Project Sites Are Full Of Data — One Firm Has Found The Best Way To Utilize It
If someone were to walk into the cockpit of an airplane with no pilot’s training, they would instantly become overwhelmed by the gears, levers and data displays surrounding them. With the right combination of experience and technology, however, over time that person would be able to fly with ease.
Similar to an airplane, a construction site is filled with data that can seem overwhelming to collect and difficult to understand. But with the right tools in place, harvesting and understanding that data can be the key to keeping a project on track and within budget. Truebeck Construction has developed tools that do just that.
“There's data everywhere on the job site,” said Justin Porter, construction technology and innovation director at the firm Truebeck Construction. “Once you realize that, the question becomes: How can you mine that data and determine what’s important and what you can use to make construction sites safer and more efficient?"
Porter and Truebeck Vice President of Operations Pete Caputo acknowledged the massive amount of data and information that can be culled from a construction site can be overwhelming. However, they believe capturing and analyzing that data is the key to creating better projects. At Truebeck, they utilize tools that capture key data and relay it back to them to determine how well a project is operating and ways in which it could be improved.
But having the tools at your disposal is only half the battle, Porter said. When it comes to mining and displaying data, there needs to be a level of curiosity that drives improvements to the process, since needs and outside influences will frequently change what is important to a project team.
When it comes to staffing needs for a project, for example, the industry has relied on gut-based decision-making. Construction leaders view a project’s scope and determine the level of staffing required for the project. Truebeck’s CTI team was curious about the effectiveness of this strategy, Porter said. To learn more, they built an in-house tool that gathered hours billed by position on the firm’s previous projects based on project size and scope. Using this historical data, Truebeck’s CTI team built an AI model that predicts staffing needs by position for future projects. This allowed the team to provide more accurate staffing estimates and even helped reduce costs from overstaffed projects.
Porter pointed out there is data that can be captured and utilized long before construction starts, which can go a long way toward streamlining the construction process. He recalled some laser scanning and data capture work that the Truebeck team recently performed for a project in Berkeley, California. They scanned the as-built site conditions, and when they brought that data back to their office and compared it to the design model, they discovered an elevation discrepancy of more than five inches affecting ADA compliance near a new entryway.
“That could have led to a really bad situation if we hadn't caught it during design,” Porter said. “If we had caught that during construction, we would be trying to figure out how to fix it after we already had permitted drawings, causing project delays. Thanks to data capture, we were able to avoid that setback. It allows you to really jump on issues and analyze them and fix them before they become a problem.”
He added that a significant portion of the data a firm needs is in Procore, the project management software Truebeck uses. However, Truebeck’s team wanted customized ways of displaying data so the team could reach critical information more quickly. The team got together and decided on the data that was most important to them and created their own real-time data pipeline and data warehouse to mine that information and translate it into a format that is easily viewable on their dashboard.
An example Caputo gave was Truebeck’s Project Health Dashboard. Among the many things the dashboard monitors are requests for information, specifically, how many revisions are made to RFIs.
“An RFI is a question we ask the design team, and if that question requires multiple revisions, then it’s wasting time and it’s not a lean or effective process,” Caputo said. “We track what percentage of RFIs are not being answered on the first pass, and by highlighting that information, we can see where there’s been a breakdown in communication.”
Caputo said at one point his team noticed that RFIs were being revised too often. They created a new, formalized RFI process that led to an enhanced level of communication and a much better outcome.
“You have all this information out there and you try to create a window into that information to see what's important,” Caputo said. “You discover that you either have really good information that becomes actionable, or you realize it isn't actionable because it's not consistent. That drives new process improvements to get that consistent data, which then drives actual information.”
Truebeck has a dedicated data team that has developed a large data pipeline that is bringing in information from several different sources and systems to create custom key performance indicators and present actionable data.
“People have spent a lot of money trying to get different systems to talk to each other,” Porter said. “We don't try to get the systems to talk to each other as much as we used to. We just pull the information into a common platform, which is the data warehouse, which we then draw upon to create dashboards that show us key information.”
He added that while other firms offer data dashboards, most of them only update about once a day. Since things are constantly changing on construction sites, Truebeck designed their dashboard to update in real time.
“You would think that having a 20- or 30-minute delay on a dashboard wouldn't be a big deal,” Porter said. “But these days, people barely have time to watch a 15- to 20-second TikTok, much less wait 20 minutes for an update on their dashboard. The real-time nature of our system offers immediate feedback, which can go a long way toward avoiding delays and streamlining a project.”
This article was produced in collaboration between Truebeck Construction and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.
Studio B is Bisnow’s in-house content and design studio. To learn more about how Studio B can help your team, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.