How Big Data Can Transform the Construction Industry

Construction projects create a lot of data. In the past, much of that data was unstructured and siloed. Data was collected, often on paper, and filed away once a project was completed. That’s been changing over the past several years as construction companies are realizing the benefits and insights that big data, predictive analytics and real-time data sharing can unlock.

As technology has changed, construction companies are capturing more data than ever before through smartphones, drones, wearables, jobsite sensors, telematics and GPS systems on heavy equipment and other mobile solutions. All of this extra data being captured and recorded can become overwhelming as firms try and find ways to structure and analyze this data in order to make actionable decisions to improve their bottom line.

Construction firms are now using data to make better decisions, increase productivity, improve jobsite safety and reduce risks. With artificial intelligence and machine learning systems, firms can turn the mountains of data they have collected over the years on projects to predict future outcomes on projects and gain a competitive advantage when estimating and bidding on construction projects.

As construction projects become more complex, big data may soon become the most important tool at a construction company’s disposal. In order to effectively use all the data being collected, you need to have the right systems and software solutions in place.

You also need to make sure you are capturing data relevant to whatever question you are trying to answer or problem you are trying to solve. That data needs to be collected and structured so that the analytics software you are using can translate the data in a way for you to make better decisions or adjustments to your current operations.

Say, for instance, you are trying to improve worker productivity by reducing the amount of time wasted moving about the construction site to retrieve tools, materials and equipment to perform certain tasks. You would need to track workers throughout the day using smartphones or wearable as well as sensors on materials and equipment to track how everything is moving about the construction site. Once you’ve collected enough data sets, you can then analyze how workers move about and interact with the site to come up with solutions to reorganize the placement of tools and materials to make them more accessible to workers and reduce downtime.

These days there is so much data coming in, both internally and externally, on construction projects that it can be overwhelming if not harnessed correctly. There’s data on labor hours, materials used, daily production progress, equipment operating hours and idle times.

Then there’s all the project documents, plans and specifications, RFIs, change orders, meeting notes. Site survey data and production amounts from technology like drones and lidar. BIM data being used for clash detections and construction simulations to determine logistics and task scheduling.

There are many issues that construction company’s need to solve in order to use all this data in a meaningful way. Companies need to be more willing to share data with other stakeholders, find ways to centralize and structure data and make it easily accessible using cloud solutions and eliminate data silos is necessary in order to unlock the true potential of big data. Interoperability between software solutions and analytics tools and data capturing devices is another hurdle that needs to be solved for companies to use data in different ways.

As AI and machine learning software technology advances and becomes more readily available, construction companies will be able to use a combination of internal and external data sets to predict future outcomes on projects. Data analytics will help firms determine the most profitable projects to pursue and how to manage them efficiently. This will allow them to improve quality and increase productivity by shortening construction times, lowering costs and reducing risks.

9 thoughts on “How Big Data Can Transform the Construction Industry

  1. Great start to the discussion about how to use building information. But let’s not leave owners out of the conversation. After all they pay all the bills.
    Owners need more and better access to their information. Buildings are more complex in construction and operations. There are processes and techniques that can get information into a useful format and into FM systems for owners. The silos are coming down, albeit slowly.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Thom. Good point about including the owners, that goes for both providing them with data during design and construction to make informed decisions as well as post-construction for operations and maintenance of the building.

  2. You have stated a very valid point. Big Data is indeed a game changer for the construction industry. Big data enables us to collect data relevant to the niche.

  3. Hi Kendall, I have done some work recently specifically into tracking labour on site and have set up a business Nexu Logistics that is changing the way we approach data collection in the construction industry. I have come across businesses that are attempting to harness data, but think a lot more can be done to utilise the data they collect and produce a more significant and useful output, apart from simply tracking their time on site and location and reporting that. Are you aware of any up and coming tech businesses that are either creating big data harnessing technology, or construction companies that are using it effectively? Look forward to hearing from you, Seb

    1. Sebastion,

      Just off the top of my head, software companies like Autodesk, InetSoft, onTarget, etc. have analytics software for big data. Companies using big data include JE Dunn, Balfour Beatty, Skanska USA, MWH Global. Apart from tracking labor, companies are using BIM, telematics, materials tracking, capturing field data with drones, sensor data, etc. to analyze and improve safety, collaboration, productivity, and more.

  4. Not sure if this is already being done but I think with time project owners will want access to all the data from their site from different contractors so they can then hire Data Analytics firms to process all the relevant data. They probably will have to pay a premium for it.
    Can’t see Big Data becoming a thing if Data continues to be fragmented between different contractors.

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