Robotic total stations are used for laying out points, guiding excavating equipment and verifying work after it is installed — information the instrument can share directly with the office. Project managers log material usage into Meridian Prolog software each day and jobsite superintendents add payroll. Klorman says they set up 800 to 1,000 cost codes for a typical construction project, so data is keyed to each code.
Klorman is using RFID technology, as well, to initially track formwork. Active RFID tags are attached to form panels to track their locations. For example, when workers set form panels for a wall placement, the location is noted. As additional panels are placed, the percentage of completion for the task is adjusted. After concrete placement, workers move the panels to a new location and the sensors track that movement, initiating a new cost account. The company is also experimenting with RFID chips placed in worker safety vests to track work by trade in each cost control area.
The company is tracking tool and equipment use with RFID tags and bar codes for each cost code area. Klorman says an added benefit is they always know where their tools are so loss isn’t estimated anymore.
Bringing data from several places together in one report form is critical. Klorman uses Prolog and Vico Virtual Construction software for this. The goal is to increase the amount and flow of data between the office and the company’s construction sites to learn better ways to streamline the construction process. One of the benefits of real-time estimating is the estimating department can use data from the day before to create more accurate estimates.
Where to Begin
Real-time cost accounting provides you with up-to-date information, giving you the opportunity to make decisions that increase productivity and save money. It’s a process that requires time and you can’t just start doing what Klorman is doing.
Jon Fingland, business area manager for Trimble’s general contractor/construction management division, says your company’s greatest asset is your past job cost history; no matter how informal, it’s your starting point to real-time cost accounting. Mining that data for the next similar construction project is a way to begin the process.
Another good first step is to start learning how to use BIM. Hiring employees with the skill is a way to do that. BIM models are rich in data and help to pre-plan jobs, increase efficiency and make fewer mistakes. Purchasing and learning how to use a robotic total station is another way to start.
Trimble sponsors the bi-annual Dimensions Conference in Las Vegas, with training both in a conference facility and at a quarry for hands-on demonstrations. It’s a good venue to learn about real-time costing and estimating, whether you are a beginner or experienced.
The World is Changing
Klorman believes the world changes through the process of getting better information. “Ten years from now, real-time sharing with jobsites and real-time estimating will be the norm,” he says. “None of this is going away and the process is becoming more affordable. In order to survive now, the ability to produce the same amount of building for less labor is what separates contractors.”
In the past, production control was only available for billion-dollar projects. Now it’s available for jobs of all sizes at the same level of complexity. Working in a real-time climate lets you manage change; the data tells you where you are going, identifies cost implications and allows you to forecast. To survive in the construction world tomorrow, you need to start learning today. ET