Heavy Civil Infrastructure projects are getting larger and more complex, and as a result, over 50% of projects fail to meet budget and schedule. This increasing complexity is driven by many factors including…

  • No two projects are the same. Each project has its own unique set of existing circumstances. Conditions on the job are always in flux, and often the key is delivering a project without disrupting the surrounding environment (underground utilities, roads, structures, etc.)
  • Increasing expectations. Owners and the public are increasingly expecting more work to get done for less, while maintaining safety, quality and project transparency. Recent infrastructure failures and the ASCE’s D+ grade for America’s overall infrastructure have brought these issues to the forefront.
  • Large spatial regions. Horizontal projects that span large geographic areas drive complex logistics that need to be closely managed. Imagine coordinating resources over a 10 mile highway project: it requires multiple crews and sets of equipment spread out over several miles, making logistics complicated.
  • Increasing size and scope of projects. As we defer asset maintenance and infrastructure demand rises, so does the size and difficulty of infrastructure projects.

This complexity will not be addressed by doing things the same way they’ve always been done. However, the construction industry has been slow to adopt new technology and automate existing processes. In fact, it is one of the last industries to digitize its workflows, only ahead of agriculture and hunting, according to a recent McKenzie report.

The industry needs to transform the way it works. While technology has made its way into the office to automate workflows like accounting, estimating and planning, its biggest impact could be in the field, where most operations still rely on paper and spreadsheets.

The move from manual processes to a digital technology platform has evolved from UNIX main frames, to DOS and Windows-based PCs, to the Internet. Each evolution has made technology more accessible. The rise of mobile technology introduces a new platform that perfectly aligns to the needs of construction field operations. It is poised to transform how field operations are performed in order to drive greater efficiencies and successful project outcomes. The evidence is building to support these claims…

  • There are now more mobile devices than people. Most field employees are familiar with mobile devices and apps through use in their daily lives. They are no longer afraid of technology, and have developed expectations around technology experiences that translate to their work life.
  • Increasing smart phone and tablet capabilities. GPS location, sensors and cloud access make mobile devices more powerful than ever.
  • People spend more time on mobile devices than PCs. This not only represents a change in platform, but also consumer behavior.
  • Beyond the smart phone and tablet. Tying mobile applications to other machines, including drones, equipment telematics and machine automation, increases the value of the platform.
  • Business owners see the value in the investment. 95% of heavy civil contractors say mobile is critical to their business. 75% say they are investing in mobile technology.

When we are able to recognize the advantages of new technologies and enable them in practice, the industry can realize the step function improvements in efficiencies and productivity that other industries (i.e. manufacturing) have already experienced. Heavy contractors are more aware of the necessity for mobile than ever before. Let’s stay competitive and not get left behind!

Rich Humphrey