Pepper Construction Working to Capitalize on the Data Opportunity

June 30, 2019 | 4 minute read
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In Part I of this month's "Trailblazers" series, Jennifer Suerth, vice president of technical services at Pepper Construction, discusses how her organization is evolving its culture to increase technology adoption..

In Part II, Suerth speaks about how leveraging data is the largest opportunityas well as the biggest challengeto sparking digitization in engineering and construction. Dr. Burcin Kaplanoglu, executive director and innovation officer at Oracle Construction and Engineering, leads the discussion.

BK: What emerging technologies do you see representing the best opportunity for your organization?  

JS: When I think about technology, I automatically think about data. Everything we’re doing involves collecting, presenting, and leveraging data.

We’ve spent a lot of time collecting data in construction overall. There’s a lot of data when you think about handover of models, field management, etc.

People are often overwhelmed; data overload is a real problem. And many people who feel overloaded may not leverage that data.

Leveraging data

At Pepper, we’re starting to visualize our data through project dash boarding, etc. Now we’re tying in predictive analytics.

We’re collecting data—whether it’s images on project sites, safety statistics, etc. Until you start visualizing your data, it’s hard to understand what you can do with it, because data can vary on so many different levels. 

Once we start visualizing that data, we’re able to leverage it differently. We’re catching both gaps and opportunities, including how we even run our sales calls.

Then there’s the construction site. We’re starting to work with and StructionSite collecting pictures. We’ve begun pulling data—even from floor plans and 360 video walks—and leveraging that information in the field.    

Opportunities in the field

The big tech opportunity in the field is in the hands of the workers: accessing all the data and leveraging it. We’re doing a great job with preconstruction efforts, including coordinating and building from models.

Now, there’s an opportunity to leverage tech in the field before eventually handing it off to the owner. We’ve also been pushing augmented and mixed reality.

We’re using Microsoft HoloLens and have a dozen different use cases—everything from helping people understand what the space is going to look like, to QA/QC-ing the progress and install, to understanding logistics—anything.

We even recently built part of our Pepper Green Trailer with the HoloLens. You name it, we’re using it with the HoloLens.

Augmented and mixed reality

Augmented reality and mixed reality can helpnot everybody can look at a drawing and understand what’s in front of them. There’s something more real about looking through a mixed reality headset and seeing your space with a model overlay.

People just trust and relate to this technology more.

Lastly, we’re constantly looking at where can we automate our processes. For example, we’re laser scanning on a lot of our jobs.

We’ve got it down to a science of what we can do with it and how quickly we can perform the work.

We’re seeing a lot more clients that are interested in how they can leverage data for facility management. We’ve been offering this service to clients, working with them, talking about the handover, and how they’re going to leverage their data.

Every client is going to use data with a different tool in their toolbox. But how can you connect data to work orders, BAS, OEM manuals, and all of that? That’s something we’re pushing heavily on this year.

BK: Where do you see the biggest impact of AI and machine learning in the short and long term?

JS: There’s a lot of data we’ve already collected, and there’s so much more we can do with it. For example, there are some great AI tools out there that help create a better schedule.

These tools can run thousands of scenarios for you to find the best schedule.

We’re starting to visualize data as an industry. Companies are recognizing the opportunity and creating a platform that can run these iterations.

No project or team are the same. We said that people are the biggest challenge. If people are different, and our projects are different, we probably have different data.

So, we’re trying to understand, “OK, how do I automate this if the big data coming in might be different?”

Integrated project delivery (IPD)

We’re also doing a lot more with integrated project delivery (IPD) projects. We can start speaking back and forth—especially through a model—and share information with our contractors, design teams, and trade partners.

Through that, we can start using machine learning and AI to look at generative design. There’s so much we can do.

Once we break out of our silos and start collaborating, we’re going to see a lot of great things happen.

BK: Where do you see the long-term opportunities for facilities?

JS:  I spend a lot of time thinking about how we can impact the field and productivity.The more I can keep people in the field and keep automating some of their work, the better.

Our teams are very busy during construction. Leveraging data to help automate some of the pre-planning will be huge. But even then, long term, we think about our clients.

If we can leverage AI and machine learning and have a quality check throughout the project—in addition to showing clients how we can tie them into their systems and speak back and forth—this will be huge for our owners. Right now, they’re excited, but they don’t know what to do with the data.

Exploring how buildings operate

The more we can get from data, the more we can start looking at how buildings operate. So now, you’re not just thinking about your first cost, you’re looking at your whole life cycle cost and how it impacts you down the line. 

And the more data we get from our clients and observe how they’re using things, the better we can tie them in. We’re starting to do some of that at Pepper right now.  

There are lots of great opportunities, everyone just needs to understand that data is going to be the biggest challenge. You can certainly feel overwhelmed with data.

If we’re overwhelmed, I can only imagine how the client feels. We need to figure out a way to leverage and present data in a way that everybody can comprehend.

Read our eBook: "Innovation in Construction: Perspectives from AEC Innovation Leaders"

Related "Trailblazers" posts:

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


Corie Cheeseman

Corie Cheeseman is a senior content marketing manager for Oracle Construction and Engineering.

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