A new whitepaper put out by FMI Corp. shows that although the construction industry generates huge sums of data in almost everything it does, very little of that data is put to use in any sort of meaningful way. According to the paper, E&C produces approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each and every day. If you think you have a rough idea of how big a number that is, I assure you, you don’t.
In spite of a virtually endless supply, a staggering 96% of that data goes wholly unused, according to FMI. For companies who fail to put their data to work for them, it’s a great big missed opportunity to improve operations and bottom lines by using a resource they already have readily available.
Data comes from all over. It’s produced by everything from company emails, wearable devices worn by workers or sensor devices embedded in equipment, blueprints, financials, drones, and elsewhere. To say nothing of the constant bombardment of RFIs and change orders. Data even comes from external sources like traffic or weather reports.
It’s so prevalent, data has become a business ecosystem unto itself. Forrester Research recently said “all companies are in the data business now.” IDC has predicted that firms who successfully analyze and utilize their data will extract an additional $430 billion in productivity benefits, according to Bloomberg. But in spite of all this, much of the business world lags behind what’s currently possible.
“If you look at companies today, most of them are not very good at using the data they have to make better decisions in real time,” Dell founder Michael Dell told Forbes.
Part of the reason most data goes unused is the sheer volume of it. With so much data being generated, it becomes a kind of white noise jumble and overwhelms the human mind’s capacity for processing it all, much less figuring out what to do with it (hence the “Big” in “Big Data”). That’s where technologies like analytics and machine learning step in. Turning them loose on mountains of data can help boil it all down into what’s relevant, what’s usable and if anything seems out of whack.
Turning them loose on mountains of data can help boil it all down into what’s relevant, what’s usable and if anything seems out of whack.
Without analytics, much of the data generated remains mired in “unstructured” form, which is of limited use. Analytics provides a lens to look into that swirling mass and pluck out the relevant bits, which can then be organized and interpreted in a way that provides real actionable insights into everything from how much to bid for a project to materials orders to when and where to deploy workers and equipment.
Rather than a human manager trying to predict the unpredictable across multiple concurrent projects, analytics uses all available data points to offer multiple, algorithmically derived courses of action, and can even change its calculations based on varying external factors. This enables firms to make the best possible choices at any given moment, reducing waste and rework, which according to Forbes, represents 35% of the costs in construction projects.
Of course, it’s no guarantee that construction companies even have the personnel to handle managing its data. An interesting suggestion in the FMI paper was the creation of a new role in the industry, a “construction technologist,” who would “[combine] industry knowledge with a background in research analytics to drive performance and generate strategic business insights.”
Having such a person on staff to take ownership of data-centric efforts would ease the burden of less tech-savvy employees, and let the benefits of properly examined data trickle down the organization without anyone else needing to concern themselves with the technical aspects. Construction companies have not historically devoted large percentages of their revenue to a well-staffed IT department, but having even one expert in charge of data management could pay immediate dividends.
Whether they mean to or not, construction companies will continue to mass-produce data. For the most part it’s just sitting there, waiting to be sifted through and deciphered in ways that can unlock real value to firms that take the plunge into the data pool. From reducing waste, placing better bids and keeping more consistently on schedule, there are many pockets of profitability hiding in those troves of data.
To learn more about how using a construction management solution like Procore allows you to capture valuable real-time data, and will help you reduce rework, boost teamwork and increase your project margins, click here for a quick demonstration.