How Digital Engineering Promotes Construction Quality
September 27, 2022
Construction is one of those industries where quality has a direct impact on project costs and timelines, the structures themselves, the environment, people’s well-being, and the construction company’s business reputation. In recent years, project owners have also been raising the bar not only on quality but on project requirements. How can this higher expectation be met?
The most obvious way is through creation of and strict adherence to a quality assurance (QA) plan. Another way to achieve and sustain those expected levels of quality — one that supports that plan — is with digital engineering. Digital engineering is changing and improving the way projects are envisioned, designed, built, and inspected.
It Isn’t about just one type of technology or process. It encompasses construction-friendly advanced technologies that deliver more value across a capital asset’s life cycle by digitizing, and therefore optimizing, how projects are managed. With these improved processes, critical actionable project data can be collected efficiently, safely, and quickly — much more so than with traditional project management methods.
Quality can mean many things. The beauty of digital engineering is that it delivers on this in several ways.
Higher-quality material choices and outcomes
If the current state of our infrastructure is any indication, the design and materials chosen for a structure will have to withstand the test of time and use. Building information modeling (BIM), a data-linked 3D-modeling process that is one of the most widely used of the digital engineering technologies, addresses this very concern.
The first step in building with better materials begins with better information about them. BIM-enabled modeling provides access to greater amounts of data about their composition, lifespan, cost, and warranty information. So, when choosing materials, BIM helps answer questions like, “Is this particular material we’re considering of high quality, cost-effective, sustainable, and durable over the long term?”
The same goes for design. How would a tweak or major alteration proposed by the owner or designer affect the integrity of the structure? Does it create any clashes? How do those clashes affect the materials used and the project costs? BIM’s exploratory capabilities make it possible to visualize and analyze design options and their impact before committing to them in physical form.
Investing time and effort in this experimentation leads to better quality choices that otherwise would have resulted in last-minute change orders and corrective work.
Improved quality control inspections
Verifying job progress ensures that contractual requirements of the build are being met. For some capital projects, those efforts aren’t so easy when it involves high elevations, areas with difficult or restricted access, treacherous landscapes, or dangerous conditions. Throw in a tight timeline and manual inspection methods and you’ve got a recipe for a quality control dilemma.
These are some of the reasons why drones, another increasingly popular digital engineering technology, have become a go-to tool for construction inspections. Equipped with high resolution cameras or LiDAR technology, they’re sent out on missions to document quality control issues through photographs and video then send it back to the project team through the cloud for analysis and action.
This process gathers more and higher-precision data in less time than any human could do. Such efficiency means that any detected structural safety issues, errors, and standards that don’t meet the client’s quality expectations can be addressed sooner. It also allows inspectors to get a better understanding of building conditions before entering a space and provides them with insight into areas that could present unsafe work environments or hazardous situations.
Better quality decisions
As construction projects have become more data-driven, so have the decisions surrounding every facet of those projects. Capturing data and making it available to those who need it are key.
BIM and drones, along with augmented reality (AR), are among the digital engineering technologies producing high-quality data that becomes the foundation for more effective decision making. AR is used in the construction world to layer a virtual image over a live camera view to see how a built structure might fit in the environment of the actual jobsite. In fact, a BIM model can be superimposed on a view of its proposed site to conduct virtual site visits, analyze existing structures, and propose modifications. This helps designers, contractors and owners fine-tune the design and materials and update its associated data well before construction begins.
These digital engineering technologies deliver levels of detail that increase the depth of knowledge about a project throughout its life cycle. More precise collected data leads to better quality, data-driven decisions. Stored in the project’s cloud-based common data environment (CDE), this data represents the latest information available for the project team to access — including information about things like material specifications, cost estimates and even safety concerns. So those never-ending discussions, decisions, choices and actions made will be based on the most up-to-date, accessible data, leading to more positive project outcomes.
Maintaining building quality during repetitive tasks
While each capital project is unique, some of the physical work that goes into constructing them can be anything but. That’s the nature of manual work, especially in trades in which certain types of physical movement are repetitive. Some that come to mind are painters and bricklayers. The challenge that arises is that fatigue can set in as the shift wears on or injury can occur when carelessness takes over due to the monotony of the task. And work quality and productivity suffer.
To maintain progress and quality standards, robotics is being brought on to keep projects on schedule. Robotic technology is basically a machine that mimics the movement of a human being. But that’s where the similarity ends. Its key advantage is that it doesn’t experience the same expected drops in productivity late in the day, nor does it take breaks or slow down. Automating manual actions — whether on the jobsite or along an assembly line for prefabricated components — keeps a consistent pace and work output with the same predictable level of precision and quality.
With the use of robotics on large-scale projects, construction companies can achieve improved productivity while maintaining high levels of quality.
Digital engineering helps meet quality requirements
Whether using a single digital engineering option or a combination, when they’re paired with a solid QA plan they can lend more accuracy, safety, and positive outcomes to a capital project. Learn how InEight quality management and the right digital engineering options can help you confidently and efficiently meet quality requirements for your capital projects by scheduling a consultation
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