changes, the impact of saving both time and money can not be overstated and in-time the wider industry will realise the true value of data insights.

This article was paid for by Procore find out more

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