Insights and best practices for construction management technology and project delivery

How Sensor Technology is Changing the Game in Construction

Jon Chesser
Chief Revenue Officer, Atlas RFID Solutions

The construction industry is bidding adieu to risk aversion and stepping up to the innovation plate. The E&C industry is primed to reap the benefits of drones, advanced data and analytics, robotics - and innovation in general.

Atlas RFID Solutions is one company working to drive transformation and make an impact in E&C. One of the company’s solutions, Jovix, is a material readiness application that provides real-time visibility to all stakeholders in the industrial construction supply chain by digitizing and automating historically manual, paper-based tasks.

Jovix leverages a combination of cloud software, mobile devices, and smart RFID tags and barcodes to help workers keep track of their materials and drive productivity.

Jovix was selected as a technology provider for the Oracle Construction and Engineering Innovation Lab, a simulated worksite based outside of Chicago. The Lab was designed to help project- and asset-intensive organizations explore and test the latest cutting edge technologies in the industry to help drive digital transformation.

Dr. Burcin Kaplanoglu, executive director and innovation officer for Oracle Construction and Engineering, recently interviewed Jon Chesser, chief revenue officer of Atlas RFID Solutions, about Jovix and the E&C industry challenges his company is working to address.

BK: What are the key challenges around materials readiness for organizations in E&C?

JC: Consistency and predictability are key factors to ensuring a construction project can be completed on time and to budget. One of the key challenges faced by our E&C customers is ensuring a predictable flow of material to the construction workface and crews.

Having the right material at the right place at the right time is critical to ensure construction crews are productively building on a consistent basis. Materials are one of many constraints to completing construction work according to plan, but they are arguably the most critical.

A construction crew cannot build without materials. Construction and project management cannot effectively plan their work if they don’t have reliable, consistent information about the current—and future—availability of material.

Project teams historically have struggled to obtain reliable information about the location, status, and quality of the required construction material. The information has been collected using a manual, paper-based data collection workflow that introduces errors and latency in the information available.

Construction workers naturally don’t trust unreliable information. Construction requests material from the warehouse far in advance to support the construction workplan due to their skepticism about receiving reliable information.

Ordering materials too early is problematic because there’s often a lack of storage space. Mismanaged materials can also be lost. Multiple parties can often disrupt the construction work plan searching for the materials, thereby reducing the overall productivity of the construction crews.

BK: How is the approach to addressing those challenges changing?

JC: E&C organizations are beginning to realize that accurate, timely information pertaining to material location, status, and quality can greatly improve the predictability of completing a work plan, budget, and schedule. The industry is implementing technology solutions at an increasing pace now that mobile computing and sensor technology is becoming faster, cheaper, and more reliable.

For years, many E&C organizations lived with manual, paper-based data collection processes to manage their projects. However, once the industry realized the value of real-time information, organizations quickly began replacing archaic paper-centric workflow processes with data-centric ones.

The industry could address many of their construction problems by adopting a comprehensive construction software ecosystem that seamlessly collects data in the field. Leading construction solutions produce data, which in turn creates valuable insights into a project’s ability to deliver on time and on budget.

I’m excited to be part of the Oracle Construction and Engineering Innovation Lab. Oracle is bringing together best-of-breed construction solutions. These solutions demonstrate how an integrated ecosystem of seamlessly connected construction solutions can provide the maximum value to E&C organizations.

BK: How in particular is sensor technology driving change?

JC: Sensor technology is providing a way to collect data from construction assets autonomously, in real-time, and all the time. As more sensors are used on more construction assets—including material, equipment, tools, and personnel—the amount of data that can be collected is increasing at a rapid rate.

We’re just beginning to understand the possibilities of what we can do with all this information.

  1. The first step is recognizing that data and sensor technology is proven technology and not just an experiment.
  2. The second step is beginning to layer on AI and machine-to-machine learning algorithms. These machines utilize vast amounts of data to predict future construction performance and potential impediments to construction productivity.

For example, sensor technology can track the raw material used to fabricate a pipe spool. Project teams can rely on analytics by using sensor technology coupled with Oracle procurement, scheduling, and work packaging software.

Analytics from these solutions can accurately predict the ability to complete a future work package based on the physical location and status of the piping material at any given time within the supply chain.

BK: What role do drones and autonomous vehicles play?

JC: Drone and autonomous vehicles will play an increasingly important role in gathering data from sensor technology. Construction sites are ever-evolving physical structures. This can make it difficult to install sensor technology infrastructure, because it’s reliant on power and network connectivity.

However, drones and autonomous vehicles are constantly moving around the construction site. These technologies can become the sensor technology infrastructure. We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the efficiency of collecting sensor data from materials using drone mounted readers (DMR) to collect the data.

As drone and autonomous vehicle technology improvise, and the use of this technology becomes ubiquitous on construction sites, there will be endless opportunities to collect sensor data in real time, all the time, on construction jobsites.

Explore innovation in action at the Oracle Construction and Engineering Innovation Lab, a simulated worksite with integrated technologies.

Discover how Oracle Construction and Engineering is helping power project success for asset-intensive industries.

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