The construction industry has a well documented problem with productivity. While there are many contributing factors, here we focus on just one - a reliance on point solutions in construction project management.
Point solutions are tools that only address one part of a workflow. The problem being, that to complete an entire project, you need multiple separate tools.
On a small scale, say, building a single-family home, point solutions are fairly neutral: not great, not terrible.
Scale up that project to building a multi-million dollar high rise or entire subdivision, and things get dicey fast.
In many construction projects, every process or sometimes even every step of a process, relies on a different device. This makes it difficult to track progress, communicate between teams, and organize project data.
Mobile geographic information system (GIS) software offers a solution. With GIS based in cloud and available on any device, companies in construction (or really any built-world industry) can:
- Make and view updates in real-time
- Increase communication between field and office teams
- Streamline daily processes
- Track progress more efficiently
- Unify project data in a single place
Below we'll dive into the benefits of using Mobile GIS in construction project management. We'll also explore a few applications for GIS in construction: surveying, drone integration, and automatic as-builts.
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If you're new to geospatial technology, here's a refresher on the basics of GIS.
Benefits of Cloud GIS in Construction Project Management
We've already listed the benefits of using Mobile GIS for construction: unified project data, simplified daily processes, and updates in real-time.
This helps to increase construction productivity, helping organizations to finish projects faster, with less headaches, ultimately saving time and money.
Many challenges on construction sites can be traced to incomplete information and/or lack of communication. Real-time updates solve both.
Lack of information causes delays, mistakes, and frustration all around. It can even lead to rework and disputes, and there’s nothing worse than having to do the same piece of work multiple times or watching a once-positive work relationship go sour.
Mobile GIS enables teams to add data, update plans, and manage tasks in real-time: bridging the information and communication gap.
These capabilities are possible because Mobile GIS can be accessed via any web browser, meaning it's usable on any computer or mobile device.
Real time updates help all project stakeholders - field teams, PMs, owners, and executives - to quickly understand a project's status: enabling effective communication, better decision making, and more efficient project management.
Connect field and office teams
Connecting work that happens in different locations can be difficult.
With point solutions and desktop GIS, teams can't connect until they are physically in the same place. This throttles data transfer, hampers communication, and creates project-slowing information bottlenecks.
Mobile GIS solves this issue by allowing field and office to interact with the same map-based view at the same time.
Office teams can create and instantly share site maps layered with aerial imagery, topography, and blueprints. Simultaneously, field teams can add photos, make annotations, track stockpile volume, and create as-builts - which can be viewed by the office in real-time.
Connecting field and office ensures everyone has the information they need when they need it. This reduces rework and redundant data entry, while increasing the chance of on-time, on-budget project
Construction projects create massive quantities of data. Just one project can generate terabytes, all coming in different formats: photos, videos, aerial surveys, spreadsheets, Shapefiles, and more.
We've already covered that construction project management relies heavily on point solutions. Data organization and management is where point solutions become particularly problematic.
That much data in that many formats, all on different devices, makes storage, transfer, and management difficult.
Mobile GIS provides a single platform for all project data.
Having a single repository for project data has significant benefits. For example, teams can create as-builts as they work, streamlining future pay apps.
Pay apps are a common source of disputes on construction projects.
Owners and contractors are often at odds, as both parties are at risk for significant financial loss. Usually problems arise when what's reported in a pay app doesn't match the initial bid.
Considering the scale of most construction projects, a discrepancy in and of itself isn't surprising. However, when dollar amounts reach hundreds of thousands, or even millions, contractors want to be sure they're paid appropriately and owners must keep an eye on the bottom line.
A single source of project truth has the potential to eliminate the problem completely.
Contractors can use documentation tools such as layered drone surveys, task management, or volumetric measurements to document work in real-time. Owners can check in as little or often as they like, tracking progress as it occurs.
Either way, unified data offers significant benefits for everyone.
Applications for Mobile GIS in Construction
By now, the benefits of using Mobile GIS in construction should be clear. But how exactly can you start to apply this type of software?
Below, we move beyond the theoretical, covering a few every day applications: surveying, drone integration, and accurate as-built documentation.
Mobile GIS for construction surveying
Construction surveying is the process of mapping out reference points for the structures about to be built - usually roads or buildings.
A critical link between design, engineering, and contractors, it's vital that surveying is conducted successfully.
Surveying relies on GIS data collection hardware, such as survey-grade GPS devices.
Powerful tools that provide accurate positional information, survey-grade GPS devices can only collect the data. Mobile GIS gives organizations a way to view, organize, and store that same data - all in one place.
By using survey-grade GPS in conjunction with cloud-based GIS, construction surveyors can create a real-world coordinate grid that will guide a build from start to finish.
Mobile GIS for effective drone integration
Drones are remarkably effective tools in construction, especially when it comes to tracking project progress.
Drones provide a simple and inexpensive way to visually record progress on a regular basis: giving an instant overview of site status and enabling teams to track progress over time.
When used correctly, drones provide fast, accurate, high-res information at an affordable price. But that's only half the story.
Once you have that information, you still need a way to view, process, and store it, which is where Mobile GIS becomes particularly useful.
Any GIS will help to translate raw data into actionable information, but with cloud GIS you can do it from anywhere, on any device.
If you’re in the market for a drone, don’t forget to check out our construction drone buying guide.
Mobile GIS for accurate as-built documentation
As-builts essentially provide a record of your project.
PMs use as-builts to check progress and see what’s going on with a project. Contractors use them as a record of work in order to receive payment.
The issue here is that, because there is so much fragmented data on construction sites, creating accurate as-builts can be difficult.
Using Mobile GIS helps to automate as-built creation by simplifying the data collection process and providing a single place to store all project data.
With this single source of project truth, disputes (which commonly occur in response to pay apps or as-built records) are minimized and all stakeholders can get a better project overview.
As you can see, GIS is so much more than just mapping.
Utilizing Mobile GIS helps construction organizations streamline surveying, integrate drones effectively, and organize all data in a central location.
By giving your team access to the right data in real-time, you'll increase efficiency, streamline workflows, and - ultimately - save time and money.
With Unearth's field operations platform, OnePlace, you get the power of GIS in the field without requiring any special training.
Interested in the power of Mobile GIS?
Back-office GIS requires specialized training and often is siloed from the field or relegated to counterintuitive apps. And yet, robust maps are critical to contextualizing work in the field and streamlining communication.
For this reason, Unearth developed OnePlace for Capital Construction - a mobile mapping software for intuitive data collection, progress tracking, and project collaboration.
Ultimately, this software bridges the gap between office and field while ensuring a high-quality project turnover through digital as-builting.
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