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Transforming construction data into business intelligence

Transforming construction data into business intelligence
The construction industry has always been great at producing data—binders full of it in the pre-digital age, and now terabytes of the same stuff, tucked away in the cloud. But there’s more value to data than simply recording what you’ve done. Business Intelligence (BI) is the process of using technology to analyze that data and to generate critical insight that companies can use to make better-informed business decisions.

“With margins hovering between two and three per cent on many projects, it doesn’t take much to wipe out the profit on your project,” says Kiran Penaka, product manager, Business Intelligence, Viewpoint Construction Software. “BI can give that back to you by looking between the lines to tease out strategies that will help you work more efficiently and increase your competitive advantage.”

However, companies often overlook BI because they see it as expensive and complicated technology. The Viewpoint platform makes it accessible by working in the background to extract actionable strategies based on user inputs.

“As many as 35 per cent of construction costs are accounted for by material waste and remedial work, so it’s essential to track costs and reduce spending,” says Penaka. “But it’s difficult to track expenses beyond the project level, such as tracking equipment inventory in a particular region, determining costs by supplier, or calculating the spend for a certain type of project. We allow companies to manage inventory and costs in every process from bidding to building so each project can be monitored by job, by supplier, by region, or whatever category they request.”

Here’s an example. If you monitor data on only a single project, you might be inclined to believe that some sub-trades or suppliers aren’t keeping up with the project. They’re frequently late or the material they deliver offers a defect rate that seems out of line. Chances are good someone on the team has a hunch about this, but those thoughts aren’t captured, aggregated, and shared throughout the company. 

“Unless your suspicions are shared with everyone across the organization, companies often keep using that same suppliers or trades, getting defective materials, holding up the project and losing money,” says Penaka. “With BI, managers can track each supplier on every job across all projects to understand the quality of work and take action to improve the situation.”

Government projects are increasingly being offered to companies that offer the lowest bid. Every penny counts, but costs can’t be based on best guesses.  

“A BI solution enables managers to easily gather accurate micro-data on similar projects they’ve done to create more accurate estimates and bids — even at the last minute,” says Penaka.  “You’ll be able to deliver the lowest bid you can make, based on solid information. If you get the project, you’ll know that you can execute it at a profit.”

BI also enables operational teams to track complex projects with huge amounts of data easily and ensure that schedules are achieved, resources are appropriately allocated, and teams are coordinated. A schedule analysis report can let you know whether the project is ahead or behind and help identify causes for delays to help avoid them in the future. 

“Say your crew completes only 90 per cent of the estimated number of feet they expected to complete today,” says Penaka. “When crew managers know each day where they are in relation to the schedule or budget, they can adjust more quickly, making up the difference and mitigating other possible effects related to the changes.”

BI can even improve risk management related to safety, contracts, defects, costing, and slowdowns. Look at projects across the company to identify trends and incidents that are putting your company at risk. For example, aggregating information on safety incidents, including near-incidents, across the company can allow you to modify your safety program to prevent more serious occurrences before they happen.

“BI has moved from a nice-to-have to a must-have for construction,” says Penaka. “Companies of any size can gain insights to give them a better picture of their entire business and its projects, and allow them to make smarter decisions.”

This content is sponsored by Viewpoint Construction Software in collaboration with ConstructConnect™ Media. To learn more about Viewpoint, visit www.viewpoint.com.


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