On Talking Logistics, we’ve talked about how the construction industry has historically been a laggard when it comes to digital transformation. But the tide is starting to turn as e-Construction initiatives gain traction in the industry. What exactly is e-Construction? What factors are driving it? Which technologies are playing an important role? Those are some of the main questions I discussed with Suzie Holycross, Business Development Manager – DOT at Command Alkon, during a recent episode of Talking Logistics.
What is e-Construction?
I began our discussion by asking Suzie to define e-Construction. Suzie says, “e-Construction is a term coined to cover all aspects of making construction projects paperless. While most states have been doing their big documents electronically for years, this is largely driven by the Federal Highway Administration. Their ‘Every Day Counts’ initiative has pushed for job sites to go paperless with items such as materials delivery tickets both so inspectors don’t have to chase truckers around job sites and because weather conditions and the dirty environment on sites are not conducive for paper documents.”
The evolution of e-PODs
Who is leading the charge for e-Construction, especially automating proofs of delivery (e-PODs) that are the bane of job sites? Suzie notes that the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) was a leader in pushing e-PODs and many other states are following their example. Early versions simply used tablets to take pictures of paper tickets, but now the originating producers can upload shipment information in the cloud that can be pulled up on smartphones or tablets on site; then site managers can add test results, notes, pictures, and videos. “It’s really opened the floodgates for how we can save people time and money, as well as reduce time delays and errors,” says Suzie. “And it’s not just about capturing the data. Once you have it in electronic form, you can use analytics to make your processes more efficient. It’s been a game-changer.”
Suzie goes on to point out that e-construction isn’t just about efficiency, either. Safety is also a concern. Job site deaths and injuries are actually on the rise as workers move around large equipment and traffic on site. Rather than chasing trucks across the site to collect tickets, inspectors can capture and analyze data on smart devices in safe locations on site.
Surprisingly, when I asked Suzie what key capabilities companies should look for in evaluating an e-Construction project and e-PODs, she said most of the components companies already have in-place. Producers have systems where they store shipment information; job sites have smartphones and tablets on site that they use for other applications; and the cloud is available for data transport. So, Suzie says, “Companies should look for solutions that work with what everybody is already using. It makes it easier to implement and not a lot of time or training is needed to get it up and running on the platform. It should be pretty painless for everyone involved. And from a vendor standpoint, look for vendors who are willing to work with others, even competitors, and have the interoperability to get everything up and running.”
Given the obvious benefits of e-Construction solutions, I asked Suzie what the challenges are in getting more companies to adopt it. She comments that it is having an “old school” mindset — the age-old problem of fear of change. “People still think they will have to rip out everything they have to implement a new solution,” she says. “But with the technology available and the skills people have, it’s not nearly as difficult as it used to be. We can work with existing systems. Once people see the benefits and realize it’s a lot easier than they thought it would be, there will be greater adoption.”
With all of the benefits and challenges we discussed, what will enable companies to become leaders in adopting this technology versus those who may fall behind? Suzie had some great insights on that question, so I encourage you to watch the full episode for all the details. Then keep the conversation going by posting your own experiences and expectations.