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Global infrastructure investment is expected to double in the next 15 years and billion-dollar plus mega-projects will account for a greater share of that investment than ever before.

Yet, the construction industry continues to have a poor record of bringing these projects in on time and on budget. The examples are endless, from the Panama Canal expansion to the Alaskan Way viaduct, the Boston Green Line extension and many more.

Project owners are increasingly turning to engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) companies to manage these projects worth billions of dollars. This transfers much of the risk of these huge, complex projects worth billions of dollars to EPC firms. It is critical for them to deliver these projects on time and within budget in order to avoid loss of revenue and reputational damage, which may hurt their chances of securing new work.

Yet, 98 percent of mega-projects incur cost overruns or delays. At the root of this problem is that as construction companies become increasingly digital, they are struggling to address the proliferation of data trapped in disparate systems across their organizations. Failure to harness this data leads to poor decision-making and ultimately project failures.

EPC firms must effectively draw key insights and share current data with both project owners and internal stakeholders in order to drive strong capital projects. And technology is growing in importance as EPC firms seek to address that challenge and leverage information more effectively.

The technology exists today--from mobile apps to analytics, wearables, drones and BIM--to transform how the EPC market collects, analyzes, manages, stores and shares data, and ultimately to enable productivity gains and stronger capital project management.

Mobile apps

Mobile apps are gaining popularity on capital projects as they continue to help break down barriers to project collaboration. By enabling easy access to real-time information wherever and whenever needed, mobile apps encourage stakeholders outside of just the project team to leverage the project controls solution, whether it’s a contractor raising an issue to the project team, a construction supervisor reviewing and approving that day’s progress, a project controls analyst assessing the impact of a change or an executive reviewing the status of their project portfolio while traveling.

Innovative EPC firms are continuing to come up with new use cases for mobile apps that suit their organization’s unique needs and drive greater collaboration and productivity. can provide functionality from project management status updates, to contractor collaboration, project forecast updates, funding approvals, progress measurement, change management and many more.

Wearables and Drones

Wearable devices are immensely valuable to the construction industry, as they have immediate value for tasks where workers need to be on their feet and to have their hands free to use equipment. By attaching to a person, they are more efficient than manually carrying a tablet, smartphone or clipboard. Additionally, because wearables can collect data, they offer data analytics and visualization capabilities. For example, tools like the DAQRI Helmet are taking off in the construction space as it enables object recognition and tagging, real-time data capture and augmented reality visualization and knowledge-transfer capabilities.Meanwhile, the use of drones on construction sites allows aerial imagery for surveying, logistical planning, and monitoring activity. Companies like Bechtel are using drones to do things like continuously monitor the excavation progress on projects, because drones can map a site up to 50 times faster than ground-based land surveying, and at a much lower cost. By piping the data directly to the cloud in real time, drones allow engineers to collaborate remotely on planning and execution.

5-D BIM

A recent Dodge Data & Analytics report found that BIM gives companies a significant competitive advantage in terms of decreased construction costs and improved labor productivity. While it is still underutilized, BIM’s adoption rate is predicted to grow substantially in the coming years; the global BIM market, worth $2.6 billion in 2014, is expected to grow to $11.5 billion by 2022.

As BIM continues to grow, the way it can be used on projects will evolve as well. 5-D BIM, which refers to the intelligent linking of individual 3-D CAD components with schedule (4-D) and cost-related data (5-D), is the next step forward that could enable the construction industry to move toward greater efficiencies and foster stronger collaborative practices. BIM tools have the power to connect teams, models and project data on a single collaboration platform.

So Why is Adoption Slow in the Construction Market?

Despite the potential of these technologies, information overload, confusion over who has access to which data, and trouble stepping away from busy day-to-day schedules to look at what will create efficiencies in the long term have contributed to flat productivity levels in the construction market and a weariness of rapid technology adoption.

Data integration is the key to enabling the construction industry to successfully adopt emerging technologies. By breaking down silos and enabling greater visibility, data integration enables successful capital projects.

Easing Adoption with Enterprise Project Controls

Enterprise project controls is the software that ties emerging technologies together. Incorporating the data these technologies are collecting, such as progress of specific activities, with project data about schedules, costs, scope, risk, etc., into a centralized, cloud-based repository puts real-time information at the fingertips of all project stakeholders. This makes adoption of new technologies easier as it prevents organizations from creating a multitude of new, disparate data streams. Instead, project controls software integrates those data streams and enables real-time analytics, allowing organizations to view their data holistically.

With real-time access to integrated data, project controls analysts can update forecasts based on current and historical trends, re-forecast as a project progresses and generate highly accurate “what-if” analysis. This allows early identification of potential performance issues and enables faster, smarter corrective decisions. As a result, project controls fosters greater collaboration between project owners and EPC contractors, and enables contractors to complete milestones earlier, resulting in projects delivered more quickly and faster time to revenue for both owners and contractors.

As an enterprise solution, enterprise project controls also provide a strategic enterprise-wide view across an organization’s project portfolio, enabling EPC firms to improve project selection to align with corporate strategy.

As mega-projects continue to grow and technology adoption transforms the construction industry, enterprise project controls will enable EPC firms to ease the transition to new technologies and leverage them to drive more successful capital projects.
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