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Technology is key to COVID proof construction sites

According to the CIF (Cost, Insurance, and Freight), over 60,000 construction employees are now on PUP and thousands of their jobs are permanently threatened.

If you wanted an indicator that this industry really needs to start considering change and becoming more digitalised, then this is a prime example. If we had our story straight, and accepted technology sooner, there would be far less chance of ever needing to shut this industry right now.

We are in a conundrum right now where many do not want to accept technology because they prefer the chaos and opportunity it creates through claim culture, yet avoiding technology and digitalisation will stunt our growth as an industry and result in weeks and months like we have right now, where the sector must slow.

This week we look at a few processes and technologies that would put comfort in the governments perception of our industry, and see our sites open and put some level of certainty on our economy where an estimated €1.25bn is lost per week of lockdown and the lure that Ireland brings to Foreign Direct Investors gets somewhat diminished.

Why we aren’t collectively strategizing all our sites to be more digitally advanced is beyond me.

There are measures in place to digitalise our industry, with a recently launched competitive challenge-based grant called 'Build Digital Project for the Construction Sector in 2021'. However, this industry needs digitalisation now, not in 5 years. We believe this want and calling from our industry is why we have grown so rapidly in the past 2 years.

I do not think we will ever get back to how we worked before, not because COVID will never go away, it will. But society has shifted.

People have found a new work life balance, and shown that productivity can be achieved while WFH (Work From Home). All the big firms, whether in law, technology or finance, have all committed to permanent new WFH policies, which, no doubt, will be benchmarked for other industries over the coming months. So what will that mean for construction?

We are slightly different, for the most part, as we require the workforce to be on site. For that workforce having the correct PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is key.

Is your PPE Wearable?

Before we talk about the more advanced technology, we should highlight, that, if anything, we have successfully culturized, as an industry, Health and Safety.

As a setting, or an environment, you would have thought that the building site is one which is somewhat capable of adapting to the laws of COVID living, considering that typically as a standard user wears steel toe boots, a helmet, gloves, a hi-vis vest, glasses and face mask.

Now, it wouldn’t take a whole lot of more innovative thinking to add to this list of mandatory protective equipment by introducing smart wearable technology to the list.

The wearable technology industry will be worth over €54 Billion by 2023.

With the above-mentioned PPE being standard. It is the perfect industry to adapt these items to smarter technology and provide a new invisible layer of safety that will be far more effective than the traditional hard hats and boots, and that is data. Data will be able to protect us better than any physical piece of PPE.

At GagaMuller Group, we have recently developed our first wearable device - Sourcetrace, in partnership with Tyndall Institute in Cork, which allows a full trace history of all breach locations, durations and distances recorded for every site worker, every day on site.

This data can be stored for up to 14 days, where, in the event of a positive case on site, it gives the COVID Compliance officer an immediate record of all contact tracing, allowing them to take immediate action in managing the spread.

We are not saying “Hey, why don’t you all go buy our devices”, while it would be a good idea, we are simply expressing a motion that this industry should hurry up in accepting technology as a whole as it would solve a lot of problems.

There is lots of wearables out there to chose from, just pick what suits your organisation and trial it. Or if you have an idea, why not take a chance and go build it, it only took us 4 months to develop Sourcetrace.

GagaMuller Group will not stop developing technology, we are hoping that we are seen as the first through the wall of a plethora of new companies, apps and wearables to our industry and hoping to be the catalyst to many new start-ups entering this exciting and, relatively, unexplored space.

The opportunities are endless in what can be achieved with a smarter more connected construction site. We expect the big players in the industry to move first when it comes to wearable solutions, but, must we highlight that it really isn’t as far fetched as you might think, many of you are wearing a wearable right now!

Correct Planning of works

Looking in on the finance and software industries, a common trait to both is that there are a lot of emphasis on task management applications online.

Somewhat similar to the construction industry, a schedule is developed and tasks are assigned with resources and status updates.

Good planning through user friendly applications is a must in order to bridge the gap in communications by operating remotely, especially as a common problem identified since COVID is that being remote you don’t hear the hearsay that you would in a normal office or site setting.

There is many good apps out there worth investigating for this ( and Asana being the market leaders). However, at GagaMuller Group we actually developed our very own, which is built specifically for construction. Again, we are not saying “hey, go buy PlanLoader”, we are saying that having an interface for communications with your site team is really important now, and PlanLoader just so happens to be build for construction.

Those of you who work with GagaMuller Group know how military we are with planning and execution, and you will be familiar with the obvious benefits which PlanLoader or similar might bring.

Practicing Lean Principles, Last Planning and Tracking PPC (Planned Percentage Complete) is critical to success in these times. We built PlanLoader before COVID, and are only now letting it out to market. Why? Because, we were our own biggest critics when it came to getting it right.

PlanLoader is a location focused task & resource management application.

We are currently rolling PlanLoader out with a large property developer in Ireland and the results on PPC calculations, early warning and root cause analysis are extremely beneficial.

But, what’s most exciting, is how predictive analytics is possible where the app learns from activity durations and crew sizes for your future projects. It will change the game for how we work forever.

Reducing unnecessary time on site

Although we have different needs than that in the finance industry, as stated earlier, with the most obvious requirement to be on site to build. This isn't to say we can't reduce the stigma on a number of more mid to senior level management being based off site.

If the correct processes and technology, all of which are available today, are implemented, it may reduce the need for mid to senior management presence on site totally.

It is predicted that management roles may not be required to be on site with many predicted to transition to a hybrid WFH and intermittent travel to site setting. Work from home Monday, Tuesday and Friday, and work at the 'site' Wednesday and Thursday is the preferred option seen in recent polls for commuters in the finance industry.

It took a global pandemic for us to see the value of WFH and work life balance. In order to maintain this, there is a lot of technology immediately available to make this the new norm.

360 Camera progress updates: Factory witness tests for equipment, site walks for area handover, site walks for weekly valuation reports, site walks for progress updates and much much more can all be transitioned quite easily to remote friendly. Providing a daily 360 camera walk through of your site. Instead of the traditional 10-15 senior management daily or weekly site walks, take one site worker and a 360 camera, and you can give your senior management a day by day immersive experience in a live virtual walk environment, no matter where in the world they may be. Even buy them a VR set if you really want them to feel involved.

Data driven real time progress updates: If you are using apps such as BIM 360 Field, Procore or PlanLoader. PlanLoader provides real time instant messaging and progress updates from the site team on a user friendly mobile app. Did you know that you can connect all this data to a SQL (Structured Query Language) database and configure it to read off your project schedule? You can have a real time dashboard that gives you drop line against your program. Visual floor plans of room readiness, install completion, outstanding issues and much more.

At GagaMuller Group, we have been offering this service and built many digital command centres for full project oversight using data from site to inform better decisions to the senior management.

This interface can be web based using Power BI, allowing management to see high level or drill down to root cause, if needed. Previously, we targeted C-Level executives as our market, providing them with information on their portfolio at their fingertips. However, today everyone from Quantity Surveyors, Project Managers and Site Managers want this experience as it reduces their need to be on site.

Drone Updates: There are a lot more organisations that are investing heavily in Drone technology, and for good reason. Flying a drone each day can give the senior management teams an aerial visual that they can quantify plant movement, identify logistics areas and laydowns, calculate areas and volumes, mark up and overlay drawings, and much more, all at a relatively low cost.

Partnering this with other apps available on the market such as Evercam and PlanLoader's Geo-spatial map view can really give the Management and owners a real time birds eye view of their projects.

More emphasis on Off-Site: The entire industry is scrambling to provide modular services as a key differentiator. Modular construction is maturing and soon we will see more and more products being ordered and installed on site as opposed to traditional stick build. A move towards upskilling a new workforce is already underway with many re-design and engineering occurring up and down the country. Those who buy into the 3D model and fabrication level of detail will be those who prosper in this market shift.

If you are unaware of this shift, you best start reading up on it as it is already happening. GagaMuller Group is working at strategy level with some of the biggest organisations in the world in order to make this happen, assisting by building custom applications and software to make it achievable. Procurement strategies are really all that stands in the way of this from getting here sooner.

Digital Surveying: The Digital Surveyor role is going to be one which becomes heavily dependant in this new world. In a world where we are slowly transitioning to the IKEA model. It is for this reason that laser scanning and point clouds will become more important.

Use Laser Scan Technology to validate the install on site and ensure setting out is maintained. GagaMuller Group provides a digital surveying team on many large scale projects ensuring equipment sizes at FWT are correct, interfaces and connections at site prep are ready, install isn’t effecting next trades, and decreasing delays and claims on site. This role compliments the 360 camera operator & drone pilot, especially when data is fed back to the PM and QS for their narratives and decision making.

It is clear from the speed in which GagaMuller Group has grown over the past 2 years that this is a real industry requirement. Our value is being seen mainly at client side now as we continue to expand our business with some of the biggest clients in the world.


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