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Reading “Tea Leaves”

I’m not superstitious. I’ve always needed more concrete evidence, but that doesn’t prevent me from marveling at the unexplained. One of my wonders is, why measure data for just one use? Data collection and analysis is a beacon of hope for innovation and improvement. Cyber-security threats, Labor shortages, and the cost of materials threaten the current construction industry. However, amidst these adversities lies the opportunity for transformation through the strategic use of data.

Power in practice

Big business, small business, construction business, retail business, and on and on, all can rely on accurate data. Proper data analytics can modernize the approach to customer service and support, daily operations processes, labor allocation, and more. This integration of technology not only enhances safety and efficiency but also ensures that real-time, actionable data back every decision. To name a few data-driven solutions for our industry:

  • Building Information Modeling: why not see the possibilities before mistakes and physical builds happen?
  • Historical onsite data: hours, units, expenses – one of my favorites and the simplest metrics that give you the most insight into the jobs.
  • IoT Devices: These are cool gadgets, but they will need to communicate with some sort of interface to provide any results. But they can be vital, especially where safety and security are concerned.
  • Telemetrics or TGPS: track your equipment, mileage, hours, downtime, uptime, and idle time. Hint: all of this should align with the operator’s time and productivity.
  • Collaborative Tech: Software that can be used by many to share information is vital. Modern cloud-based software provides room for both autonomy and collaboration in this brave new world.

The Oracles

There is a plethora of solutions that provide the “tea leaves” or data. Of course, but you’ll need some folks to read them. And I am not talking about powering up super complex formulas or waiting for AI to crunch all the numbers. Much of this is common sense stuff that just needs some attention.

Payroll folks do wonderful things with hourly data and expenses. In many cases, they are the first to raise the red flag when things look out of place or are missing.

Superintendents and foremen are closest to the jobs and tasks on a daily basis. Their data entry should be the most accurate and should be entered daily. They are also a big part of the feedback loop regarding what is working and what is not and why. Let’s not forget to listen to our most important folks. Our labor teams are the company assets.

Project Managers and Engineers can do wonders with these numbers regarding scheduling and labor allocation. Are your PMs using the historical data to guide scheduling decisions? Have they analyzed current performance with past and anticipated upcoming risks to the job timeline?

Executives and upper management can use the aggregated data for vision and guidance as well as performance bonuses. Milestones achieved from project to project based on data driven decisions show dividends quarter to quarter so why not incentivize this activity?

Haunted by the Negatives

Are you secure against emerging threats? I have not met a construction executive or manager who does not consistently weigh the risks daily. Cyber-security is now at the forefront of our industry. These days, the chain of incidents resulting from an opened email attachment can be catastrophic. Would the cost of a penetration test (collecting data on the strengths and weaknesses of your computing systems) be far less? And how much time would you lose on priority projects? Would your team have the historical data to calculate and execute the recovery of both schedules and dollars?

Labor Shortages continue to shatter projected schedule completions. GCs and specialty contractors are in a relative “doom loop” over skilled labor. What is the risk? Billions of dollars in recovery and litigation fees and the compounded delays on the backlog. Here’s one example just from today:

The struggle is real and will expand from one week to the next.

Materials pricing has always been a factor in any economy, but currently, it weighs heavily on the minds of many as inflation looms large over everything. Uncertainty can only be overcome by some pre-planning and proper allocation of resources in a timely manner.

The Time is NOW!

It’s time for the construction industry to embrace a data-driven culture.

We must invest in the right tools and training to collect quality data and draw meaningful insights from it. Utilize our people to become the “readers of the tea leaves” and collaborate on the insights. Let’s not allow the negative trends to define our future; instead, let’s redefine our industry with the power of data.

We can build a more resilient, efficient, and profitable construction industry.

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