At Rhumbix, we believe that better data will be the foundation for operational improvements in the construction industry. We hear a lot about innovation, automation, big data and digital disruption in general, but what does this mean for the people with boots on the ground and at the construction work face?
In a recent McKinsey article, the construction industry was defined by delayed and over-budget projects, declining productivity, and poor contractor margins. For those of us who have worked in the industry, this was nothing new.
We have lived the productivity headaches of large-scale construction firsthand. There are many issues contributing to the challenges construction firms face:
- Fragmented contracting and procurement strategies
- Disconnected functional groups with isolated data systems
- Lack of a standardization between industry participants
At the core of each of these factors is what we believe to be a foundational challenge the industry must overcome to achieve greater efficiency, reliability and profitability: data.
Construction labor productivity has not kept pace with overall economic productivity
A single day on a construction site generates hundreds of thousands of data points. Which crew members were on the job and what did they do? What materials were used and how much is left? What is the percent completion of the job and were we profitable? These are all questions that can be answered with data.
The problem is most construction companies today are using manual, paper-based processes for gathering and reporting this vital information from the field. Timekeeping, pull planning, safety briefings, inspections, production reports, identification and management of changes are all recorded on pieces of paper, which are then handed off to someone to input in the appropriate system.
Key insights and indicators of project health are often lost during this process or, at best, only available when they're no longer relevant. This results in missed opportunities and diminishes the usefulness of the data for timely, strategic, decision-making. Disconnects between decision-makers and the crews performing the work are persistent and impactful and ultimately lead to a system where lots of data is collected, but no one is able to do anything with it.
The construction industry is among the least digitized
At Rhumbix, we're building a labor productivity platform that will transform how the industry collects and analyzes construction data. Advances in technology and an increasing societal need for an efficient construction industry makes this the right moment for sweeping change to take place and we’re thrilled to be in the middle of it. Digitization of construction operations offers huge advantages to the industry, and we want to help firms leverage this technology in a meaningful way.
One reason for the industry’s poor productivity record is because it still relies mainly on paper to manage its processes and deliverables
If construction firms want to move the needle on how they're using construction data, they need to explore the elements of data collection and management that are relevant to construction and represent an opportunity for productivity gains. Some questions firms should be asking are:
- What is the future of big data in construction?
- How are we sharing the most relevant data with the craft workforce?
- How are our current data practices impacting construction management?
- What can we learn from the digitization of data and data science in other industries?
- What is the potential impact of machine learning and artificial intelligence on construction project delivery?
- How can we use IoT devices and real-time location technology to improve measurement?
The construction industry has been slow to adopt emerging technologies. The innovation deficit is well documented and its impacts are widely understood. Now is the time to face this challenge head-on, using data as the foundation for the future of construction. Our hope is that these questions will serve as a conversation starter for construction firms and industry professionals that want to do more with their data.