Tag Archive for 'jobsite'

5 Modern Capabilities that Optimize Field Operations

Travis Parigi, CEO of LiquidFrameworks

Field operations are behind when it comes to utilizing digital tools for the workforce. However, updated technology empowers managers to track and oversee operations at unparalleled levels in new environments. These updates can also provide an abundance of choices related to improved technologies like using smartphones, GPS, RFID, On-Demand/Cloud Computing, barcodes, scanners, and the latest generation of tablet computers. The modern capabilities of technologies can ultimately help both management and workers optimize operations while in the field. 

Nonetheless, the constant change of technology brings with it the rise of questions for operations management, such as…

  • What is the most valuable data?
  • What is the appropriate approach to utilizing technology?  
  • Which will deliver the biggest “bang” for your buck?
  • How do you integrate different solutions and data into an operations flow?
  • How do you entertain various personnel skill sets and ensure adoption by field personnel? 

It is first important to identify critical considerations when assessing new electronic solutions or field service providers to optimize field operations. 

hands of builder with small computer and gloves, selective focus on finger

1. Paperless Ops

The most apparent opportunity to update implementation is through shifting to an electronic platform for operations or adoption of solution elements. This approach is coined as going paperless. This method initially just scanned identical electronic copies of paper items such as service tickets or delivery receipts. Overtime data has advanced to capture documents to be represented and reported on devices. Both of those methods are valuable but only represent a fraction of the value that comprehensive field operation solutions provide. Elements of a complete mobile field operations solution include:

  • Fully Electronic/ Error Reduction
    • Every time a field operator produces a piece of paper documentation and sends it back to the office, at least $10 in processing costs are generated. Problems related to legibility, re-entering data into electronic systems, errors in the system and issues integrating paper with customers all contribute to added delays and costs. Modern solutions promise optimal speed and leverage through structured data representation. This allows field-generated data to be efficiently and effectively fed into back-office systems and presented to customers.
  • Configure vs. Capture/Validation/Rules
    • Solutions, such as scanners or pick lists, only capture documentation and often fail on several levels. Lack of internal logic and error prevention reproduces paper problems in an electronic format. It’s crucial for field operation solutions to properly validate data and prevent invalid configurations and data entry. AI functions, such as rules and knowledge base are invaluable. This is exemplified by solutions that either use configuration engines to take users through job set up steps or automatically configure based on job conditions or equipment.
  • Customization
    • It is also key for all platforms to flexibly capture elements of an operations flow, organization, or government/customer requirement. For example, when altering the location and appearance of screen elements to attached data entry points, the solution should be configurable to both your company and industry.
  • Data Availability
    • A solution must satisfy customer process demands, including customer signature, emails, and approvals. Data captured through the solution should then be available to your back-office systems and email.

2. Properly Modeling the Process

Possibly one of the most important factors in improving operations includes structuring electronic data into elements to ensure efficient scheduling, fulfillment, and analysis. First-generation field operations solutions made individual process elements such as field tickets or dispatch orders electronic. This approach is valuable but falls short in capturing the relationship between resources that allow for optimal planning and utilization. 

For example, the value becomes limited when the technical equipment is dispatched without the system attaching associated personnel and consumables. An ideal solution is not only aware of these associated items, but also recognizes locations, readiness level, and suitable, available replacements. Once these elements are in place, operations managers can then plan immediate operations and begin to prepare future consumable, maintenance, personnel, and other resource requirements.

3. Flexible Standardization

All platforms must pave the path for best practices to be overlaid on the solution while also remaining flexible enough for operations to continue remotely. Tools and technology that simplify workflow are essential. 

Tools

  • Data
    • Full access to data by field personnel allows operations to be executed even if the back office is unavailable. Access to the master data and configuration specifications enables single-entry without costly “fix-up” by personnel. Updated, accurate pricing also allows for improved customer coordination and minimized approval delays.
  • Rules Engine
    • Rules engines meaningfully supplement individual worker knowledge and enforce standards. This capability automatically recaptures previously lost or unbilled items, prevents unsafe configurations and allows personnel with less experience to perform complex operations. Rules engines also secure corporate knowledge as a key backup function for senior personnel.
  • Collaboration
    • Field workers and back-office personnel should work together. Whether you are enriching tickets with notes or requesting back-office involvement, collaboration capabilities of mobile field operations platforms are essential.
  • Workflow
    •  A solution must provide mechanisms to standardize workflow such as a customer approval process or uniformity of ordering equipment.
  • Integration
    • Solutions should integrate opportunities with electronic systems. An Open API makes it simple to seamlessly consolidate with existing systems.
  • Additional Documents and Forms
    • Companies often have additional documentation specific to their industry or organization, some of which include Job Safety Assessments and logs. Although electronic solutions do not come “out of the box” with the exact document, customization easily captures this information.

Technology

  • Smart Client
    • Even the best communication environments experience problems ranging from equipment failure to shielding and capacity issues. These bumps in the roadblock require communication from outside sources. These scenarios require autonomous solutions that flexibly reestablish communication and transfer data.
  • GPS/RFID
    • Solutions should provide technology integration points like GPS or RFID.
  • Attachments
    • Reference documentation, such as videos, procedures, and manuals, prove useful in field environments.
  • Leverage Existing Assets
    • Mobile field operations solutions should easily integrate with established IT systems, such as accounting and payroll. 

4. Effective Analysis

Effective analysis is key to optimize field operations and is part of a mobile field operations solution. The ability to measure production details and to generate custom reports is vital to company success.

  • Measuring
    • Demands of on-field personnel and floods of data lead many organizations not to capture the full extent of what happens during operations. For instance, a performed service is captured, but the detailed start/stop times, consumable usage, ancillary equipment, and personnel involved are not.
  • Report Generation
    • All solutions should have robust reporting mechanisms that feature a full security model with proper access. The capability to create custom reports is indispensable.
  • Availability and Distribution 
    • Reporting should be available to proper personnel. Web-based reporting solutions provide wide distribution capabilities for users at numerous locations on various devices. Email integration is a fundamental capability for the dissemination of reports, whether that is executed through an incoming-data based alert system or a scheduled distribution list.

5. Involve the Customer

Customer involvement is commonly overlooked when advancing operations and resource utilization. Customers are most involved at the beginning (ordering) and end (invoice approval) of the process, but true value comes in keeping them invested throughout the process.

  • Tracking
    •  Appropriate oversight capability in internal operations can effectively speed approvals and increase customer comfort and satisfaction. 
  • Approval 
    • Mechanisms that grant customers the ability to interact with the field operations solution, whether that be through notification emails or electronic approvals, can also significantly speed up the process.

Clearly there are many considerations to think through when evaluating field operations improvements. As a business leader, recognizing the impact technology will have on your field operations is your cue to initiate digital transformation as soon as possible to secure a competitive edge.

This feature appeared in the December 2019 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor,
Western Builder

  Website: www.liquidframeworks.com

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Technology Training on Workflow Helps Address the Need for New Workers

By Jeff Winke

It is a scary world out there for you construction contractors who struggle with tight deadlines, demands for regulatory-governed quality, better productivity, lower costs, more time in a day, and that ominous need for a competent workforce.

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) released a study of construction firms in the United States.A few key statistics included in their Workforce Shortage Report include:

  • Eight out of 10 construction firms cannot find sufficient qualified employees
  • 19 percent are investing in labor saving equipment and tools that require smarter workers
  • 82 percent believe that it will be more difficult to find qualified workers over the next 12 months

“As the U.S.-based construction workforce becomes increasingly thinly spread,” the AGC report stated, “owners and managers of construction firms will be required to approach the problem of labor shortage creatively, in order to convert these problems into opportunities. A key to overcoming the labor shortage, in the construction industry, is to invest in current employees to increase their skills, knowledge and abilities, as well as to support existing employees with labor-saving tools and equipment.”

Investing in existing employees has definite advantages, when compared to hiring new employees.

  • Current employees know how the company operates and manages its project sites. 
  • Current employees are a known entity. Managers know their strengths and weaknesses and may be better able to manage and lead them than new hires.
  • With new employees, there are start-up administrative costs, drug testing, equipment and safety training, and general acclimation to new managers, co-workers, and procedures. 
  • Current employees pose less risk. Studies have confirmed higher injury rates among workers who have been on the job for less than a year. Consider also that hiring new employees with less experience and then moving them quickly into the field to meet demands may create greater risk.

Clearly, on-going skills and technology training of existing employees can prove to be critical not only for retention but the success of the company.

“The penalty for not keeping current with technology is longer project timelines,” stated Ron Oberlander, Vice President, Global Professional Services, Topcon Positioning Group, Livermore, California. “Successful training focusses on the work process which yields greater efficiencies and better results.”

An Emphasis on Workflow

With the training emphasis on workflow, employees can develop a broader perspective on construction projects and all that goes into the tasks that culminate in their completion. The emphasis on work processes demonstrates a respect for the intelligence of employees and invites them to think in a partner role, which can strengthen their commitment to the job and the company.

“I’ve completed a couple of training programs conducted by Topcon and I am scheduled for another in the next six months,” said John Poirier, Project Manager with Warman Excavating & Trenching Ltd., Waldheim, Saskatchewan, Canada. “It is well worth the time; and the cost is inconsequential compared to what I learn. Unbelievable trainers, seasoned experts with 20 to 30 years of experience, are training me. They know the products, the market, and understand the workflow.”

“Technology changes too frequently,” said Oberlander.”When we host attendees – distributors and end users – at our training sessions we focus on workflows and how the key features of our products and systems improve the productivity and efficiency of end users.”

With the strong job economy today, it is sometimes difficult to find talent to fill open positions.A benefit of training and the power of easy-to-use technology means that contractors can hire less-skilled talent.They can either send them to instructor-led courses or put them through e-learning-based training.Either way, the knowledge and skills gap can be bridged.

Technology Evolution

Since every construction project is unique, and may require different technology and solutions, it is important – actually imperative – that workers at all experience levels engage in training regularly to remain up to date.

“Think about the advances in consumer technology such as the Apple iPhone,” Oberlander said, “The innovations and high-powered processors that upgrade the iPhone annually are being used in construction equipment. Look at the displays and systems inside of a new excavator, dozer, or other heavy equipment which now make them more productive to run and service; and in turn, makes the contractor more efficient and profitable.”

Oberlander went on to describe how GPS machine control has evolved during the past 20 years from little adoption of machine automation to a market where some machine manufacturers are integrating machine control technology direct from the technology-provider’s factory floor into their machines or even wiring heavy equipment so that they are capable of later adding aftermarket systems.Some government agencies are even specifying that contractors working on their projects must employ GPS machine control on their equipment.

An Investment in Training

Topcon Positioning Systems’ current project is an example of the interest and commitment to training occurring in the construction industry. The company is investing by building state-of-the-art training facilities in the United States, Italy, and Japan. 

The new 6-acre training facility in the U.S. is being constructed at the Topcon campus in Livermore, California, and will cover training for construction, geo positioning, and paving. Vertical construction and layout training will include a half-built building for real-world demonstrations. Two state-of-the-art classrooms will be included. The training facilities in Italy and Japan are being built to the same parameters.

“Since we focus heavily on workflow training, our training will mimic live applications that take place at a typical construction site,” Oberlander said. “The main difference is we can focus on the application and training without distractions of a contractor’s live jobsite. We always offer on-location training at the contractor’s jobsite or home office, but we believe that it is important to establish a baseline of education with a contained workflow at our training center.We also offer the students a tour of our manufacturing facility so they can see how the products they use are made.”

Construction contractors struggle with the need to keep up to date on the latest technology and trends that make their projects more efficient, while attracting and keeping a full workforce in a tight labor market. The answers may be found in training both existing employees and new inexperienced workers on labor-saving technologies with a focus on the work process which yields greater efficiencies and better results.

What do you tell others considering training? Poirier said: “Go for it. There is 100 percent benefit to training; otherwise you’re looking at your technology being the world’s most expensive paperweight. Training gave me knowledge and confidence to feel comfortable with the technology. I recently set up a new excavator using a system I had mounted on a different machine. It works great and would have cost me $42,000 to have someone come in and set up and initialize the GPS system on the excavator – all work I did myself.”

Clearly training can benefit contractors. It can add knowledge, skills, and the confidence to succeed.

Technology Training On Workflow

Capturing the Past – Historic Livermore Winery Building Lives on in a 3-D Point Cloud

 

DEWALT announces the new FLEXVOLT™ 60V MAX* Dust Extractor (DCV585)

DEWALT  FLEXVOLT™ 60V MAX* DUST EXTRACTOR

DEWALT announces the new FLEXVOLT™ 60V MAX* Dust Extractor (DCV585), adding to its system of more than 120 Table 1 Compliant** Solutions of drilling, cutting, and grinding tools, dust extractors, accessories, and shrouds intended to limit workers’ exposure to respirable crystalline silica.

The 60V MAX* Dust Extractor runs off of DEWALT FLEXVOLT Batteries and is an efficient and portable way to be OSHA Table 1 compliant** on the job site. For concrete drilling and grinding/cutting up to 5-inch wheels, the 60V MAX* Dust Extractor achieves 125 CFM. Featuring Wireless Tool Control that gives the user the option to activate the extractor from a few feet away using the included remote. Additionally, the 60V MAX* Dust Extractor offers an automatic filter cleaning mechanism.

The 60V MAX* Dust Extractor is part of the DEWALT PERFORM & PROTECT™ line of tools designed to provide a high level of one or more of the following: control, dust containment or low vibration, without sacrificing performance. For a list of the DEWALT PERFORM & PROTECT™ drilling and grinding solutions that adhere to the new OSHA ruling on protections for workers exposed to respirable silica dust, go to DEWALT.com.

Available where DEWALT products are sold in November 2018, the 60V MAX* Dust Extractor will come kitted with two HEPA Filters and two Batteries for $549 MSRP (DCV585T2). It will also come bare for $349 MSRP (DCV585B). The 60V MAX* Dust Extractor will come standard with a three-year limited warranty, one-year free service contract and 90-day money-back guarantee.

With respect to 60V MAX* – Maximum initial battery voltage (measured without a workload) is 60 volts. Nominal voltage is 54.

**Compliant to the Exposure Control Methods described in Table 1 of 29 CFR 1926.1153 when outlined components are operated and maintained in accordance to manufacturer’s instructions, assuming that airflow is measured in accordance with the motor/fan system test. OSHA is reviewing the exact requirements for dust extraction in these applications.

FEATURES

  • 125 CFM provides OSHA Table 1 Compliant Solutions for up to 5″ Tuckpointing and Surfacing Applications when paired with an appropriate dust shroud
  • Automatic Filter Cleaning, with Dual Filters
  • HEPA Filter Included with Unit
  • Wireless Tool Control™ Allows for wireless ON/OFF capability when paired with the included Remote or a Wireless Tool Control™ Enabled Tool
  • T-Stak Compatibility Allows Unit to be Stacked and Combined with other DEWALT® T-Stak Storage Systems
  • 8 Foot Long Anti Static Hose with DEWALT® AIRLOCK™ system.
  • Built-in hose wrap offers convenient hose storage when not in use
  • Meets the EPA Lead Related Renovations, Repair, and Painting (RRP) rule for HEPA vacuums when used with the included HEPA filter.
  • Can be used with Wet or Dry applications

SPECIFICATIONS

  • HOSE LENGTH          8.0 F
  • MAX CFM                          125.0 CFM
  • SYSTEM                        60V MAX*
  • TANK SIZE                   2.0 GAL
  • TOOL HEIGHT           13.0 IN
  • TOOL LENGTH           21.5 IN
  • TOOL WEIGHT         17.6 LBS

INCLUDES

  • DCV585 60V MAX Dust Extractor
  • Wireless Tool Control™ Remote
  • (1) Fleece Bag
  • (2) HEPA Filters

For more information visit FLEXVOLT™ 60V MAX* Dust Extractor