Activities on the jobsite are connected to stakeholders
There is a lot of buzz across the construction industry about the “connected jobsite,” but what exactly does this mean? While there is no definitive answer, the general concept is a jobsite that connects all the activities happening daily to the stakeholders involved through the use of smart technology. This can include project owners, project managers, designers, foremen, and back-office functions like purchasing and accounting.
In addition, there is an increasing investment in the use of technology in pre-construction activities like permitting, estimating, and modelling. In a recent Dodge data study, 57% of vertical building contractors (high rise construction) use model-based technology, that’s a big leap from just a decade ago.
Workflow examples from the connected jobsite
Streamlining workflows and improving communication are the primary driver of connected jobsites. Examples include the design/build, progress tracking, order to cash, and safety management processes.
Imagine the foreman who needs to order additional building materials to keep his crew busy. On a connected jobsite, the purchase request is originated in the field, can be sent directly to the home office for approval, and on to the accounting department where it can subsequently be matched to an invoice. Because connected technology is making the ordering process more efficient, the crew experiences less downtime.
This is a fitting example of the practical use of technology on a connected jobsite that improves the financial and operational management of the project. By eliminating errors and controlling building material costs, the investment in technology offers a positive ROI.
Blanketing the field of work with connectivity
Jobsite internet solutions are the infrastructure that technology runs on. Just think of diesel fuel when it comes to logistics – no fuel, no shipping. Therefore, one of the most important considerations for contractors who invest in technology is to ensure that their jobsites are ready to support cloud-based tools.
Challenges often present themselves when you’re building in unique locations that are remote, or where an existing ISP hasn’t yet built out the infrastructure to light up the trailer city. However, location isn’t the only challenge. One of the biggest headaches many contractors face is purely a resource consideration. For thinly staffed IT teams, there often isn’t anyone available to hop on a plane, travel to jobsites, and set up the network. This leaves project managers scrambling to get a network setup, and hastily signed contracts can end up being costly in the end.
The end goal is to ensure that all the smart devices, IoT-based equipment monitoring, and cloud-based apps can connect, gather, and share information everywhere on the jobsite. The effort of walking back to the trailer to upload information can often mean that teams will be slow to buy-in and won’t be as willing to adopt technology. For more insight, read our article, Is your jobsite ready for digital workflows?
Benefits to owning your jobsite network
You may ask yourself, “why can’t teams just use their own smartphones?” While this may be a short-term solution, there are financial and security implications for asking third parties (subcontractors) to use their own devices for work purposes.
In a world where ransomware attacks are almost as common as project overruns, ensuring critical data stays secure is a top priority. Unsuspecting users operating on their own cellular networks, but with access to apps sharing information, can open project databases up to potential phishing attacks.
It’s not just collecting, but also mining data from connected jobsites that is valuable. For example, advanced features like asset tracking (tools and equipment) and geofencing capabilities require a private network. The benefit of increased safety has its own financial return; but as more contractors capture substantial amounts of data, the ability to draw even more significant insights is why many choose to own their network.
Shared challenges with the connected jobsite
The adage, “if it were easy, everybody would be doing it” applies to the connected jobsite. A majority of the time, responsibility for standing up jobsite networks falls on the general contractor. In many instances, the project owner may mandate the use of certain technologies.
For project managers, a gap in resources often shows up when there isn’t anyone to troubleshoot problems in the field. When the router in the trailer gets unplugged and moved, simply rebooting the network can cause delays downstream for access points in the field. Jobsites aren’t office buildings. They’re dirty, dusty, chaotic places that put extra demands on networking equipment.
As mentioned before, many IT teams lack the resources to travel out to jobsites across the country. Furthermore, many teams are focused on higher priority initiatives like IT security, and don’t want the additional headache of managing the unique challenges on jobsites.
Provisioning, Decommissioning, and Managing Network Assets
It’s important to plan ahead and know who will be responsible for provisioning network equipment, as well as setting up access points and routers. A bit of advanced communication will help project managers, owners, and field teams understand how to connect to the jobsite network and share information.
Network assets often have a lot of useful life left on them when the project wraps up. Decommissioning assets at project completion and managing inventory helps maximize the infrastructure investment in connected jobsites. Project managers and their IT counterparts can benefit from mapping out a strategy to manage the connected jobsite footprint across multiple locations.