Wealth of Construction Data

Guest blog by Mark Lyons, Senior Director of Field Marketing, Procore Technologies

Today’s data storm raining down on construction companies is causing some owners and managers to withdraw and hang tight to the past in an effort to keep things from changing. While change always requires losses of some kind, it also offers countless opportunities.

There are few studies specifically focusing on the amount of data used in typical construction projects, but the amount of data per project is most definitely on the rise. One source compared the change in data volume over a span of 10 years. In 2004, a project typically required 100 gigabytes of data, while one in 2014 required 6.6 terabytes (6,600 gigabytes). Another project involving the expansion of a medical building reported a document load of about 0.5 gigabytes per user.

However, in most cases, you use that data all at once and then archive it. And, while data volume says little about data quality, you have to wonder what you are missing if you don’t at least look more deeply at it. People are often pleasantly surprised at the insight and value derived from data analysis.

Today’s Data is Your Crystal Ball

There are infinite ways for you to improve outcomes on future projects by harnessing past project data and testing it against current projects. Consider project budgets for one.

Every contributor leaves a stamp on the project budget. You might not notice on any given day that materials deliveries from a supplier are slipping over time, but when you take a step back and look at the timestamps on deliveries from the past month, you may see a pattern emerge. The same might occur when you look at material prices over time. Small, incremental price increases go largely unnoticed in the day-to-day, but they add up to potentially significant numbers when you view their aggregate effects.

You Don’t Need a Private Investigator to Solve This Case

The information you uncover might be worthy of deeper analysis that could lead to changes on the next project when it comes to where and how you source materials. This type of consideration is even more important today because products are sourced globally and undergo tremendous time pressures in making their way to your project.

Material quality can vary greatly, and there are always threats of counterfeit products slipping into your supply chain. If you are collecting and analyzing material source and quality data, you have a database of potentially critical information. You can use that information to guide your choices in your current project as well as future ones.

Get Ahead of Risk

Construction projects hold tremendous risk, which is why they are sometimes described as exercises in managing risk. Your company's history holds insights invaluable to assessing and planning for risk. After all, the key to managing risk is to be one step ahead of it. You either need to mitigate it or insure against it. But before you can do either of those, you need to be able to recognize it. That's where history comes in—the history in your data.

Prime contractors are greatly affected by the performance and nonperformance of subcontractors on the project. Subcontractors themselves are often responding to the demands of more than one general contractor, and that puts challenging requirements on their schedules. Subcontractor performance often takes a gradual path to decline starting with inconsistencies. Inconsistency in quality, attendance, schedule performance, and reporting add up to a subcontractor on the verge of becoming a project risk.

If you aren't following the data and information that provide insights about your subcontractors’ performance, you might never know about any issues until it's too late. The same performance information can also help you sort your options when selecting subcontractors for upcoming projects.

Data = Money

Equipment is a resource with widely variable expense. When you use telematics as one of your equipment management tools, you gain insights that not only reduce risk, but also boost efficiency in equipment use and project planning. When you are aware of potential equipment problems, you can take the necessary steps to repair them before a crisis occurs. The same knowledge can help you maintain the machine’s performance so that it doesn't degrade over time. With advanced notice about equipment wear, you can manage spare parts more efficiently and reduce machine downtime.

Collecting, analyzing, and reporting on information and data harnesses knowledge that is otherwise used once, and then stored. Just take a moment to consider the knowledge in the vast array of construction documents.

The documents used for design and product specifications tell the original intent of the construction project. When you view those in relation to RFIs, submittals, change orders, notes, meeting minutes, and schedules, a much larger body of knowledge emerges that can influence decisions on future projects. This is the point where you move from being reactive to proactive in managing construction projects.

Act Now, Not Later

When you are proactive, you begin to look for and become better at recognizing new options and opportunities. Maybe your new-found knowledge shows you that buying materials on a multi-project basis will cushion you against a trend of rapidly rising prices. Or, that you need to make adjustments in your current lineup of subcontractors and vendors because your upcoming projects are too geographically dispersed.

In any case, you are using information that you already own to gain insight, manage change, and keep your business competitive. And, that's the ultimate value in collecting, analyzing, and reporting on your data.

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