This post will be regularly updated with stories about how companies across the engineering and construction industry are navigating and adjusting to COVID-19 challenges as we all look toward a rebound.
John Walker, Vice President, Strategic Solutions, Jovix
Published: August 12, 2020
As with most of the world, the health crisis has pushed many companies to leverage “virtual” services. We have switched to supporting most of our projects remotely.
We’re helping serve as (remote) digital supply chain coordinators for the project team, ensuring that disruptions on the supply chains and material teams on projects are minimal. We’re helping evolve the digital supply chain by using (Internet of Things) sensors to create asset information upstream before tracking this data through construction.
Adoption of technology will grow from this pandemic. Manual/analog processes are much more difficult to adjust vs. digital/technological processes. The adoption of technology and digitalization has allowed for rapid shifts in project execution, information sharing, and collaboration. Deeper focus will be placed on digital strategies for work execution in the future by owners.
Construction has always been a very “physically present” industry. As with many industries, remote support, remote resources, and virtual services will be a huge factor moving forward in project execution. The global crisis has brought much hardship, but one eye opening result has been the adoption of virtual/digital collaboration.
David Gaw, Founder and CEO, Sensera Systems
Published: August 12, 2020
With project delays, decreases in workforce, and the changing guidelines from OSHA around social distancing, facial masks, and increased sanitation, we are receiving a lot of interest around broadened use cases for risk and safety compliance monitoring at all levels. With real-time multi-site dashboards, project managers, owners, and safety managers can keep a closer eye on all their projects without physically traveling from site to site.
Access to site intelligence on risk and safety compliance—including who is on site and when, material deliveries, and general productivity—is critical during normal times, even more so today. Add to this the increased stakeholder communication and collaboration afforded by such solutions, and the value is clear.
It can’t be stressed enough how critical communication is. With so many unknowns— including guidance changes, state, and local orders, worker shortages, material and equipment delays—owners, general contractors, and subcontractors are under greater pressure to perform with fewer resources, and at the same time, more restrictions.
This can cause even more noise in what is already a frenetic place, with crews of workers from different subcontractors, project superintendents, field service technicians, inspectors, and suppliers constantly cycling through the work area, often competing for space. Tools that can provide for more timely communications, safety, and security are critical right now.
This unprecedented event has caused a quickening of construction technology adoption as a necessity of doing business today. Owners, general contractors, and subcontractors are going to be better educated on the innovations that not only make project management easier, but also provide greater ROI to stakeholders that had not previously engaged with project-related technology.
Mani Golparvar, CTO and Co-Founder, Reconstruct, Inc.
Published: July 13, 2020
There are two problems that Reconstruct is working to help solve.
#1. The first is providing a solution for employers and business owners as they re-open. We are all very pleased to see people return to their offices after months at home. Of course, this return comes with a significant challenge for employers and business owners.
They are tasked with adjusting their offices and real estate to make it safe for their employees to work. This could include putting together new layouts in their workspace to enable social distancing, as well as adding new elements to workstations and desktops including glass, higher screens, or even potentially partitions in certain places.
Design for these changes requires a floor plan which often isn’t available for existing facilities. Traditional surveying practices can also be challenging because individuals who are engaged in the surveying process also want to minimize their capture time and COVID-19 exposure.
This is where Reconstruct comes in. Today, we receive a lot of inquiries from our customers to help them streamline the process of producing these floor plans.
Owners, operators, designers, and contractors can grab a 360-degree camera; video record their facilities within a few minutes, and use Reconstruct to automatically generate schematic or color floor plans as well as 3D point clouds. These 2D floor plans and 3D point clouds are downloadable and can be imported into a design or a model authoring environment to set the basis for renovation and highlight where changes should be made.
Our viewer visualizes the reconstructed scenes from 360-degree videos and offers a helpful ‘street-view’ navigation experience. Users are leveraging these floor plans and 3D models to conduct street-view walk throughs in their spaces, measure the scene for social-distancing requirements, visualize their new design overlaid on the images and videos, and share “what is there” vs. “what should be there” with their clients.
#2. The second problem that Reconstruct can help solve is supporting construction leaders with remote construction progress monitoring. The crisis accelerated the adoption of remote monitoring and forced construction teams to adjust to making decisions without “boots on the ground.”
This environment allows users to see “what is there” vs. “what should be there” to perform quality control inspections, progress monitoring, and identify project risks. Many mission-critical decisions on site layout, safety, contractor coordination, or even O/A/C meetings, can be done virtually without requiring the teams to be co-located for these discussions.
For the foreseeable future, the AEC/O industry may experience considerable disruptions, including shortages of resources (materials, labor and equipment), construction delays, and suspended or terminated projects due to the pandemic. Contracts in construction anticipate and have mechanisms in place to apportion risk and adjust project schedules when necessary.
For example, if a party is unable to meet their contractual obligations due to circumstances beyond their control (force majeure). Everyone is still trying to figure out how to deal with ongoing cases and how to plan, contractually and otherwise.
In all cases, putting contractual issues aside, early and proactive communication is better than delayed reactions for ongoing projects. Every party should seriously consider improving their communication with all other project stakeholders to discuss potential adverse impacts and determine a path forward.
Technology can play a huge role here to make sure owners, contractors, and subcontractors are on the same page in terms of who should do what work in which location, how much progress has been made, and where the project risks are. Proactive identification and control of actual and potential issues can address many of these challenges.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) are also working on devising and improving key contractual document languages to accommodate for the new normal. We will see a surge of technologies and contractual documents on how communications and coordination can be improved to address pandemics in the future.
The new normal has forced many construction and owner companies to adopt and adapt technological solutions in the short-term and post-pandemic. The new normal has also helped contractors and construction management firms better realize the value of efficient and fast software-as-a-service platforms while they are dealing with fewer workers being available on jobsites at a given time, as well as the ongoing shortage of skilled labor.
The effectiveness of many workflows will certainly lead to usage increase, including remote progress tracking and schedule revision in today’s work conditions.
Watch an on-demand webinar, "How Technology is Supporting Social Distancing and Remote Management with Limited Resources", to explore how Oracle, Reconstruct, and others are helping E&C organizations adjust to new ways of working.
Atul Khanzode, Management Committee Member, DPR Construction
Published: June 22, 2020
Atul Khanzode (AK): The crisis required us to take a closer look at how we keep job sites operational while ensuring safe physical distancing for workers and project site staff. We collaborated with craft workers and customers to see how many shifts we can work, how we can plan work to ensure distancing, what sort of PPE (personal protective equipment) we need when distancing isn’t possible, what sort of pre-screening protocols we need, and more.
The result has been the ability to keep projects online and workers on the job. We’re very proud of the attention craft workers place on safety every day.
For other site staff, leveraging technology to determine who needs to be on site, and at what times, has been a key consideration. Digital and virtual collaboration tools have become vital to ensure we have seamless operations.
AK: It has helped that all project partners are in the same boat. We know that projects can be successful only if we work together. Most workplaces are taking measures to ensure employee safety, so it puts everyone in the mindset of leveraging the necessary tools to do as much remotely as possible.
That said, one area of emphasis we’ve had is ensuring every project partner understands the need to keep committed money moving, especially because that keeps subcontractors healthy. There’s a real risk to the subcontractor community if subcontractors can’t get paid in a timely manner.
The industry needs to focus on the entire invoicing process and making sure it functions in an efficient and timely manner. We all need to make sure everyone feels invested in the health of the entire construction community.
AK: In a sense, the crisis has provided the push we’ve needed to put technology tools to work. Our industry has held on to a lot of face-to-face collaboration.
While many parts of that will always be the preferred way of working, the pandemic has done more to get people comfortable with virtual and remote work.
We have examples of inspections being conducted virtually. We’re seeing how robust virtual design and construction (VDC) programs are enabling work by different functions in more places.
VDC means more opportunities for digitally fabricated, multi-trade/multi-scope prefabrication of components. We expect cost and schedule certainty to be an even higher priority for customers as the economy recovers.
As we continue to deal with COVID-19, prefab helps take some of the workers away from the site and allows more space for distancing. Materials can be procured at optimal times and labor can be engaged when it is available, helping to physically spread out the labor needed and deliver value.
With strong VDC programs and more advanced prefab capabilities than ever before, this should be a consideration on every project and will absolutely change the way we work. Overall, we have been focused on any sort of technology that improves efficiency in the way we deliver projects—from early design through occupancy.
We expect those solutions will be an even higher priority coming out of the pandemic.
Dave Corcoran, Vice President, Graham Construction
Published: June 22, 2020
Dave Corcoran (DC): Maintaining social distancing on sites has been a challenge that we have had to be innovative to deal with. One strategy we employed on our multi-story building projects was to designate some stairwells as “up” and others as “down.”
DC: We have found that effective communication has never been more important. Owners want to know how their projects are being impacted and what we are doing to help maintain the scheduled productivity in a safe manner.
Subcontractors want to know that you have protocols in place to keep their staff safe while allowing them to still work relatively effectively. By demonstrating strong planning, we have been able to satisfy these needs.
DC: We are seeing that many people can effectively work remotely if they have the proper technology. We have also learned that we do not need as many in-person meetings and can significantly reduce traveling.
We see the increased use of technology as an effective way to improve how we deliver projects while offering staff more flexibility in where they work.
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Corie Cheeseman is a senior content marketing manager for Oracle Construction and Engineering.