Paving the way for a digital revolution in infra-construction
Governments and other infrastructure owners around the world are paying the costs of inefficient and outdated construction methods. Hundreds of millions of euros are being wasted in antique work planning and building based on inaccurate paper designs. As each project is unique, the construction site is currently largely an ad-hoc operation, where work is being implemented according to the experience and vision of old school professionals and based on weekly meeting and communication by phone calls and paper.
What has always been, doesn’t have to stay that way for eternity
As infrastructure projects always include unexpected details due to unforeseen terrain qualities, the current but outdated methods cause a lot of waiting and wasted time. We see this as work machinery utilization rates as low as 20 to 30 % of scheduled working hours. Huge amounts of expensive heavy machinery hours, such as excavators and bulldozers, are being wasted and the project completion time is unnecessarily prolonged to double or even triple.
This is all going to change in a couple of years, and what we will see in year 2020 is more of a factory or process engineering style approach. Detailed pre-planning and scheduling, real-time tracking and project transparency will enable project managers to adapt to events on field and enable drastically shorter project completion times. On a high level this fundamental change in project management is called digital construction.
How does change happen?
There are several key steps that will be taken in the coming years. Design engineers and project owners need to embrace the real data needs of the construction work instead of thinking about traditional paper designs. This means using standards like the LandXML-based InfraBIM guidelines that are a government requirement in Finland (infrabim.fi).
Once the project has been modelled, detailed and accurate realization plans and schedule can be derived. This same model can also be used in work machinery which will semi-automatically implement the designed earthwork structures using high accuracy GPS/GNSS technology. Machinery will also automatically document the work phases they have implemented.
This all can be monitored online in real time and any deviations from designs or possible problems can be quickly dealt with. Mass hauls are preplanned and online systems track movement of all transport vehicles such as dump trucks. A projected completion time of any project task can be calculated online based on the current performance with assigned machinery. Additional resources can be dynamically added into critical path tasks to ensure they are completed according to planned schedule.
All equipment that is being installed, such as rail tracks, pipes and manholes, will have ID tags for tracking. Their current location and installation dates are known so their transportation and installation work can be accurately planned and monitored. The worksite has an online inventory and quota of all the needed parts and materials for the entirety of the project.
On-site personnel all have access to the site plans, schedule and current situation. They have a clear view of the tasks, where the project is today and what are the plans for today, this week, next month.
Infra-construction in a turning point
What the industry needs is open digital standards and true interoperability. More communication between design and construction phases of the project and integrations between different software and hardware systems. In the end, it’s all about collecting, sharing and distributing data.
The year 2020 is basically just around the corner and digital infra-construction is already here to stay.
Are you content with the traditional methods or ready to join the revolution?