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Let’s face it — spreadsheets and paper reports no longer serve the needs of the construction industry. In light of continued supply chain volatility, labor shortages, and current economic headwinds, AEC organizations are being propelled to search for efficiencies and new ways to stay profitable as well as competitive. To do so, project owners need the right information to answer the right questions at the right time.
As such, an increasing number of companies are implementing data analytics solutions to provide an insightful edge. A recent study showed that nearly 70 percent of construction companies have adopted some form of digital technology and an increasing number are incorporating data analytics into their processes.
Let’s look at how analytics can help.
Visualizing business data
If you’re manually dissecting spreadsheet data, you run the increased risk of overlooking valuable information and making mistakes. Prebuilt and custom dashboards can provide insights from across applications, including blended datasets and KPIs for schedules, costs, risks, and more — a real-time summary of detailed performance data to inform current decision-making.
Dashboards clear the clutter because you can see the analysis of all your data sources in one window, and on any device. For example, construction dashboards could allow you to immediately spot the contract value, margin, budget, and a number of critical indicators that help monitor the current status and successfully deliver a project.
Think of all the metrics that can be visualized with dashboards:
- Project management metrics such as budget, schedule, and resource utilization
- Labor and equipment costs, including utilization and efficiency
- Job site safety metrics, such as incident rates and compliance with regulations
- Material costs, quantities, and deliveries
- Procurement and supplier performance metrics
Power on the job site
Mobile construction analytics tools democratize data and decision-making by expanding access to data across the organization, making it easy to retrieve and understand. This is especially helpful to empower teams in the field to work smarter.
For example, let’s say you are an equipment manager in the field. Dashboard reporting on your mobile device could provide metrics such as the average use of your company’s fleet of trucks over the past six months and compare it to a six-month period from a year ago to discover if maintenance schedules should be adjusted to keep equipment running efficiently.
Project managers working on the job site are often asked by company management and the customer to verify that projects can be completed within budget. With easy-to-use dashboards on a mobile device, project managers can have EAC (estimated cost at completion) forecasting data at their fingertips, and provide immediate answers about budget and schedule deviations, cost overruns, and final costs. Issues can be quickly pinpointed and course-corrected, driving real-time improvements during the execution phase.
Power for the ‘what-ifs’
Executives and estimators sometimes make high-level decisions on project estimates or designs to protect margin fade but have gaps in knowledge that could be critical to the process. These gaps can be filled with reliable and insightful metrics across a portfolio of projects, both past and present. Where do these metrics come from?
Predictive analytics is finding its way into the fabric of construction analytics. Cost trend data and predictive analytics can help contractors not only keep track of what’s going on in the present, but look back to figure out what went wrong on past projects, and gain insight on how to improve cost management and forecasting in the future.
Thus, contractors can begin to make better-informed decisions in a host of areas:
- Project completion rate
- Budget and cost overruns
- Schedule performance
- Labor productivity
- Equipment utilization
- Material waste and rework
- Customer satisfaction
- Job site safety record
- Bid-to-win ratio
- Return on investment
Modern data platforms
Data platforms are composed of technology units that collect, transform, analyze, and deliver data. While data platforms are nothing new, they’re being constantly redefined. In fact, a key distinguishing feature of data platforms is expandability — the ability to grow with advances in technology.
When we’re talking about getting the most out of construction data and presenting it in an easily consumable way, modern data platforms like Microsoft Azure, come into play. Azure can harness leading-edge data technologies like Artificial Intelligence.
AI is often integrated into modern data platforms to provide advanced analytical capabilities and make it easier to process and analyze large amounts of data. AI techniques such as machine learning and deep learning can be used to automate tasks, detect patterns, make predictions, and provide insights based on data stored on a data platform.
Imagine the data points that would be valuable in the AEC industry:
- Market price indices: information on the cost of materials, labor, and equipment over time
- Inflation and economic indicators: analysis of the overall economic environment and its impact on construction costs
- Contractor and supplier data: analysis of the cost performance and efficiency of contractors and suppliers on previous projects.
- Industry benchmarks: comparison of a company’s cost performance with industry standards and best practices
- Predictive weather analysis: analysis of weather patterns and forecasts for potential disruptions to construction schedules
Putting it together
Traditional versus modern data analytics operate differently, but ultimately share the same goal: to derive insights that generate profits and propel continued growth.
Many digital tools are available for construction analytics, including software packages for project management, cost-estimating, safety management, data visualization, and predictive analytics. Or, you can consider an all-in-one construction management software solution that brings these capabilities together with a comprehensive suite of tools like Hitachi Solutions’ Engage for Construction. We’ve developed Engage for Construction as a one-stop solution to manage projects from start to finish, streamline processes, and provide the tools so you can make data-driven decisions.
Let us help
From connected, cloud-based construction management solutions to modern data platform development, Hitachi Solutions’ construction solutions and integration with Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Project Operations is helping more and more construction companies stay on top of today’s challenges and gain the visibility they need to maintain a viable profit margin.
Contact us today to learn more about our construction and data solutions built on the Microsoft platform using some of the most innovative technologies available today.