Digitalisation, Engineering, Major Projects & Infrastructure

Removing the smokescreen from data collection

 

For 60 years customers have been coming to McConnell Dowell with complex projects that require innovative solutions.   

Known as the creative construction company, McConnell Dowell has built thousands of quality assets and facilities for customers and communities, from remote resource projects to city-shaping infrastructure.   

Its expertise has grown steadily to span rail, building, civil, electrical, fabrication, marine, mechanical, pipelines, tunnel and underground construction.  

Always on the lookout for new technologies and smarter ways of working, the company identified the Internet of Things (IoT) as a driver of new efficiencies. This could include, for example, reducing the number of physical site visits by using video technology, location-based services, or drones.  

Monitoring for noise and dust could improve environmental compliance. In doing so, the cost of acoustic specialists could be saved.  

Asset management, tracking, and geo-fencing could not only provide end-to-end visibility and prevent potential theft, but also help to better coordinate employees with physical assets to improve uptime and operational efficiency. This could include avoiding the unnecessary assembly and disassembly of scaffolding and cranes. Technology, if coordinated correctly, can also increase the monitoring of progress. With greater visibility and predictability through daily tracking, there could be less focus on contingency planning and more bottom-line savings. 

CASE STUDY: CHERRY STREET, WERRIBBEE

The Cherry Street project involved a road over rail bridge adjacent to the busy shopping centre of Werribee in Victoria. 

A precast manufacturer and steel fabricator client had required an improvement of his data collection system to be more transparent, which had been a constant area of potential misinformation and error management.   

McConnell Dowell General Manager Rail, Kyle Mortimer, said the goal was to remove any smokescreens but at the same time, and more importantly, use technology to fulfill the role of a person “spending hours in front of their computer compiling reports and required documentation”.   

“This in turn will enable people to spend more time contributing to more ‘value-add’ activities as part of their main job/role over paperwork,” he said.   

“The intent is to engage with the suppliers to introduce a new process to replace the existing one. This involved some very basic but necessary requirement gathering as the process is undertaken.   

“The problem with the method of data collection in the past is that it is often compiled across disparate systems, and more importantly across different stakeholders, in this example, between lead constructor and supplier.   

“We had to determine a method to capture this information through a digital means to allow it to be shared, i.e. using leading edge technology proven across many other industries outside of construction.  

“In summary, we needed to digitise a manual and disparate process, using both the power of digitalisation and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors.”   

Mortimer said the utilisation of the sensors enabled the company to further leverage its already well-established IoT technology platform to store and categorise the collected information.   

“Enhancing that same platform further to include or integrate to a simple data entry functionality and therefore facilitate the digitisation of a paper form, allowed us to look to remove some of these historical issues,” he said.  

So for this particular client, when it came to the production of these individual elements, once a precast panel (as an example) was cast or initially put together, photos and images would be scanned. The same details originally detailed out on the paper form for later entry into the internal system would now be entered directly into a tablet and that same data collected digitally.   

“Photos are also enabled to capture cement testing and/or steel certificates for reference later,” Mortimer said.   

“This information is also then transparent to the head contractor,  enabling them to keep the manufacturer up to date with their expected time of delivery as the construction program changes.   

“This also allows for full visibility and reporting across all levels (from the site supervisor through to the Business Unit Manager and CEO) on whether the manufacturing process is ahead, on track or behind the production plan.”   

This same theory is then repeated at key points in the element’s lifecycle, for example:  

  • Delivery – understanding and comparing delivery timing to ensure critical path elements are delivered prior to being required. This phase also includes all quality assurance details and photos that go with the element for reference.  
  • Storage location – enabling the team to be always made aware where the element has been stored across one or numerous laydown locations for better planning around the actual installation in terms of logistics should equipment be required to shift the elements, or staging is an issue.   
  • Installation location – Using a digital interface of where the element is to be placed, a last-minute check can be made to ensure the element is being placed into the correct location.   

“This then provides within one system full visibility of a single element from when it was originally put into the cast, when it was birthed, when and where it was delivered, and lastly, when it was installed, along with maintaining a complete quality assurance history,” Mortimer said.