Digital construction technologies – what it takes to succeed

I was delighted to be invited by Aconex to share at the recent 2017 Construction Technology Summit as part of the panel on ‘Best practices in successfully introducing digital construction technologies’.

For a very well attended event, it was exciting to see the changes in play across the industry, and the desire from owners to contractors to consultants to software vendors around tackling the lagging digital technology adoption challenges of the sector. There’s no question that productivity gains are still hampered by a reluctance to change, as shown by McKinsey in one of their 2016 articles.

With these findings in mind, it’s no wonder I most connected with speakers who shared on how to best digitise the construction industry. While there is a lot of talk at the moment about AI, and how to leverage it to drive better outcomes on projects, as Andrew Newsome from Boston Consulting Group pointed out, without (digital) data, AI doesn’t work. The sector’s future is in better capturing digital and structured data, in part so it can leverage these other technologies.

Of course, that’s easier said than done, so here are three takeaways I particularly valued from Andrew Newsome, Kate Nelson (Head of Business Technology & Innovation, LendLease) and Ken Panitz (Principal Methods & Lean, EIC Activities).

1. Projects are good at avoiding new initiatives

Andrew talked about the fact that project and construction managers have numerous challenges on their to-do lists and are focused on delivering their projects. As he suggested, when you consider that a construction project may have a duration of as little as two years, it’s not long enough to generate a strong return on investment from new initiatives…certainly not on its own.

If you want a project to support new initiatives, Andrew’s advice was to:

  • Ensure the initiative is a priority at the highest levels of the company and project org charts
  • Allocate dedicated project resources to support and drive the new initiative

I touched on this in my panel session and discussion with Emma Shipley (CFO, Roberts Pizzarotti). In my experience, the best project outcomes for a new initiative come when there is engagement at both a corporate and project level – in contributing resources and guiding the direction of an initiative. It is critical to truly understand what’s going to make a difference at the coal face for a project when you’re setting up an initiative. At the other end, you need to ensure corporate goals are incorporated so value is generated not only at the project level, but also the corporate level.

2. The right people are essential to supporting change

Having the right people involved in a project can make the difference between success and failure. Kate Nelson summed it up when she spoke of the triple threat, below. These are definitely attributes I seek in the people I try to involve in digital initiatives on projects. As Kate put it, the triple threat is:

  1. Understanding how to use technology: this is self explanatory and essential to being able to evangelise and influence others to adopt new tech.
  2. Understanding engineering: if you’ve walked in the shoes of various key roles on engineering projects, and truly understand their pain and drivers, and can communicate and relate technology as it matters to them on a practical level, you’ve won half the battle. This is much more powerful than just taking someone a piece of tech and showing them how to use it. The value is in helping users know how to apply that tech to benefit their everyday work.
  3. Being an influencer (change agent) with strong IQ and EQ: we often refer to this as winning the hearts and minds of people on a project, meeting people where they are at and inspiring them to buy into the vision of the new initiative you’re introducing. That’s when they are more likely to champion it and become change agents themselves.

3. You need a strategy to speed up digitisation

Ken is championing digital disruption in construction through his role at EIC Activities. He made the point that there is no longer a single application that rules. The future is around flexibility, best of breed applications and the need for easy integration. He went as far as to say he won’t consider a solution without it first having an API. His message to software companies was, “build your API first…don’t have it as an item on your roadmap that’s coming soon”. Ken also shared how, at CIMIC, they are fostering innovation through a strategy of lowering requirements to trying new ideas; embracing that failure is okay; and limiting the investment and time to quickly show potential or fail fast. This is certainly a different approach to traditional big business cases and bureaucratic processes by being much more agile.

Our team’s recent work on the APLNG project with CPB Contractors underscores the importance of these considerations. The project team ultimately transitioned from having 600 paper dockets per day to 95% of those being electronically submitted. We worked with project leaders to address hurdles, like getting individuals to use a mobile device for project processes, getting subcontractors to let go of paper dockets, and getting engineers, supervisors and leading hands to adopt an unfamiliar digital process. We took learnings from a trial roll-out to streamline training and team engagement and it has ultimately been a huge success. Among a range of factors, I really saw the importance of:

  • Strong engagement from project leaders
  • Responsible champions with success linked to their KPIs
  • Consistent and ongoing communication with staff and subcontractors through the change.

In closing, there are learnings already available in the Australian construction sector when it comes to introducing new tech. For project leaders, seek software partners who have been there before and don’t be afraid to ask them for their learnings as well as successes to give you a running start.

Three opportunities unlocked by real-time data

At the recent Project Controls Conference, held in Sydney, I spoke on advancing real-time field capture and reporting.

With the pervasiveness of smart-phone technology, now, more than ever, project leaders can better tackle productivity issues while improving cost and progress management. However, this relies on a project’s ability to gather information from, and disseminate information to, its workforce – rapidly and simply. When this happens, real-time reporting can be unlocked, providing continuous insight into the health of a project and empowering better decisions.

What’s interesting is that the construction industry globally has suffered from static or declining productivity in many areas and is one of the lowest technology adopters. For an industry that needs a step-change, the good news is the technology is available to make that possible.

Why real-time

The construction industry is no stranger to the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle. It’s fundamental to many process and business improvement approaches. However, with some exceptions, the construction industry hasn’t applied the PDCA cycle to improve reporting – certainly not to the extent possible.

If you look at the software industry, the technique of continuous delivery (their PDCA) focuses on reducing the time and risk of software releases. Amazon deploys new software changes every 11.6 seconds! The likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter release production changes at least on a hourly basis. Benefits include faster speed to market, lower risk (and stress) and faster customer feedback. It also drives a culture of small, incremental changes.

In contrast, the nature of project end-of-month reporting is such that the construction industry is doing the equivalent, in general, every four to six weeks!

Three areas of opportunity

There are three main areas of opportunity:

  • Mobile data capture
  • Data integration
  • Automated reporting

Benefits of mobile data capture

Key benefits of mobile data capture – for everything from attendance to site diaries to dockets to progress and quantity data to photos and comments to Events (delays) – include:

  • Capturing quality data at the source
  • Gaining geo-located and time-stamped data
  • Having information that’s linked to an author for better accountability and verifications

Benefits of data integration

When it comes to data integration, the value amplifies, creating value by:

  • Enabling the efficient reuse of data, without recreation from engineer to engineer
  • Building a single source of truth so project metrics are consistently applied
  • Providing continuous validation to ensure decisions are made on the most robust data
  • Limiting double-handling to free up team members so they can add value elsewhere

Benefits of automated reporting

When you’re capturing data via mobiles, and building that into an integrated, single-point system, you can position a project to achieve automated reporting. The value is fairly obvious but key benefits include:

  • Enabling fast feedback about the health of a project
  • Catching issues before they become costly
  • Confirming the effect of changes (positive and negative) on production rates.

Real-time field capture is the foundation to real-time reporting. With the right technology, it’s made possible by building in smarter reporting cycles that use small daily updates, feeding into larger weekly updates, feeding into the industry stalwart of monthly updates.

The value is clear. The technology is available. Real-time data management and reporting is the way of the future.

TMR MIXr showcases real-time technology advancements

Envision is proudly one of the ‘industry solutions’ presenters at the upcoming Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads TMR MIXr on 28 March 2017, providing insights into the advantages available to projects through real-time field reporting.

Off the back of the inaugural event last year, TMR has opened up the one-day event to a wider range of stakeholders – in TMR’s words, ‘connecting government and industry to opportunities for collaboration, partnerships and problem-solving’.

With web and mobile technology enabling massive improvements in field data capture, transport and other construction projects have the opportunity to dramatically improve the way a project’s schedule, progress, changes and costs are managed.

Yet, the majority of large construction projects in Australia are not realising the full benefits of real-time electronic capture of field-based data.

Readily available technology like Envision is a significant untapped resource and, in our presentation, we will showcase how real-time data management can transform delivery decision-making.

As a Queensland-based innovation and the only software of its kind in Australia, Envision features the latest advancements in change (unplanned event) management, field-based collaboration (comments, photos etc) and real-time reporting.

Our session will show how clients have gained better insight into the real-time health and status of their projects to improve decision-making and performance while achieving savings.

It will also look at:

  • End-to-end capture and reporting of field data
  • Significant advantages available when the common reporting ‘blackout’ (the lag between data inputs and reporting) is removed from projects
  • Gains possible through multi-system integration with BIM, GIS and other platforms.

One of the exciting opportunities through events such as TMR MIXr is collaboration. Envision is live and proven on several projects but is based on continual improvement and ‘fast feedback’, meaning it advances through the insights of clients and their involvement in shaping the evolution of the platform.

We see Envision as a true step change in the delivery phase for transport and other infrastructure projects, with benefits for government, industry and community stakeholders, and look forward to participating in the event.

For more information, visit https://www.ivvy.com/event/MIXr17/home.html

Envision partners with iCURO to showcase resources solutions

With Simon Anthonisz, Managing Director, iCURO

Envision teamed up with workforce management software leader, iCURO, at the 14th PNG Mining and Petroleum Investment Conference in Sydney this month to showcase the latest in project management software for remote projects.

While this multi-billion sector in PNG continues to expand, with several major projects set to come online in the near future, delivery teams are still faced with the demand to achieve more with less.

From managing remote, disparate project teams to commodity price fluctuations to weather and much more, it’s clear that lean principles are the way forward.

Conference presentations featured major mining and oil and gas companies providing updates on existing operations and the progress of upcoming projects.

The mining side was more upbeat, with steady increases in the gold price leading to several existing mines increasing their production this year, and some gearing up for expansion.

A couple of mines that had stalled shared about how they are bringing new projects online in 2017 now that companies and investors are confident their long-term viability is secure.

In the oil and gas space, the success of the PNG LNG project was a major highlight. The 300th export left the port shortly before the conference began, which is a great achievement by co-venture partners ExxonMobil, Oil Search Limited (OSL), Kumul Petroleum Holdings Limited, Santos Limited, JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration and Mineral Resources Development Company Limited (MRDC).

The other big news came from the Total presentation, giving more detail to the recently-announced Papua LNG project, expected to start in late 2017. This will be the second large-scale project for PNG – a great boost for the economy and communities there.

With the drive toward increasingly lean operations, attendees were particularly attracted to iCURO’s automated workflows for managing on-boarding, mobilisation and worksite attendance, alongside Envision’s features that simplify the creation of daily diaries, management of daily costings and capture of unplanned events.

2014 Lean Construction Conference

Ennova partnered with industry leading construction companies to present productivity findings from recent projects at the annual Lean Construction Conference. Ennova showcased results from the recent QCLNG project that demonstrated significant reductions in schedule (timescale) and cost, and an overall improvement of around 30% in labour productivity.

The results were discussed at two sessions:

1. Information Is Power – Eliminating Waste at the Work Facelci-2014-talk
  • Robert Turner – Group Manager, Controls and Planning, Leighton Contractors
  • Hugh Hofmeister – Head of Projects, Ennova

 

 

 

 

lci-2014-workshop2. Workshop: Serious Productivity Gains with Evidence-Based Results
  • Robert Turner – Group Manager, Controls and Planning, Leighton Contractors
  • Hugh Hofmeister – Head of Projects, Ennova;
  • Grant Puttergill – Project Controls Manager, QGC
  • Mark Leader – Project Cost Manager, QGC
  • Chris Barber – Project Services Manager, QGC
Note: The content for these sessions is available through the LCI Australia website or can be downloaded by clicking on the images shown here.

Envision at Tech23

Tech23 celebrates innovation through an exciting collision of great minds, great ideas, and great purpose. Tech23 is dedicated to offering entrepreneurs opportunities.

Ennova presented Envision at the 2013 Tech23 conference. We were fortunate to be recognised with awards from Amazon and Cloudstaff. The video below features Adrian Smith, Director and Head of Technology, giving our 5 minute pitch.