Completing the Cycle

From design to delivery, we have looked at why data should be a key driver of many aspects of construction and infrastructure and in each case, it is hard not to support the idea. But to do that, Ryan O’Neill believes that we have to change the traditional approach to managing data across our industry.

The norm in construction is to keep our data in siloes, often in the same organisation and certainly between companies. We have been conditioned to believe that data is a fantastic asset, and it is, but when it is locked away, it doesn’t really provide insights that can improve performance.

Do we need to look at how we share data to improve knowledge across the sector? Absolutely, because at the end of the day, we do not compete on data, we compete on design, construction methodologies and the talent of our teams; sharing certain elements of data across industry would not change that, but it could make our industry more efficient, our schedules, prices and programs more accurate and create efficiencies that increase the sector’s sustainability. If that occurs and we minimise overruns, minimise costly claim litigation and walk away from a project with a completed asset and a profit, everyone wins.

While I’m not denying it will take a cultural shift, it isn’t that big a shift if we look at project performance in Australia as summarised by the Australian Constructors Association:

Construction industry profits collapsed between 2014 to 20185 and many well-established construction businesses have gone out of business or been sold. The construction industry currently has the highest number of insolvencies of any major industry sector in Australia. Considering mega projects in isolation, the picture is even worse, with a recent report identifying that Australian contractors incurred losses of $6 billion on mega projects completed between 2000 and 2015, representing an average project loss of 16%. The report predicted if no action was taken there was the potential of $11 billion of losses for projects undertaken between 2015 and 20207 . This is likely to be an underestimate given the recent spate of high profile project issues.

So, here are the areas where I think we can use data to close the cycle on project performance:

  • Learning from our mistakes – we always include a project review at the end of a major piece of work. But how seriously do we take it, especially when the pressure is on to move personnel to the next project and to get on with the job? With the availability of data, reviews should be easier to undertake and to gain valuable insights from
  • Incorporating past project data into new project planning – completing the cycle by ensuring that future projects can easily review past projects and factor positive and negative delivery elements to brief teams developing tenders, preliminary designs and construction methodologies.
  • Sharing should support collaboration – the more we share, the more we know, the more we know, the more collaborative we can be. If that worked across bid, design, delivery and review, the sector would be healthier.
  • BIM and CIM – Taking models and handing over to the client complete digital assets containing valuable information such as maintenance regime, supplier information and materials tagged in the model. If provided in consistent and common file formats it can become a transferrable asset, for use on future projects, repairs, upgrades and more.

Completing the cycle is something we should all aspire to. How can we make it happen? At some point, key clients, such as federal, state and local government departments will mandate a shared data approach. So maybe it is time for industry to work with our professional bodies and associations to drive the change and set the tone for the future, rather than waiting for a direction to be pushed through to the sector?

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