Through “connected construction”, software solutions company Trimble Viewpoint is enabling real-time decision-making, increasing productivity and boosting profit margins in the Australian construction industry.
Despite a host of obstacles, from the pandemic to floods and nearly everything in between, the Australian construction industry has made impressive strides towards digitisation. Many contractors have traded manual information gathering and disconnected software for connected, real-time data powered by cloud-based workflows, mobile applications, and analytical and forecasting tools, like those from Trimble Viewpoint, that bring entire project teams together. This “connected construction” environment is helping them overcome traditional and new operational challenges and transforming how the construction industry works.
Jon Fingland, Vice President and Category General Manager at Trimble, has been with the company for over 22 years and understands the importance of data and connected construction. Today, his role is focused on construction operations, in particular the company’s software and solutions that help manage and deliver construction projects.
Transforming the way construction works
“Our mission at Trimble is to transform the way the world works by connecting the digital and physical worlds,” says Fingland. “In the construction industry, that’s about connecting construction across the lifecycle to help our customers deliver projects on time, on budget and with confidence. We have to do that by connecting people, assets, workflow and projects with the right data at the right time to drive very specific outcomes.”
“We are outcome-driven – our focus is to increase productivity, safety, predictability, quality, and in today’s world, create a more sustainable environment.”
By operating in the cloud and leveraging real-time tools and workflow through Trimble Viewpoint, contractors like Growthbuilt, a Sydney-based design and construction company, are working smarter rather than harder, increasing once razor-thin profit margins.
Improving a Sydney-based contractor’s bottom line
It’s connected construction that Ewan Van Zyl, Chief Financial Officer, and General Manager of Finance and Risk at Growthbuilt, attributes to the company’s ability to navigate change and push through industry barriers. While some other companies scrambled to modernise during the COVID-19 pandemic, Growthbuilt used Trimble Viewpoint technology and processes to keep every aspect of the business connected and moving forward.
It’s a distinction that sets Growthbuilt apart. “With connected data and workflows, we know everyone is working from the same information and that information is up to date and accessible by anyone, at any time,” says Van Zyl. “Trimble Viewpoint allows us to work from a single source of data across the company.”
“It provides the visibility and insights that reduce errors and increase productivity so we can deliver the best possible project outcomes.”
The quest for a single source of truth
Access to accurate construction data is just as important as having the right tools in hand, but many contractors continue to struggle with the information silos that have plagued the construction industry for decades.
Contractors often have numerous teams using their own technology tools, some of which don’t communicate seamlessly with each other (if at all). As a result, multiple versions of the same data exist, leading to manual data collection and input that requires valuable time and resources. This can open the door to errors and omissions that trigger design changes and rework.
For instance, one set of data might be used to design a project, while another is used to translate those designs into workable construction plans or phases. Once construction starts, project managers and operations teams might collect and disperse their own sets of data, while accounting teams spend hours poring over that same data to make sense of it or keep billing cycles going. Executives and owners then require an entirely different set of data to understand their company’s financial health.
Running faster, better, cheaper, safer, greener
Trimble recently did a survey of contractors specifically around their use of data and Fingland says the survey results speak for themselves. “What we found is the contractors that are using their data and analysing it are providing better budgets; they’re improving productivity, profitability and safety,” he says.
“Trimble Viewpoint works with its customers consistently throughout the market to understand their productivity rates against crews, equipment and operators, and help them make more informed decisions.
“Data can help unlock how to deploy capital in the most effective way for your business,” adds Fingland.
Construction projects today generate mounds of data, but without a connected construction environment that standardises and makes it available to the right people at the right time, making good use of data can be difficult. “If you’ve been running a business for a decade or more, you’re probably sitting on a big chunk of data that is super powerful and shouldn’t be wasted,” Van Zyl adds.
Actionable, real-time data empowers all stakeholders
With cloud-based technologies, this dream of a connected construction environment has become a reality. Today, cloud platforms power workflows from a single set of uniform data that is connected across project lifecycles and accessible by all stakeholders in real-time.
Data can be collected and accrued by mobile applications on smartphones or tablets, as well as through web-based data portals. This streamlines workflows and empowers contractors and back-office staff with actionable intelligence to make the best decisions for their projects, teams and the bottom line.
“By connecting the office to the field with Trimble Viewpoint, we can help create an environment where we can attract a different workforce, where we can manage the supply chain challenges that exist today, and enable new ways to construct,” Fingland says.
“It creates transparency and ultimately creates a better experience for the customer, where they can deliver the work better and more efficient in real-time.”
How everyone benefits from standardised data
Different stakeholders can work with standardised data in ways that make sense to them, using tools that put segment data into the formats they need to understand and act on it appropriately. With Trimble Viewpoint’s connected construction software solutions:
- Executives can access real-time dashboards for up-to-the-minute visibility into projects as they’re happening.
- Accounting, human resources and payroll teams have the properly routed and formulated data they need at their fingertips to keep bills and employees paid and cash flows fluid.
- Project teams and subcontractors can work confidently, knowing that everyone is working from the same page and are immediately alerted when changes are made.
- Owners, designers and architects can respond to change requests quickly with a clear understanding of how they’ll impact the finished product.
Most importantly, with Trimble Viewpoint’s advanced analytic and business intelligence tools, construction professionals can break down, sort and study data quickly and in new ways for insights that mitigate risks, maximise performance and keep projects moving.
The connected construction journey: where to start
Although many of the contractors who have long resisted the cloud and new technologies are coming around, some aren’t sure where to start their connected construction journey.
Fingland explains that any transformation initiative should start with clear objectives that tie to larger company goals. This ensures the initiative receives the attention, support and focus it needs to succeed. The outcomes of connected construction will become even more valuable if they align with the company’s larger strategic initiatives and economics.
“When adopting a new technology, first and foremost you should work backwards from the desired outcome to understand what strategic business driver you’re trying to solve,” Finland says.
More keys to a successful connected construction initiative
A connected construction initiative also needs a dedicated budget and requires top-down support and endorsement for success. For processes to change, teams also must see the value of the new process and receive ongoing support through frequent communication and skills development. Whether implementing a new way to do quantity take-offs or moving to fabrication-level models, it’s critical to build trust and confidence in the re-engineered process.
For Growthbuilt, taking a close look at processes has been an important step that Van Zyl recommends prioritising. “Review the processes that have the biggest impact on your company, business or operations,” he says. “I would rarely recommend reviewing every process in your business because it would take too long.”
“Instead, pick the processes that are the most important to your business and have the highest risks associated with them.”
Taking an inventory of existing data and quantifying its value will help identify opportunities for improving it to drive better and faster decision-making, Fingland says. Because data is invaluable in a connected construction ecosystem, fostering a company culture that values data as a core asset and continually seeks to capture, curate and use it for maximum effect is vital.
Staying competitive among increasing demands
If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that the construction industry’s digital transformation will continue at a rapid pace. Once hesitant to embrace change, contractors who are digitising their operations and moving to cloud-based technologies are staying competitive among tightening margins, rising costs, increasingly complex projects and labour challenges.
“Increasingly, projects will require reporting, accurate data, quicker cycles and other demands that make real-time data and workflows a necessity,” Fingland says.
“The cost of working with disconnected systems and information silos will only increase for those who don’t digitise, as competitors turn to connected construction solutions that make data aggregation, analysis, reporting and workflow automation not only possible, but easy.”
To explore Trimble Viewpoint’s connected construction software solutions, visit www.viewpoint.com/en-au