Internet of Things in Construction

Internet of Things in Construction

In the dynamic and competitive construction industry, contractors are always looking for ways to improve their operations. Whether you need to maximize productivity, manage your resources, increase your on-time delivery or reduce operating costs, modern technology can help your business reach milestones and continue to grow.

The internet of things (IoT) has changed the way construction businesses operate. New technology and data analytics make it easier than ever to automate time-consuming processes, optimize work site safety and even get better results from construction equipment. This guide to IoT in construction covers the top uses of IoT in the industry and how technology benefits construction businesses. We’ll also introduce the core ways that Cat® technology is leveraging IoT and data to help contractors increase work site efficiency, safety and productivity.

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What Is IoT?

The internet of things refers to the vast web of devices and gadgets all around us that are connected to the internet. These devices are continuously collecting data on user behavior and other activity, which they then make available for review via their connection to networks or other devices. With that data, businesses and consumers can gain insight into their performance, productivity and numerous other metrics to help make informed decisions about how to meet their goals.

The internet of things encompasses simple devices like fitness monitors as well as complex networks of sensors that allow autonomous vehicles to traverse busy construction sites safely. For contractors, the range of applications supported by the internet of things provides ample opportunity to develop smarter, more effective business practices that improve on-time and on-budget project delivery. The data collected through IoT devices and technology can give contractors a significant business advantage in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Top Uses of IoT in Construction

The internet of things is revolutionizing virtually every industry. It’s helping managers gain better insight into operations, maximize productivity, optimize their investments in resources and automate work intelligently. In construction, IoT offers all of these benefits, helping to drive business success in an industry that’s heavily dependent on meeting production deadlines.

IoT in construction ranges from sensors to wearables and other detection technology. Connected devices allow construction business managers to keep track of progress and make adjustments to production accordingly. IoT goes beyond improving operations, enhancing work site health and safety and even supporting environmental preservation efforts. Below are 10 of the top uses for IoT in construction.

1. Improve Site Safety

Committing to maintaining work site safety is a crucial responsibility for contractors and site managers. According to OSHA, the top four safety hazards that contribute to construction job site fatalities are:

  • Falls from heights
  • Being struck by objects
  • Getting caught in or between objects
  • Electrocutions

Improperly operated heavy equipment is one of the leading causes of fatalities or injuries on construction sites. OSHA states that roughly 75% of struck-by accidents involve heavy equipment, such as trucks or machines with booms. Mitigating these known risks is vital for contractors to prevent injuries and fatalities.

One of the top uses of IoT in construction has to do with technological advancements in safety. Some of the ways that IoT is improving construction safety include resources such as:

  • Proximity and motion sensors that alert workers and equipment operators to nearby personnel, equipment or structures.
  • Facial recognition software that monitors operators for their alertness and notifies them with concerns of fatigue or distractions.
  • Wearable devices that detect physical distress in workers.

In addition to providing real-time alerts to prevent accidents due to impending hazards, data analytics performance can help identify patterns of risk exposure and predict future safety threats. IoT functionality gives safety managers access to robust data that they can use to inform their behavioral safety policies and training.

2. Boost Productivity

One of the major advantages of technology and data in the construction industry is how it can inform contractors of opportunities for improved productivity. Construction projects require continuous progress to be successful and experience major delays and cost overruns when productivity is interrupted. Project delays lead to idle equipment and laborers, which continue to accumulate costs even during downtime. 

IoT improves job site efficiency, informing workers on how to best use their time and effort to maximize results. The data acquired through IoT allows managers to cut back on menial tasks or idleness, freeing up more time for more effective work such as process improvements or quality assurance. IoT data helps improve scheduling so that work activities can be planned and executed in a logical order, minimizing time spent between construction phases.

IoT technology provides contractors and managers with real-time insight into productivity habits. It can identify peak periods of productivity as well as blocks of idle time. Collecting this amount of data over time is important because it helps managers make informed decisions regarding scheduling and project scopes. Data insights help managers schedule tasks for certain peak hours of productivity to ensure consistent, high-quality results, especially on work that’s time-consuming or requires fine detail.

3. Maximize Resources

There are many factors that contribute to the success of a construction project. One of the major factors in project efficiency is how well managers can allocate and manage their resources. Labor and equipment are two primary resources that pose the biggest opportunities for managers to maximize project profitability.

With human resources, managers need to properly allocate the right skill sets to the right tasks. IoT can help identify high-performing workers and their areas of maximum productivity, leading to more efficient use of their time. Data insights can also identify patterns over a long period of time, allowing managers to find opportunities for improvement in their hiring and training policies.

Equipment usage is another important aspect of good resource allocation. Many construction projects experience equipment downtime, with rental machines sitting idle between tasks. The information collected through IoT can help managers make better-informed rental decisions, including renting the right equipment as needed to prevent costly downtime. Based on the data collected via IoT, managers can better evaluate their equipment needs for future projects, including determining where they can achieve the highest value for their investment.

4. Reduce Waste and Rework

Many construction businesses are seeking ways to limit their impact on the environment by adopting sustainable practices and integrating them into their existing systems. According to the EPA, 600 million tons of construction and demolition waste were generated in 2018. Using intelligent data applications, managers can prevent much of this waste from ending up in landfills. Rather, a portion of these materials can be diverted for repurposing into new and productive uses.

Construction managers can leverage IoT technology and data to reduce construction waste or manage it in a more sustainable manner. In addition to reducing physical waste, IoT can help identify wasted fuel, water and energy consumption, which improves sustainability as well as financial control.

Another contributor to waste in the construction industry is rework. When jobs are not completed properly, both labor and materials go to waste. New IoT innovations are helping to streamline work activities, improve their quality and prevent costly rework. 

One example of how IoT is reducing waste is through concrete sensors, which are embedded in the material to tell managers how the concrete is curing in real time. This technology affords better control over this time- and weather-sensitive work. It also helps ensure the accurate estimation of the concrete's strength, allowing other work to be planned around it accordingly.

5. Improve Reporting

Construction industry reporting is a vital tool used to communicate essential project information to clients, developers, contractors and other interested parties. Compiling reports is a necessary but time-consuming process. Managers responsible for reporting need to record specific information, such as project stages, process definitions, key metrics and events, and other pertinent details.

Before software integration, automation and the internet of things in construction, managers used to keep track of information by hand or via spreadsheet, compiling reports in inefficient ways. These labor-intensive methods are also prone to duplicating or misrepresenting information because of their limited accuracy. 

With the advent of IoT in construction, reporting is now a much easier and more streamlined process. Crucial information is stored in a central hub that managers use to monitor the overall health and productivity of projects. Managers can now pull data and automatically generate comprehensive or specific reports regarding any aspect of the project.

IoT in construction has streamlined reporting while also making communication much easier and more efficient. Key parties now have access to the same crucial information at the same time, keeping everyone on the same page and alert to the same status reports regarding project progress.

6. Optimize Maintenance Schedules

Construction managers know the importance of preventive maintenance for heavy equipment. Being proactive with maintenance requirements is essential to protecting asset health, enabling high uptime rates and reducing costly repairs. However, managing equipment maintenance can be a time-consuming responsibility that often gets neglected because of how labor-intensive it can be. 

Thanks to new predictive maintenance technologies and integrated software, fleet maintenance is a much more streamlined process. Equipment sensors automatically send feedback to a central data hub, helping managers become better at scheduling servicing needs at strategic times that won’t impact productivity. Contractors and managers can now identify issues earlier, reducing the risk of breakdowns and preventing expensive parts replacements.

The future of IoT in construction will see enhanced predictive modeling of equipment health, maintenance and productivity. As sensors and integrated data analytics become more robust, fleet managers will have a much more hands-off role in preventive maintenance management. Maintenance and parts replacement work orders will be automatically generated, with maintenance intervals being automatically scheduled without the need for managers to initiate the work on their end.

This capability is already a reality in larger fleets, but as the technology becomes more integrated, even small fleets will benefit from IoT in maintenance management.

7. Increase Financial Control

Maintaining financial control in the construction industry is imperative to project success and business profitability. Unfortunately, many projects expect budget overruns, and the more complex the project, the more likely it is to exceed its proposed budget. A 2015 McKinsey report found that 98% of construction megaprojects went over budget by an average of 30%. While there are many reasons for budget overruns, one of the leading contributors is a lack of transparency and control in the overall monitoring of the project.

With advancements in IoT in construction, project managers are better able to gain insight into a project’s progress and productivity, giving them more control over financial decisions. Managers who leverage IoT construction data are able to make informed, real-time decisions to tighten up production schedules, bring on additional labor or make any other adjustments that will help the project stay on budget.

The following are ways that IoT in construction can give contractors and construction managers better control over their costs:

  • Improving productivity through maximizing labor and uptime
  • Reducing the risk of workplace injuries and workers’ compensation claims
  • Decreasing the risk of sudden and costly repairs
  • Improving fuel and energy efficiency and reducing the costs of resources
  • Enhanced project scheduling to prevent costly delays and missed production milestones

With the increased ability to track numerous aspects of a project’s progression, construction managers can make smarter financial decisions and limit the likelihood of budget overruns.

8. Improve On-Time Project Delivery

The construction industry faces continuous challenges in delivering projects on time. Numerous factors contribute to project delays, from labor and materials shortages to equipment breakdowns to weather events. According to industry research, construction megaprojects are, on average, 20 months behind their original schedules. Finding better processes for improving on-time delivery is crucial to the success of construction businesses.

With modern IoT in construction, contractors and managers can find creative ways to improve their project delivery time and avoid delays. IoT data can help contractors prevent project delays in numerous ways. These are just a few of the ways IoT in construction is helping improve on-time project delivery:

  • Improving initial scheduling estimates
  • Finding gaps in productivity that cause production setbacks
  • Allocating resources intelligently to avoid wasted time
  • Preventing execution errors that lead to time-consuming rework
  • Ordering materials on an as-needed basis to minimize delay
  • Mitigating accidents, breakdowns and other events that cause downtime

The purpose of IoT technology and data analytics is to streamline processes while improving construction quality. With greater efficiency, construction managers are able to avoid many of the time-consuming pitfalls and bottlenecks that lead to project delays. IoT technology helps improve confidence in contractors, owners and clients that projects can be delivered on time.

9. Address Labor Shortages

The construction industry relies on the availability of skilled laborers to be ready to work during a certain time frame. When there is a shortage of skilled labor available, construction projects get delayed, the quality suffers and the cost overruns increase. One of the biggest challenges in the construction industry today is the limited amount of skilled labor available. With the construction industry booming, it creates a competitive job market and the cost of labor increases accordingly. 

With IoT technology and data, construction managers are able to plan around labor shortages by maximizing productivity. The availability of the internet of things in construction is also a way to automate many of the processes that previously required manual labor or constant oversight. By automating compatible processes, construction managers free up laborers for other necessary types of work. With IoT, managers are able to strategically allocate the limited labor resources they do have to the work activities and times in which they make the most impact. 

The future of IoT in construction presents an opportunity for even more advancements in automation. Many experts say that automation will eventually be a possibility for the majority of physical jobs, providing a long-term solution to labor shortages across the construction industry.

10. Scale Construction Businesses

As contractors seek to take advantage of a booming construction market, it’s becoming important for business owners to find sustainable ways to scale their growth. Prior to the latest construction technology, contractors had to spend a significant amount of time planning and scheduling in order to juggle multiple projects at once. 

Contractors need to stagger projects in order to allocate crews strategically to specific phases of different projects. With IoT technology and data, contractors make informed decisions about project scheduling and productivity in order to take on more work at once.

IoT gives contractors a way to scale their businesses intelligently. Managers can make better decisions regarding resource allocation, including hiring labor, ordering materials and renting heavy equipment. IoT technology drives increased project efficiency and success, helping contractors keep more of their profits by preventing waste and lost productivity.

Benefits of Cat® Technology in Construction

There are many different ways to incorporate IoT into the daily operations of a construction business. When it comes to heavy construction equipment, contractors can benefit from IoT with the latest equipment technology from Caterpillar. Improve your operations, safety and productivity with Cat Connect solutions available on Cat rental equipment at The Cat Rental Store location near you.

Cat Connect leverages smart technology and data to help contractors improve work site efficiency. Cat machines equipped with technology collect and analyze data to give operators insight into productivity and other valuable information. Below are the four primary ways that Cat Connect technology can support your business success:

  • Equipment management: Uptime is one of the most important metrics for contractors to track to maximize equipment productivity. Cat Connect offers equipment management solutions that help contractors gain insight into the performance of their rental machinery. Learn how fuel burn is affecting your operating costs and other equipment health indicators that can improve business success.
  • Productivity: With Cat Connect solutions, contractors and operators can maximize their efforts and deliver better results. Cat equipment is designed to operate at a peak efficiency level, helping you optimize operations for better productivity. With Cat Connect, operators can maximize payloads, automate compaction and improve the accuracy of grading, as well as other equipment applications.
  • Safety: Maintaining a safe work site is particularly important when heavy machinery is involved. Safety technology from Cat Connect solutions gives operators and contractors deeper insight into operating hazards and unsafe behaviors. Improve safety awareness and reduce the risk of injuries with safety technology found in Cat equipment.
  • Sustainability: Reduce your operation’s environmental impact and streamline compliance reporting with sustainability technology in the suite of Cat Connect solutions. Sustainability technology helps increase the efficiency of fuel consumption and reduce emissions by promoting better and more intelligent use of equipment. Contractors can use this resource to reduce their equipment operating costs and make the most of their rental term.

Visit The Cat Rental Store near you today to learn more about Cat Connect technologies and how you can use them to achieve your production goals.

Get the Latest in Construction Technology at The Cat Rental Store

The future of IoT in construction is available today for contractors to maximize their success. At The Cat Rental Store, we provide high-performing equipment featuring the latest in Cat technology. Automate production, improve work site safety, manage resources and enhance sustainability with heavy construction equipment from The Cat Rental Store.

Learn more about how Cat technology is helping contractors improve their project operations and increase their bottom line. Browse rental equipment online and fill out a convenient Quick Quote form for pricing information. For help selecting the right rental equipment for your project needs, visit The Cat Rental Store location near you and speak with a rental equipment specialist or call 1-800-RENT-CAT for 24/7 support.

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