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Up Your Construction Game with BIG DATA

Posted by Dan Dolinar on Thu, Aug 22, 2013 @ 08:08 AM
Dan Dolinar
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Have you ever considered the gargantuan size of data incurred on any one given project?  Between daily communications, in-office and trailer project management activities, and job-site exchanges, the enormous amount of information is simply mind-boggling. Now consider for a second all the ways we can capture project data: mobile devices, aerial sensory technologies, software logs, cameras, microphones, radio-frequency identification readers, and wireless sensor networks. Is your head spinning yet? But “what if...” What if you could harness this information into data that dramatically ups your construction game? Would you consider a way to tackle it?

Big Data for Building and Construction

Did you exclaim, “Absolutely?” If so, please read on.

What is BIG DATA? BIG DATA is the practice of gathering data sets so huge and convoluted that it becomes difficult to process using traditional software applications. The specific challenges typically associated with “BIG DATA” stem from attempting capture, curation, storage, sharing, transfer, analysis, and visualization of a large amount of information.  For the most part, the BIG DATA craze is due to the conclusions that can be derived through the analysis of a single large set of related data.

How can big BIG DATA be used with construction projects? For major construction projects, we incur mammoth amounts of data that come in the form of design and scope updates, manpower coordination, equipment and materials coordination, budget management and maintenance, and project and legal communications. The ability to collect and analyze your project’s BIG DATA allows predictive patterns to be revealed which will then lead to the identification of the following:

  • Project Trends
  • Optimum Manpower Levels
  • Schedule Efficiencies
  • Potential Risk Scenarios Which Can Prevent Accidents
  • Optimum Areas for Site Mobilization, Crane Usage, and Site Traffic Flow
  • Labor Productivity Trends
  • Equipment Usage and Optimization

BIG DATA analytics seem like a “no brainer.”  For the most part, BIG DATA, is a bit more complex to work with; it requires relational database management systems, visualization packages, and parallel software programs running on multiple servers. While many firms are still relying on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, they are truly missing out on the many benefits of capturing and analyzing project data sets that offer insight into how they can manage their project in a more efficient manner. Seeing data through this lens greatly assists managers, in charge of large projects, with making quicker, more reliable decisions that may result in an overall project cost savings.

Making greater project strides with BIG DATA. More and more software applications are connecting to construction site communications allowing for greater strides in providing project insights that result in efficiencies in both production and labor along with reduced claims and litigation.  BIG DATA can pool together information about the project location, material quantities, and project productivity rates, early on to yield greater, more feasible results.  If a manager is looking to develop a more efficient schedule, they can take into consideration all of these data sets to determine the optimum sequence and phasing of activities. In addition, they’d have the ability to report actual activities and determine whether there are any last-minute changes need to be made to ensure the project requirements are being met.

Bring on BIG DATA before you break ground. This information gives managers the information they need to make more insightful project decisions based upon past project metrics, suppliers, and client expectations that incorporate industry and market factors. 

The benefits of BIG DATA are too numerous to discuss in one post.  The main idea to come away with is…BIG DATA will up your construction game.  Pooling data to make more accurate, reliable decisions that provides greater project results is a terrific way to raise the bar in building great structures and rapport among dynamic project teams. Tune in for more posts on BIG DATA's specific impact on the job site, including: project trending, resource management, site mobilization, jobsite safety, and risk management. 

Topics: Construction, Big Data