Bluebeam and Building Magazine hosted a roundtable in the UK filled with industry leaders who wanted to address the perspectives, pain points and progress made within the area of mobile project communication.
The value of timely and accurate information on a construction project may be the one constant within the ever-evolving construction world. Although technology has evolved to help the exchange of this crucial information, the process of communicating from the trailers to the jobsite can still be an elusive challenge—even for the most savvy of firms. Building Magazine and Bluebeam sat down with some industry leaders to gain perspective on implementing and streamlining this highly collaborative process.
Invited participants included:
- (Chair) Ike Ijeh, Building Magazine Correspondent
- Shaun Farrell, Associate Director of technology, Turner and Townsend
- Thomas Lindner, Group BIM Manager, Hurley Palmer Flatt
- Gibbs Burke, Senior Construction Manager (Facades), Ballymore Group
- Laura Brown, Group BIM Manager, Bowmer & Kirkland
- Davor Stojnic, Senior Mechanical Design Engineer, Hilson Moran
- Vicki Holmes, Learning Partner, Multiplex
- Sasha Reed, VP Industry Advocacy, Bluebeam
- James Chambers, UK Country Manager, Bluebeam
Lack of standards
One consistent obstacle to successfully transferring data from the office to the field was the general lack of project standards across the industry. Multiplex Learning Partner Vicki Holmes explained, “It’s an element of standardization. What we’ve allowed in the industry, is that anyone who has a good idea can give it a go. Which means you sometimes have four projects all running differently but trying to achieve the same outcome. There’s no standardization or structure, so you then can’t assess what’s working and what’s not and build on that.”
No finish line
Having a lack of standardized processes can also mislead company leaders to thinking that any tech implementation is successful. Reducing or eliminating paper is a great money and time saver, but achieving value still involves evaluating all processes to maximize productivity and eliminate risk. James Chambers, UK country manager for Bluebeam suggested that companies cannot simply relax because they have “gone digital.” “The problem is when you digitize, the gap to get people moving from analogue to digital comes from trying to replicate what they used to do and that’s great. But keep moving forward so that you then take this initial grasp and inertia of farming to digital and improve and make it more efficient to actually get to where you need to be. Stopping at point A and saying, ‘That’s it, we’ve gone digital.’ You’ve got to do more than that.”
Office to field
Without clear deliverables, expectations and training, workers in the field can be left unsure of the accuracy and relevancy of the information. Gibbs Burke, senior construction manager for Ballymore Group offered his take. “Coming back to that gap, if it’s so wide from the design to the field, which is miles apart, and then you sit there and say, ‘Here’s the new state-of-the-art technology, go at it boys!’ Their iPad will get used as a hammer real quick. [laughs]. You have to teach them and you have to be willing to invest into teaching them and people don’t want to because they’re on a program; they’re on a budget.”
One thing the group could agree on is that construction has always been collaborative, even though mainstream messaging might disagree. It might be time for the industry to take the lead and redefine that term going forward. At any given time, a job could have dozens of subcontractors, so just about all construction projects rely on collaboration. “Your BIM manager actually becomes more of a collaboration manager themselves,” added Holmes. Laura Brown, group BIM manager for Bowmer & Kirkland underscored the sentiment. “It’s understandable, what collaborate means, isn’t it? It isn’t just communication, it’s getting value for everything. That’s what collaboration is.”
The culture of collaboration is as important as the tools firms use to collaborate. Using mobile applications to streamline processes in order to become more efficient will only work if the workers themselves believe that they are delivering projects in the best way possible. For some, it means understanding that the technology is just another tool; it’s not a replacement solution, it is the new standard platform for accurate project communication. The more exposure, education and training involved, the more likely a firm is to see the full potential of mobile technology on the jobsite.