Bentley Infocenter

Visibility, predictability, and productivity are all essential principles of successful construction projects, particularly the large, complex infrastructure efforts that have become common in the public sector. Whether paper-driven or digital, your field-to-office workflows define how effective your organization is at achieving those principles.

However, with tighter timelines and budgets, conventional paper-based practices are ill-equipped to handle emerging demands from owners. The industry is at a turning point. Private and public entities, especially departments of transportation, are starting to demand more transparent processes that enable collaboration.

Those processes are inevitably digital in nature. While field teams often see technology as more hindrance than help, that perception must change to facilitate improved project visibility, predictability, and productivity.


The Digital Team

In the field, all data typically goes through the construction supervisor—the one responsible for overseeing the many tasks and various moving pieces on a job site. With a core focus on safety and work progress, supervisors need the right information at the right time about materials, equipment, and people to create accurate project forecasts.

For many of these individuals, paper-based processes are more comfortable and seemingly easier to record various project data. The daily report is a perfect example. The ability to capture what happened on site every day is an extremely important part of a supervisor’s workday. It is not uncommon for supervisors to have two daily diaries—one that is shared and one that is personal and more detailed with information regarding ongoing work and potential issues.

The more detailed accounting is often where the disconnect between field and office comes into play. For project managers or other members of the team, finding that information when it is needed can be challenging. Readily available and accurate data allows project managers and stakeholders to see, track and report progress, resolve issues, analyze data, and improve decision-making to keep the project moving.

From an issue resolution perspective, tracking field activity details six months prior could be costly. According to the Arcadis 2022 Global Construction Disputes Report, from 2020 to 2021 the average value of disputes declined by 3% across the globe but remains at historically high levels, compared to 2019 and earlier. The average time taken to resolve disputes increased significantly, by almost 15%, for the first time in three years[MT1] . There was also a consensus that the overall number of disputes increased. The report also stated that the second-highest cause of disputes globally was errors and omissions in contract documents. Errors in drawings, specifications, and design coordination often lead to increased delays and higher costs.

A digital database solves these challenges, as the information is available in a single searchable platform.

The fascinating thing about the digitization of the construction process is that supervisors and other project team members have a simple way to capture and share information right in their hands with smartphones—and once they see that value, building on the digital workflow becomes much easier and more accepted.

construction man

Having a system in place for capturing images in the field, or sharing job site notes, provides tremendous value across the project.

Capturing Progress

Progress reporting comes in a variety of ways from field reports, schedules and even photographs.

Having a system in place for capturing images in the field, or sharing job site notes, provides tremendous value across the project. With today’s construction management apps, it is easy to access, manage, and georeference photos, videos, models, and files in seconds—both in the field and the office. A bonus is that these details are filterable by geolocation, date/time, context, and content.

Ultimately, having historical records is important from a field-to-office perspective for progress management, issue resolution and inspections.

The adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is never truer than on a job site—and how convenient is it that most people have a camera readily available with their phones. For example, on a piping job in Australia, the contractor had delivered the water pipes to the site in preparation for installation. In the middle of the night, someone came along with a shotgun and put holes in the side of the pipes. The contractor had pictures of the pipes when they were delivered and digitally compared those images to new pictures taken of the pipes with shotgun holes. The team digitally marked the bullet holes to show the extent of the problem to the customer along with the estimated time and cost to repair and replace the pipes. Their customer appreciated the detailed assessment and the plans for resolution and agreed to the delay.

There are also plenty of examples of jobs where one of the project team members took a photo to show the completed work. Users often mention how these photos may reveal additional information that the user may not have even been aware of when capturing the photo in the first place. Those photos and other digital data also become an essential part of timely progress payments.

Digital documentation is an audit trail that can support dispute resolution or contract litigation. Document review is often the most tedious part of any dispute resolution. A quality digital workflow provides an effective audit trail that supports resolution, particularly when disputes go to mediation, arbitration, or litigation.

While the value of job site photos, documents, logs, models, and other data shared with the office is clear to most, the sheer quantity gathered can also create a hurdle in the field-to-office workflow. A familiar data management process for contractors of all sizes has been to store data, such as photos, on a workgroup or W-drive. In that case, when an issue arises, someone needs to scroll through all the images to find the appropriate one for the issue at hand. While the files and photos might be structured by date or topic, it’s still typically a lot of data.

Structured data is incredibly important to minimize the administrative burden, sparking a next step in an organization’s digital journey. It is often the point where a digital construction management solution that facilitates access, capture, and communication of job site information comes into play. For supervisors and project managers, the value of digital data becomes evident quickly.


The Reality of Cost Controls

Construction margins, no matter the scope and scale of the project, are typically very small. Knowing when, where, and how long equipment is used, the material quantities, the costs and delivery schedules, and labor hours on a regular basis is essential to achieving high productivity goals.

Many contractors only know their cost position at month’s end or the first week of the subsequent month, which minimizes any chance of recovery or adjustment from activities or issues that arose in the previous weeks.

Any field team will tell you that knowing costs and timelines on a daily or weekly basis is a goal worth achieving because the sooner a project can recover from an issue, the more successful the project. Beyond specific costs, technology helps to demonstrate productivity and performance. It answers the question, “Where is my project in terms of schedule and budget?” with accuracy and speed.

These are questions that every supervisor and project team want to know—and, with a digital workflow, the answers are readily available.


Supply Chain and Logistics

The pandemic and subsequent supply chain shortages spotlighted the need for improved workflows to place and track necessary materials and equipment in the construction space. Once again digital workflows are essential to improving past practices. There are even applications that rely on artificial intelligence to streamline materials procurement for contractors, even tracking delivery slips and invoices to catch errors and minimize delays.

Critical to effectively managing supply chains is the digital workflow.

For example, a contractor charged with replacing a 150-year-old sewage tunnel relied on 4D modeling for collaborative planning and digital construction management. Through the seamless connection between the 3D model and the construction management solution, the team was able to integrate supply chain models from different file formats into coordinated models.

As issues arose on the project, the field-based crews could notify the project management team in the office, who subsequently used the digital workflow to evaluate options for resolution to ensure optimal constructability. With model-based assessments, they can analyze options—including the availability of materials, equipment, or other resources—to support the field team. They were able to resolve potential clashes and manage concurrent works amid multiple subcontractors working together in a highly congested site.

Construction technology

Construction technology enables the ready access to real-time information, which makes field crews more productive and can save time.

Enabling Lifecycle Connections

Most people understand that technology enables the ready access to real-time information, which makes field crews more productive and can save time.

In one case, a contractor was working on a long linear road job. For the supervisor, a digital workflow allowed him to turn his work truck into an office. Everything he needed to manage—such as progress updates, crew timesheet management, or subcontractor submittals—could be done at the site in his truck. No more driving back to the office.

The benefits of a construction digital delivery are many. They include more predictable project outcomes, improved cost and time management, and, down the road, the ability to use artificial intelligence to capture and index pictures, manage PDFs, do form-based workflows, document controls, and manage projects.

Digital construction management applications and basic field capture are becoming increasingly commonplace in the industry, building a foundation for much better digital connections. The transition to digital field-to-office workflows is not just about construction execution. It is also about connecting the entire lifecycle of an asset for better performance, safety, visibly, predictability, and productivity.

Construction management firms provide services to help transform 2D and spreadsheet-based methods to digital office-to-field workflows that support the needs of supervisors and other field workers while providing office staff the timely data for lifecycle project management. An effective field-to-office digital delivery method is all about data continuity, data that moves dynamically through a design-construct-operations lifecycle. The value of this environment is transformational for project teams, customers, and the industry overall.