Richard Humphrey is the senior director, project delivery at Bentley Systems,, Exton, Pa.

Mobile Tech Advances Digital for Heavy Civil Construction

Heavy civil projects are getting larger and more complex resulting in 50% of projects failing to meet budget and schedule. These projects also have unique challenges related to their spatial and linear nature.

  • No two projects the same. Each project has a unique set of circumstances with conditions always in flux. Often, the key is to avoid disrupting the surrounding environment (utilities, roads, structures, etc.).
  • Large spatial regions. Horizontal projects that span large geographic areas have complex logistics. Success comes down to managing resources spatially, i.e. where they are, what they are doing, and where will they go next.

To overcome these challenges, construction firms need better ways to coordinate and communicate field activities.

Mobile Solutions to Business Challenges Are on the Rise

While technology now automating many office workflows like accounting, estimating, and planning, its biggest impact could be in the field, where most operations still rely on paper and spreadsheets. There are now more mobile devices than people, and device capabilities continue to improve, such as sensors and cloud access. Mobile applications are also being tied to other devices such as drones and equipment telematics, and nearly 75% of heavy civil contractors say that they are investing in mobile technology.

The Value Proposition for Mobile in Heavy Construction

Mobile technology helps optimize the dispersed use of people, equipment, and materials. Web and mobile technologies enable heavy civil project staff to better access, communicate/coordinate, and capture data in the field. The data can then be analyzed in close to realtime, to make better decisions.

  1. Data access: The lack of access to data and the time lag associated with finding information contributes to a lack of collaboration between the field and office. Using GPS-enabled mobile devices, project teams can quickly find the information they need. The ultimate goal is to put the right data in the hands of the right people at the right time.
  2. Data collaboration:Project stakeholders want access to up-to-date information (wherever they are), so they can act upon that information for better outcomes. Leveraging mobile connectivity is all about getting actionable information into the hands of stakeholders.
  3. Data collection:Effective data collection in the field is key to ensuring that managers get high quality information. Often, data is collected with paper processes that result in data that is disconnected from other processes, unstructured, error-prone, and untimely. Additionally, the time it takes to collect this information distracts employees from their primary responsibilities. Moving to mobile technology-based processes ensures information that is–

Realtime: Stakeholders can access realtime data, in contrast to using notes on paper.

Structured: Mobile solutions collect information in a digital, organized way. Field data is smart and gets linked directly to a structured database for easy retrieval and analysis.

Automated: Most data collection activities are repetitive, so a mobile technology approach can save time through automation.

  1. Data analysis:The analysis of quality data is key to leveraging information from the field to drive better decisions and offer greater insights into project performance. Moving this data to a single, digital source enables better reporting and empowers data-based decisions.

Business Challenges and Solutions

In heavy civil projects, huge amounts of money are at stake, and anything that can help avoid missed deadlines and budget overruns is welcomed. Mobile solutions have the potential to improve access to quality data, speed-up inefficient processes, and keep project staff and resources moving.

As mobile technology is increasingly deployed in the field, we will see a much different set of workflows and outcomes such as anywhere/anytime data access, realtime, high quality data, better coordination between field and office, and projects that make money and optimize resources.