Use of Technology to Increase Productivity on Construction Sites
Most engineers, architects, and construction professionals agree that the industry lags far behind in the assimilation of technological advancements, and very little progress is being made. With the constant changes and consistent improvements in technology, it is essential that construction businesses train and educate workers on various platforms, software, and systems. Even a slight improvement to any process can provide businesses with an advantage over their competition, saving both time and money in the long run.
One of the most overlooked areas in the common process when it comes to optimization is the planning phase. There is a need for upgraded planning skills, and more specifically, efficient use of technology for planning. This is a skill set that will tie into the sought-after data analysis that many businesses are implementing. The ability to understand and properly utilize large data sets is something that is being emphasized by engineers, suppliers, general contractors, and even real estate developers. This information can be used in the creation of aluminum composite panels, cladding panels, as well as in their implementation.
Researchers at Aalto University in Finland have found that digitization has not yet advanced productivity on job sites. Workers can spend up to 70% on activities that provide minimal to no value. These include searching for information, unnecessary movement to different areas of the job site, and of course, waiting. Data shows that a typical cladding panel or others like aluminum composite materials (ACM) get moved more than five times on-site before being used.
What can technology assist with?
A sizeable percentage of the average Canadian construction worker’s time can be better allocated to help teams progress further, which leads to more efficient and profitable projects. In a world of emerging mobile homes, robotic labour products, and VR assisted planning, construction trades should aim to improve their pre-build procedures, optimize cross-team communication, and enhance their capabilities to analyze and comprehend data. That is exactly what technology is helping to achieve.
Pre-Allocation of Materials
The research conducted at Aalto University on exterior cladding noted that installers of different types of architectural materials (e.g. aluminum composite panels, cladding panels, and other ACM) move constantly to find relevant information, machines, and kits. These activities were recorded after cameras were placed on workers’ hard hats. The main part of the experiment had the construction researcher test by drafting a bill of cladding materials for each area. This resulted in the appropriate amount of Aluminum Composite Panels (ACP) being delivered at each cladding area. This small adjustment to the site’s operation increased the ACM installer’s productivity by 10% and reduced total movement by 20%.
Extensive Planning Pre-Build
Any improvement made to the planning process will provide benefits to the overall productivity. A major construction project in the United States invested 3.5 years of 10 hour-day shifts strictly to planning. The efficient planning process assisted in the foundation of the project, as well as the speed at which the ACM was installed at the end. This involved all team members, from architects, engineers, and owners; to the foreman, GCs and workers. The extensive details of the plan benefited the entire organization; saving the client seven-figures in expenses and gaining the general contractor 20% in profits.
Proper Use of Technology
With more drones and building information model (BIM) technologies like laser scanners on job sites, every individual on-site will contribute to the data collected. The electronic information is then analyzed and communicated to the foreman. The key here is to present the information in a way that is easy to digest, so any necessary action or changes can be implemented immediately on-site.
For instance, within a typical ACM installation job in Vancouver, Canada, information is required to flow seamlessly from the supply and fabrication shop to the ACP installation crew. These include the placement of the ACM panels on the final façade, the estimated time of delivery for the extrusions and aluminum composite materials, and the order sent to the exterior cladding installation manager. This can all be described in a single visual map, which is included in the shop drawings of the exterior ACPs. The crew and the machine operator can find the exact location of the panels on the building from the 3D drawings that have been sent directly to their device. When the fabricated ACP is installed, the ACM crew then sends an automated notification to the supervisor that the panels have been installed in order to move into the next phase seamlessly.
This flow of information can only be improved if construction companies train and upgrade their workers’ communication skills and provide access to proven technologies. This in addition to upgrading a construction supervisor’s ability to read and use data to the team’s advantage. There needs to be a surge in collaboration between the construction trades, researchers, and technology companies. This collaboration needs to also be supported by governments through funding for R&D or with the use of new software, all in the hopes of making data more accessible.
Alumax Panel, a leading supplier of aluminum composite panels in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is investing in innovative processes and technologies to increase productivity with collaborative partners. Alumax is using the latest machinery, tools, and software at its large offices in Aurora. This has allowed the company to thrive; capable of completing projects from small residential to large scale commercial in the fastest time frames in the industry.
Contact us to find out how we use 3D laser measurements and other technologies to increase productivity and decrease project waste.