From global supply chain disruptions to adopting strict physical distancing rules to keep construction sites open, the Australian construction industry is learning to respond to this unprecedented era of change. While many project delays have been exacerbated by COVID-related challenges around health, safety and productivity, it only reveals what the industry already knows – that it remains one of the least digitised industries.
With many construction sites completing projects in the same way they were being done decades prior, project managers must consider innovative but dependable solutions to achieve project delivery success moving forward. In many cases, it may require adjusting the means and methods traditionally used when delivering projects.
To ensure construction projects are progressing with as few interruptions as possible, here are a few solutions currently available that can help address the current unique challenges facing the industry.
Remote visual monitoring of construction sites
Construction companies have begun embracing a variety of remote visual tools in lieu of on-site inspections. This includes drones, laser scanning, light detection and ranging technology (LiDAR), to remotely monitor the progress, quality and security of their projects.
By enabling workers to conduct field inspections and schedule reviews from the safety of their own homes, these new technologies can enable teams to review progress of a project while allowing for social distancing. Project teams can revise a contractor’s work and while maintaining physical separation from otherwise risky work interactions.
Site cameras can additionally provide real-time monitoring and security. For example, pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras let users monitor various areas of the site and zoom into areas of interest while creating panoramic images and time-lapse videos. Site cameras use thermal sensing and edge-based analytics to sense motion, which triggers email/SMS/text alerts. In addition, fixed cameras are increasingly leveraged to enhance remote collaboration between stakeholders while also capturing images and time-lapse videos to send regular updates.
Physical distancing on construction sites
Construction companies have found success with artificial intelligence (AI) in improving jobsite safety and mitigating risk where on-site inspections are necessary. This is due to its ability to create automated reports to help with mitigation plans and documentation, reducing the need for more field staff to be on the construction site.
With sensors attached to the workers, it is also possible to emit a progressively louder alarm as a reminder whenever workers are too close to each other. The alarm will serve to gradually change and improve the habits of workers to practice safe social distancing.
In addition, in the event that there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 on a worksite, an employer can conduct contact tracing using historical data captured passively by the worker’s device to gauge who may have been exposed.
Unite the field and office staff, bringing information and processes together
To protect teams, operations and ultimately project outcomes, it is important that all project schedules are updated throughout the project. This means data silos and offline recordkeeping are minimised.
The update should be comprehensive, documenting a completed and in-progress status for all design, permitting, bidding, procurement, submittal, fabrication, delivery, and construction activities. This can be quite time-consuming, so a schedule management solution is ideal in this case to ensure a more seamless and efficient integration to log the data. Ideally this would be directed to a centralised centre.
It is remarkable that today’s high-tech buildings and infrastructure assets are contrasted with dated, low-tech processes. Yet as a result of the ongoing global crisis, construction industries are finding themselves pursuing – and in some cases fast-tracking – digital transformation in order to continue to operate through this new reality. Whether it is to mitigate the direct impacts of COVID-19 on the worksites or new ways to approach project delivery, it is clear that the digital agenda cannot be ignored.
By Burcin Kaplanoglu, PhD., Vice President, Oracle Industries Innovation Lab