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Embracing the technology arms race: Stuart Norman

For those of you who were sleeping, BIM level 2 compliance for centrally procured government projects came into existence on 4 April this year. While our industry has traditionally been late adopters of new technology, following last month’s deadline, more and more companies are starting to realise the potential for BIM to increase collaboration.

Talking point   Stuart Norman

Stuart Norman is managing director for Keltbray Piling

To embrace this, the management, interrogation and transmission of electronic data is becoming all important. This data exists in many formats, and whether we are aware of it or not, the piling and ground engineering industry has been gearing up for this change for many years.

Let’s consider the evidence, such as the technological advancements in rig automation and instrumentation with the ability to observe live construction processes on line and from the comfort of our own work place, the monitoring and adaptation of load testing live and online, the remote monitoring of thermal properties of concrete elements during the curing process.

These advances are just the tip of the iceberg. The real question is what are we going to do with all this data, and how will we deliver it in a standardised format, which all stakeholders can interpret and analyse?

The benefits are obvious, faster and more accurate communication, reducing inefficiency, delays and wastage. As we learn to integrate better and share our data with the project model this will allow us to make better, more informed decisions to deliver on time.

Let’s compare this “Nirvana” to where Keltbray Piling was just 24 months ago with our engineers on site filling in forms by hand leading to double handling and attempts to interpret dirty and, at times, illegible or incomplete data. Ultimately, in terms of data collection, our business was massively inefficient on site.

We have recently developed and implemented an innovative new software system which allows our engineers on site to complete all piling records using mobile tablets. This tailor-made system also allows office and site based staff to share information from the same database in real time with project details updated live as the work progresses.

The automation between the design office and our sites means that we now eliminate the need for repeated data input and minimise human error. The system is intelligent, and provides our engineers with real time data on pile positioning, concrete pour information and pile verticality. It also assists them in the management and quality control of our key materials on site.

This technology is being developed to allow us to access and manipulate data throughout the various stages of the piling contract; from design to construction. We will be able to analyse and “play with” an endless number of variables, maximising efficiency, targeting problems and eventually eliminating them before they occur.

As we have learned throughout this process, the message is that this industry must embrace the technology arms race, as those that don’t will be left behind. In the future we will eventually not just be engineers or managers; we will all be data harvesters and analysts too.

Stuart Norman is managing director for Keltbray Piling

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