A Unique Opportunity to Improve Efficiency in Construction

Yvesround75Yves Frinault
Founder & CEO

I love construction for what it is: a complex process where engineering, people, and materials collide to create awe-inspiring objects, even by modern society's standards. However, with many variables at play and innumerable things that can go wrong on a project, the process is often grindingly inefficient; always improving but never mastered. Well, construction is about to take a huge leap forward.

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On any construction site today, whether it's a big office building or a residential project, you will see foremen taking off their gloves at lunch break, grabbing their iPhone from their pocket and reading their emails and texts. It's clear from the presence of technology found on the job site: the importance of mobile capabilities for field workers continues to grow.

Mobile technology has finally reached to the core of construction, where the complexity resides, where inefficiency happens, where it's most needed: in the field. And it got there, not because of some great IT initiative, but because people brought it with their lunchbox that morning. Now, we have powerful project management tools right at our fingertips.

People mistakenly describe BIM as a technology that allows access to a 3D building model in the field. BIM is not about technology. It's about solving the problem of collaboration in a complex rugged environment. It's about access to information and good decision-making. Fundamentally it's about organizational change.

Indeed, with the widespread adoption of smartphones by foremen and superintendents, the project team can finally achieve shared awareness. Improved access to vital information like up-to-the-minute as built drawings, gives people on-site the ability to make faster and better decisions. This is the key toward streamlined field operations.

However, if we don't break the knowledge silos and start sharing information more openly on our projects, if we don't grant more autonomy to the field teams to allow them to make decisions, if we don't adapt at an organizational level, we run the risk of realizing very little of the potential benefits of BIM.

Thankfully, construction was built, for better or for worse, with a lot of independence at the project level. That's the unique opportunity to improve efficiency in construction. As a project manager, superintendent or lead foreman you are empowered with the choice to adopt BIM on your project not as a technology but as an organizational change.

Let us know what you think at info@fieldwire.com and make sure to join the revolution by signing up below.

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OSHA, Safety, and the role of Technology in Construction

DominicroundDominic Delfino
Construction Specialist

Are you fully compliant to OSHA rules? On the occasion of Construction Safety Week May 7-11, you may want to check if you’re not one of the 200,000 companies which failed to fulfill their reporting obligations to the Occupational Safety and Health Organization (OSHA). At Fieldwire, we believe that technology can be very helpful to ensure safety on the jobsite. Our inspection features can provide valuable assistance in this respect.

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Between 1970 and 2016, worker deaths in America have decreased from 38 a day to 14 a day thanks to drastic safety improvements in working conditions. This task is precisely the main mission of OSHA. This agency from the U.S. department of Labor regularly publishes new standards to ensure workers’ health and safety is not put at risk. For the construction sector, OSHA proposed last year a standard to limit worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica and will start enforcement of a new rule to limit exposure to beryllium and prevent lung cancer in American workers this month.

This is a step in the right direction, yet some experts criticize OSHA’s laxity in enforcing some of its standards. Bloomberg Environment revealed the lack of compliance with the federal injury reporting rule, which can now be done via electronic submission of Form 300A. Form 300A is a summary of work related injuries and illnesses which are supposed to be logged in Form 300 throughout the year. This obligation applies to all companies in high or medium hazard industries, and exempts small companies employing less than 10 people. According to Bloomberg Environment, when OSHA expected 350,000 worksites to file electronically their 2016 summary of injuries and illnesses, 200,000 did not. Interestingly, another 60,000 worksites submitted their Form 300A without being compelled to. This sheds light on the confusion that reigns on the subject.

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OSHA however doesn’t stop inspecting and imposing fines for noncompliance. During the period October 2016 through September 2017, OSHA imposed fines totaling almost $200M. Construction is the industry with the most fines, totaling over $90M, far away from manufacturing which is just above $60M. The two most cited standards in the construction industry are due to Fall Protection and Scaffolding. Falls in this sector represent more than a third of fatal accidents, making this the leading cause of deaths.

Fieldwire’s reporting options will help you keep track of your projects and ensure compliance with safety standards. Our construction software also enables foremen, supers and engineers to report every safety concern they encounter, instantly notifying the concerned subcontractor in the application.

This year, Construction Safety Week focused on the power of safe choices at all levels. A good opportunity to engage discussions on safety with your team. You can also participate by making a pledge and sharing your safe choices with a photo to help create a mosaic.

More on the benefits of using Fieldwire here.


Is construction stuck in the 1960s?

Yvesround75Yves Frinault
Founder & CEO

Construction is a massive industry, representing over $11 trillion worth of work worldwide every year and accounting for nearly 10% of GDP in many countries. Yet despite its large size and importance to the economy, some aspects of the construction industry seem stuck in the past, left behind by the technological revolution that has brought massive productivity gains to other areas of the economy.

According to one study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the construction industry wastes $15.8 billion each year because of a lack of efficient information management systems for exchanging and accessing data. McKinsey Global Institute ranks construction as the second least digitized industry in the United States, besting only Agriculture and hunting.

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As other industries have benefited from ubiquitous computing and more powerful automation, labor productivity has taken two very different paths.

When you look at labor productivity between the 1960s and today, you can see that not much has changed in the construction industry. In the same time period, other large industries like manufacturing or professional services have undergone a major productivity revolution, increasing labor productivity three-to-fivefold. This doesn't mean that construction hasn't progressed from a technological perspective. Architects and design firms have gone completely digital in recent decades. The project manager's office now runs entirely in the cloud with a powerful suite of tailored software for bidding, planning and accounting.

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Yet we are still running the job site off of the lowest common technological denominator: paper, emails and phone calls, and that's when we're not physically tracking down someone. In short, the way we design and plan projects has gone through considerable innovation, while the way we execute those projects in the field — where 90% of the money is spent — has not, and there is a heavy price to pay for it. An analysis of more than $1 trillion worth of capital projects by McKinsey found that the largest gains in job site performance were to be found in “‘basic’ project management”.

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During a typical workday, a journeyman will only spend 30% of his/her time actually building — also called "direct wrench time". Another 40% of that day is spent preparing for tasks, gathering equipment and materials, and transitioning from one area to the next. The last 30% is often spent idling. Idling is what happens when we fail to answer this question: How do we get the right people, with the right information, materials and equipment in the right spot at the right time? 30% of a journeyman's day is the price we pay for using outdated management processes in the field. So the question then becomes: Is this an acceptable cost?

In most modern countries, the answer is understandably no. When faced with a problem like this, you often have two choices: Solve the problem with labor or technology. Since the 1960s, the cost of labor has risen significantly while the cost of technology has continued to drop. It used to be cost-effective to throw a lot of manpower at your problems — and it still is in many parts of the world — but that's no longer the case in the U.S. or Europe.

The winning strategy then becomes quite obvious: Companies should hire the most capable craftsmen they can find and provide them with the technological leverage they need on site to get the job done better. Then, and only then, will your field operations leap ahead of the 1960s.

More on the benefits of using Fieldwire here.

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