The construction industry, valued at over $10 trillion, remains entrenched in manual data collection, leading to data loss, inaccuracies, and a dearth of real-time visibility.
Kezya de Bragança, Founder, CEO - Bettamint
Particularly, the ‘last mile’ of data collection where vital on-site information concerning productivity, quality, and safety - remains elusive. This issue persists despite the wave of technological innovations, like LIDAR, BIM, drone tech, 3D printing and project management software, indicating a pressing need for a digital overhaul.
This challenge was perfectly encapsulated to me by a prominent Indian construction firm's Managing Director when he remarked "Construction contracts are skilfully negotiated between knowledgeable engineers, but on-site execution often resembles the wild west—you never truly know what your final outcome will be." This observation underscores the industry-wide struggle to secure timely, accurate data vital data crucial for assessing project progress and financial viability.
The Immensity of the Last Mile Data Challenge
Several factors make complicate the last mile data collection in construction. Lack of standardization, insufficient technology, fewer digitally skilled users, human error, large project scale, remote construction sites, and the transient nature of construction workers all contribute to this issue.
Despite many digitally adept stakeholders in the construction value chain, a key stakeholder at the unit measure of productivity – the worker, remains offline. Each worker performs repetitive tasks over time, generating millions of data points encompassing labour costs, quality, productivity, attrition rates, absenteeism, and more. Collecting and analyzing this data, at the last mile of construction where work is executed in field environments amidst a transient, lesser educated workforce with the burden of urgent project demands can be an overwhelming task.Construction companies in India grapple with extreme workforce turnover rates, having to replace their entire staff 3-4 times annually due to migratory patterns, emergencies, seasonal factors, family events, festivals, and notably, delayed wage payments. This revolving door of workers taxes the administration, as they must constantly recruit, onboard, verify identities, track attendance often at distant sites, process payroll, and ensure timely, correct salary distribution—a task that's a logistical challenge given it strays from the companies' primary construction operations.
Construction workers, upon reporting to a site, undergo a battery of necessary verifications and registrations. From social identity to banking information to tracking attendance, punctuality, overtime, advances, absenteeism, productivity along with payroll calculations and compliances are all handled manually, a method rife with inefficiencies and errors. Critical workflows, including task allocation and progress reporting, are also managed offline, resulting in inefficiencies and potential errors. This not only hampers the ability of construction companies to make informed decisions, but also leads to incorrect or incomplete data that can delay projects and inflate costs.
This offline operation, paired with a digital literacy gap among workers, results in significant data losses and inaccuracies as information trickles down from project managers to construction teams. As the industry leans more towards speed and precision, addressing this digital divide becomes vital for its future success.
Bridging the Digital Chasm
In today's construction industry—rapid-paced and fiercely competitive—accuracy of data is the bedrock of informed decision-making. Whether it's monitoring attendance, gauging productivity, identifying skill deficits, or tackling absenteeism, erroneous or incomplete data can trip up even the most competent project managers, spiralling into costly blunders and prolonged delays. The ability to promptly detect quality issues, snags, and red flags is paramount to keeping projects on schedule, especially within battery limits—those pivotal boundaries between differing responsibilities.
The industry must upgrade from the prevailing archaic system of offline data dissemination, which triggers data loss, inconsistencies, and lack of real-time visibility. Instead, embracing digital revolutions such as mobile task management applications, cloud collaboration platforms, and digital communication tools can enable seamless integration of workers into the data loop, ensuring real-time, error-free information exchange. AI-based algorithms further promise to automate workflows between workers and project managers, increasing efficiency and improving outcomes.
By bridging this digital divide, construction companies can make enlightened decisions, bolster project efficiency, and ultimately fortify their bottom line. As the industry evolves, companies mastering data management will gain an edge, consistently delivering successful projects. This transformation depends on integrating construction workers into the digital ecosystem, an essential step for an industry-wide metamorphosis.