Leveraging digital collaboration for better project outcomes in the Engineering and Construction iIndustry

January 13, 2020
| Originally Published

The Engineering and Construction industry is unique in more ways than one.

For starters, typically projects have a higher number of stakeholders (foremen, architects, project owners, engineers, subcontractors and more...) involved in comparison to other industries.

But they’re not just more numerous - they’re usually far more dispersed than average stakeholders found in other industries.

Furthermore, according to a study from KPMG, just 31% of all projects came within 10% of the budget in the past 3 years.

The Construction & Engineering industry can’t really afford to accept the new normal, since more and more project budgets are being scrutinized and the overall industry productivity remains stagnant.

There are many technology SAAS tools out there today tackling this exact issue, but only a few that really offer the performance of field operations. One tool that does this very well with the end user in mind is Civalgo.com. CIVALGO is a web platform that optimizes the work of construction contractors by simplifying the comparison of their planning data and the results of their execution.

On top of all of this the construction industry is also suffering from a skilled labor shortage, it seems that we have put less of a focus on trades skills in the past years, resulting in lower productivity, higher safety concerns and rising labor costs to owners and contractors. Some companies such as TradesFactor.com are trying to help the industry and the skilled labor shortage by providing a platform for skilled trades resource sharing.

OK, but what does this mean for an E&C project and how digital collaboration plays a role?

What is Digital Collaboration?

Digital collaboration involves using digital technology to communicate and collaborate, whether in and out of the field. This enables the connection of several individuals on the same project- and when done right, it can empower an E&C team to accomplish more with fewer resource.

A transition to digital collaboration can seem scary at first, especially for Engineering and Construction companies who have held back on these changes in the past. However, when done right, this transition can be more of an adaptation without changing the entire communication pipeline.

Clear and effective communication through proper zipper planning is key to keep all stakeholders on the same page. A mishap in communication, even for the smallest changes, can have incredibly costly consequences for everyone involved.

It also means we need to have everyone and everything connected. At the same time we need to focus on promoting the importance of the skilled trades and providing the necessary opportunities for them.

It also means having data and lots more data...

We need to have sensors providing us information about the whole job site, from assessing soil conditions, to temperature, to equipment telematics, to concrete maturity and so on.

We need to have better and real time work planning - which provides us ability to track materials and resources in such a way to improve project execution.

We need to reduce work hazards through real-time visualization to help plan work, identify potential risks, and comply with safety requirements.

We need to be able to have just in time project management, connect virtually, and view digital dashboards for real-time updates to help track and understand construction progress.

We need to be able to have information in real time about almost every aspect of a construction operation and always available to relevant stakeholders either on-site or externally, to help improve collaboration.

At all times we need to be able to provide accurate and real time data availability, be it to geolocate information, personnel location tracking and mapping, live markups or improving the transfer of as-built information to continuously improve project execution

All of the above is possible today with the proper digital collaboration practices, tools and processes which in return will provide better streamlined processes for communication, collaboration and execution.

All of the above is great but not really possible without some basic rules to execute successfully?

  • Always work in a common data environment (CDE).
  • Ensure your project data is available internally and externally.
  • One essential key is to establish proper standard operating procedures (SOP).
  • Make sure you work with standardized universal file formats, don't think because you use it it's the best.
  • Don't stop communicating, in my book this one is the most important. It does not mean because we use technology to collaborate we need to stop communicating, pickup the phone and call or even better go with a face to face.
  • Evolving to Digital Collaboration takes a while, since we need to adapt our methods of work, but also sometimes change our corporate culture in order to be effective at collaborating digitally.

This is only just some basic rules for E&C companies when embracing digital collaboration.

It is evident from our client base that there are clear examples of E&C contractors and owners successfully reducing costs and improving schedule performance by aggressively pursuing digital solutions, this in return seems to prove that integrated digital collaboration solutions and stream-lining business processes are increasing efficiency, transparency and accountability.

But taking the step to reach digital maturity alone can be overwhelming.

Get in touch with us today to see how we can help!