It’s happening slowly and carefully, but continually: the construction sector is becoming more modernized. Digitalization and new technologies that simplify processes are already shaping its present – and its future. However, because this is a very traditional, complex sector where it’s hard to make new changes, this is moving slower than other fields on this path toward digitalization.
Companies have an opportunity here: fostering innovative atmospheres and training their employees in order to encourage incorporating these new tools. The benefits of doing so can be seen quickly, but for them to have a real impact, the workers themselves must also be aware of them and value them.
The data that transforms processes
Digitalization and new platforms for managing construction projects are making it easier to manage data. They allow generating, searching, approving, and sharing documents from anywhere and from different devices. This ensures, for instance, that operators have access to all the information (even the most up-to-date) from the construction sites themselves and that managers can continually monitor the project from anywhere.
The tools specifically for this sector of the construction industry are starting to integrate specialized tools, such as ones that allow information to be visualized directly on-site, like BIM model visualization next to blueprints or documents (as is the case with Dalux). In addition, using these tools prevents document duplication. These are stored in the cloud instead of on a local server, which makes it easier to keep track of the information gathered and keep it in order.
The main advantage of all this is simplifying processes. This lets us leave the traditional model behind, a model where the manager or foreman is on-site every day and must fill out various paper documents; it also lets us adopt much simpler, more efficient systems by digitizing the process, using tablets to fill in information so that the team can see it immediately.
Thus, the new processes depart from the system with delivery notes, signatures, and deliveries, replacing it with the use of a digital platform. This lets us save time by reducing the number of steps and procedures, as well as paper, making the processes simpler and more sustainable.
360 images, drones, and point clouds
In the race to digitalization, data isn’t the only thing to come into play. There are also new disruptive technologies that promise to transform the possibilities of construction. At Ferrovial, for instance, we are committing to introducing cameras that can be used to create 360 images and take periodic captures of everything happening on site at that moment. By using the OpenSpace platform, we can compare the images from different dates or with the BIM models, and we can access it from anywhere, making it more accessible to the entire team.
This way, the construction work is connected to the office, and the possibility of working remotely is greater, even from other cities or countries. This technology also offers other benefits, such as keeping information up-to-date and preventing duplicates.
Another example is point clouds: by using lasers, we can take millions of points millimetrically and generate a virtual model of the project; then, we can compare this with the BIM model generated or with the project blueprints, and we have a faithful representation of what is actually built. In our sector, the goal is to represent a structure as faithfully as possible in order to work on the project digitally, which lets us review the project and find errors before starting construction.
Drones, on the other hand, enable viewing structures at any time and getting to the areas that are farthest away or even dangerous. All the possibilities of connection that mobile devices offer also come into play.
All these tools already have a place in several of our projects. One example is Chile’s power line, where data is being collected by drones to track the production of the electric towers and using Dalux to visualize the project documentation, plans, and production, and quality monitoring with geolocation, allowing the entire team to always have access to the most up-to-date information.
Another example would be the Club de Mar in Palma de Mallorca, where Dalux is being used to visualize of the model in the field, Procore is used for information management and photographs of the work, and all the information is visualized through interactive panels, offering greater control of the information generated daily.
Digitalization has ceased to be an idea of the future and is now part of the present. Companies in our sector must make a firm commitment to encourage and promote digitalization because the only other option is to be left out. As the world of industry evolves, so must the world of construction.
That is why it is so important to promote the use of new technologies internally, offering training to employees, facilitating the adoption of those resources, sharing success stories, and directly supporting the projects. Ferrovial is harnessing this opportunity and committing to it: for those of us in the department of Digital Construction and Data Management, this is our goal.