The use of data and analytics has exploded across the construction industry. It’s now more important than ever to be a data-driven company, one that maximizes and connects information across all aspects of a construction project to optimize workflows and success outcomes.
In an upcoming webinar, Analytics for Executives, construction data experts Lauren Collier, Department Manager VDC Global Initiatives & VDC Practitioner / Project Delivery Specialist at SSOE Group, and Aaron Phillips, Director of Virtual Design and Construction at Danis Building Construction Company, will discuss how much data can affect a project, and why focusing on data is a critical part of any project.
The January 21st webinar will cover the reporting and data analytics capabilities in Autodesk Construction Cloud products, how various team members can take advantage of the data available to them on a project or cross-project level, and how to use analytics to better understand performance and improve future business outcomes.
We caught up with Lauren and Aaron ahead of their Analytics for Executives webinar to discuss how construction data can help teams across various functions and workflows achieve project success. They share their insights below.
Be sure to check out Analytics for Executives on January 21. Register here.
Could you share more about your background in the industry and the work you do today?
Lauren: My background is architecture, and like many in the field, technology was an important passion of mine. I’ve been with SSOE for nearly 14 years now, and my career has transitioned into running a team of technologists. Over the last five to six years, I’ve been leading a multidisciplinary team of engineers, architects, and software developers. Really, our customer is SSOE, and our team works to build out technology efficiencies inside of our organization and for key clients. Not only do I run technology improvement projects myself as a lead, but I also orchestrate a team of individuals who do that as well. That includes our full company BIM 360 implementation that we’re doing right now.
Aaron: I spent the first 16 years of my professional career on the design side of the table, beginning as an intern architect with SHP, a Cincinnati architectural firm. In 2004 I led and managed the transition and implementation of BIM and SHP later won the Autodesk International BIM Experience Award in 2009. Being a part of the team who completed an entire Revit conversion of four offices and 14 projects, across architecture and engineering disciplines in 10 months, was an amazing experience. In 2013 I created the Virtual Design and Construction group at Danis Construction. Since then we’ve continued to grow our team and build our expertise of being a design – led VDC group. Within the last three years, we’ve formed an industrialized construction center where we are prefabricating and preassembling various multitrade assemblies including interior and exterior walls, mechanical rack systems, headwalls and more.
What challenges do companies typically face when gathering and incorporating data analytics from projects?
Lauren: The biggest challenge is determining what you want to measure and why.
We can collect immense amounts of data, but it really comes down to creating the strategy and asking questions.
What are the business questions that we need to answer? Do we have the data to answer them? We created a project about two years ago now that actually led us to implement BIM 360. We wanted a single source of truth to understand the project’s health. That could be data from BIM, issues, submittals, ERPs, financial, schedule, etc. It comes down to, what are the business questions you want to answer and then defining the digital process to capture that data consistently.
Aaron: I believe a large percentage of challenges stem from the understanding of processes and how they relate to the company’s culture. In my own experience, when I started at Danis a huge challenge was not only understanding the construction processes but how each team assembles projects and the processes that created it. It’s fairly easy to say, ‘I want to do better at something,’ but until you understand how the process occurs, and who is creating them, you do not truly see the value of the data.
Why do you think focusing on data is crucial to the construction industry?
Lauren: The Lean Construction Institute (LCI) reports that there’s 55-65% waste on construction projects on average. A lot of that waste is in manual processes and disconnected documents. If you’re going to start to cut waste, you have to understand your measurements. It’s easy to say, ‘I’ve reduced my project by a hundred RFIs, but were those RFIs really that expensive? Well, if you actually knew the cost of the RFI, and you knew that 50% of those RFIs were structural issues and that those issues were consistent on the last 50 projects, then you can do your root cause analysis and fix the waste. That’s just one small example where data is starting to become so critical.
Aaron: Ultimately, leveraging good, organized data effectively allows us to do more with less. We are now dealing with fewer resources including project engineers and project managers all the way to craftsmen and support staff. There is unfortunately a shortage of labor across the entire industry and we still have the expectation to get more done faster, but now with less.
We have the responsibility to make quick and educated decisions with our limited resources and in my opinion, we need to rely on and leverage our data.
In collecting this data, we can start to blend commonalities across multiple projects and continue our best work with what we have.
Do you have any final advice you can share on how to get started on a data journey?
Lauren: You’re not in it alone. Internally, you can start asking the questions of what data is valuable to your company. There are really valuable partners out there in the industry that can help you. People like Autodesk and sub-consultants who are already doing this work, and they can expedite your journey. You can also get started without a huge investment.
Aaron: My advice to others beginning their data journey would be to focus on the company culture first. It’s what fuels how decisions are made, who’s making those decisions and who’s reacting to what. As I transitioned from design to build, it was very apparent that I couldn’t tell career Superintendents that we are going to fundamentally change construction and therefore change every process by which they build. It was in learning their processes and then educating them on this new data driven method that we were able to become successful as a data driven builder.
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