By SITECH UK-Ireland | Jan 22, 2021 | Uncategorised
Construction is almost back to pre-COVID levels, according to Eurostat, but this doesn’t mean that the construction industry will be back to its pre-COVID ways of working. The industry is rapidly adopting technology to increase productivity, safety, accuracy and traceability.
The construction industry can learn a lot from industries like manufacturing, where cutting-edge facilities are operating in an entirely autonomous way. Construction, historically by nature, was a highly manual industry, but the industry continues to innovate age-old processes for the better. Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 will be the year civil and heavy construction companies embrace a host of new technologies to connect and enhance their on-site operations.
The industry has seen a significant uptake in technology such as site positioning equipment, machine control and telemetry to track, manage, update and map progress (cut / fill / hydraulic control) of operations. Whereas machine control might have been a choice for some – it’s becoming the necessity of many – site operations have not only seen the benefit this brings such as reduced double handling, lower fuel consumption, improved accuracy and efficiency. Operations are now bringing the on-site field-to-finish workflow to an office-to-field-to-finish for 360-degree operational awareness.
The A14 improvements, one of the first projects to be delivered on time and to budget. Whilst not solely due to connected sites and technology, they certainly helped. There are some impressive statistics and gains that technology and connected operations can bring, in this scenario:
The spotlight is always on the operational costs and having effective control over them, with as little as 5% efficiency gains will save significant amount over the course of a project.
PwC’s membership network report, Skies without Limits, revealed that cost savings from using drone technology is expected to uplift the UK’s construction and manufacturing industries by £8.6 billion by 2030. Construction businesses are turning to drones to help with data analytics and as a visualisation platform for earthmoving applications, to improve surveying accuracy across large areas and to collect and share data.
Operators can use drones to accurately collect and communicate relevant data between the site and the office. Access to real-time drone footage enables site managers to keep up to date with the progress of the project, which means they can organise the correct equipment and materials when required. Integrating data analysis into site management reduces lead times and avoids project delays because materials and equipment are on site exactly when they are needed.
Intuitive, workflow software like Trimble® WorksManager can sync real-time data between the field and the office. This connected approach enables Site Managers to oversee a project remotely and make data supported decisions based off real-time data, without time lags.
Integrating this with our design software Trimble® Business Center, changes can be quickly communicated wirelessly and automatically, so everyone on-site has access to the latest design. Automated design updates reduce the lag time, so that everyone is working to the most up-to-date design.
As well as removing the risk of error from operators working from previous design files, connected software can prevent human errors that result in earth needing to be moved multiple times. When the design has been finalised in Trimble Business Center it will be sent to the cloud during the export process, ready for the operator to download. Once the operator has selected the new design, he will be able to monitor the correct cut/fill values against design to avoid over dig and work more efficiently. As-built data can be collected and compared against design back in the office as part of the QA process. Visuals of sites before, during or after can also be provided to avoid challenges in advance, or even progress versus design.
Final designs can be hard to visualise in the early stages of a project, and it can be time-consuming to check if there are any clashes, such as underground pipes that restrict the amount of groundwork that can be done. AR-enabled devices, like Trimble® SiteVision, project designs in 3D over the existing landscape and quickly visualise separate phases of construction.
AR allows the Project Managers, Engineers and Site Managers/Foreman to visualise designs more accurately to help get construction right first time. This reduces the risk of wasting time and money on correcting mistakes and helps the project meet relevant deadlines.
Much like mobile phones now do way more than just make calls, construction technology is also starting to see the same developments. Whether into the machine during manufacture or added to the tools, it will also mean operators, surveyors or technicians will have more information and control at the touch of a button.
As the industry integrates more technology into its projects, construction companies will benefit from processes that are more cost effective, productive and safe. To remain competitive in a year that looks to be increasingly digital, Site Managers should consider drone technology, AR and other technology to create a more connected site.
The UK will see one of the biggest projects across Europe in the past 100 years really make the best use of technology throughout all its operations, and it’s going to be exciting to see what we can really do when bringing connected sites together.