Heavy Equipment Guide Logo

PCL uses Microsoft Azure technology to gain insight on the jobsite

PCL’s Job Site Insights system monitors conditions on major projects to help improve productivity, reduce costs and ensure the safety of its employees

PCL uses Microsoft Azure technology to gain insight on the jobsite

Company info

5410 99th Street NW
Edmonton, AB
CA, T6E 3P4


Read more

1950 Meadowvale Blvd.
Mississauga, ON
CA, L5N 8L9


Read more

Construction companies are beginning to adopt technology of various kinds as growth continues in 3D modelling, machine control and other sectors, but there is more to the jobsite than just that. In many cases, contractors need to track other conditions that can have an effect on the success of a contract.

One of Canada's largest building contractors is using Microsoft cloud, Internet of Things (IoT) technology and its own expertise to manage and monitor a wide spectrum of conditions on major projects that can improve productivity, reduce costs and ensure the safety of its employees.

PCL was recently recognized by Microsoft for its Job Site Insights (JSI) development program, which takes advantage of IoT, the cloud and mobile computing to provide a single-pane view of a jobsite and the conditions experienced there. Job Site Insights is an in-house project for PCL, which has been focused on embracing technology for some time.

"We actively encourage innovation from our different districts and operating units in order for them to find ways to use technology and drive business value back to our clients and customers, increase productivity, decrease cost and improve worker safety, among other things," explained Chris Palmer, senior manager of advanced technology services for PCL.

Cloud computing has been part of PCL's technology development for several years, Palmer noted, as the company sought to take advantage of data collection as a way to expand its knowledge base on jobsites of all kinds. From there, the ability to leverage that data and break it down into information that can be used by individual staff both in the office and on the ground was the next step.

"We started to look at the Internet of Things concept, which is a way to capture meaningful data, data that you don't have today, so you can use the power of artificial intelligence, machine learning and advanced analytics to find insights that might not normally be readily apparent or obvious," he said. 

With more than a century of experience in construction, PCL has no shortage of staff with knowledge of jobsite conditions, many that can't quite be defined, Palmer said. When someone on a site defines certain conditions combining to cause a problematic result but can't point to the exact cause, that's where IoT and AI systems can come in to play.

"A lot of our IoT initiatives are showing that we can make inroads there, make those correlations and in turn make changes that can dramatically affect productivity, reduce our rework and warranty claims, and improve our quality," Palmer said. 

Managing variables and monitoring conditions
There are plenty of variables on jobsites, so PCL has started its data collection and analysis with JSI with a focus on two of those: temperature and humidity. 

"It doesn't sound sexy but whether it's buildings, civil infrastructure or industrial work, temperature and humidity are measured every day, multiple times a day, and they have a direct impact on a lot of things," Palmer said. "They can really affect things like millwork, drywall and wooden structures. If you have significant changes in temperature, for example, you can get cracking in plaster, and changes in humidity can cause millwork to dry out or warp."

For example, if a building under construction has had a heater placed to keep a room warm but the heater fails, there are plenty of problems that could happen, Palmer noted.

"If someone isn't there to catch it, that can end up resulting in some significant issues, such as water damage if pipes freeze," he said. "All of that potential rework affects quality and also affects schedule. Schedule and productivity go hand-in-hand in allowing PCL to reduce our costs, be more competitive and offer a better rate to our clients."

Monitoring those simple conditions are a first step for PCL and the JSI platform, which Palmer said can do much more as it grows.

"We're continuing to build out the Job Site Insights platform to where now we have a backlog of additional functionality we're going to deliver in the future," he said. "That includes everything from other environmental conditions such as sound metering and air quality to tracking assets and people, so we can get better measurement around things like labour productivity or optimized use of equipment."

Equipment tracking and improving efficiency
One idea involves tracking the use of scissor lifts on a jobsite, both to ensure that the company has enough equipment for jobsites of specific sizes but also to ensure that they are being used as efficiently as possible. 

"It's not just to reduce cost in terms of a scissor lift, it's to reduce the opportunity loss that you have from labour walking the site trying to find a lift, for example, or trying to track down a particular tool," Palmer said. "Being able to map those things against the space on the jobsite is really a key feature."

Palmer's team is leveraging Microsoft Azure products to build the JSI solution, taking advantage of cloud computing, Internet of Things and mapping technologies as the heart of the programs being developed in-house. In fact, that partnership was recognized at Microsoft's Inspire conference earlier in 2018 as a prime example of how businesses can transform themselves using advanced technology.

For PCL, the Azure platform provides a launching point that the company can use to move forward with additional development as it continues to digitize the jobsite.

"We're getting a digital representation of that jobsite and the conditions on it at any one time. Then, using the Azure technologies, we are able to ingest that data through the lifetime of the project. We end up with a digital copy at any one point that we can apply various analytics on to produce actionable insights for the project staff," Palmer said.

While still in the early stages of development and implementation, JSI has proven popular with PCL's various district offices and several pilot sites are in place. Palmer suggested that the JCI solutions could be a standard part of a PCL project within the next two years.

"A lot of our different districts have looked at standalone solutions. When they find out what we're developing, they immediately put in a request for their project to be the next one to get it," he said. "In construction, it can be a challenge to change processes, so for us the burden is on us to show the value in this system. I think we're doing that." 

More from Construction Technologies

Liebherr aims to revolutionize operation and machine communication with INTUSI control system

At bauma 2019, Liebherr will unveil  INTUSI, its INTeractive USer Interface, to the public for the first time. Liebherr says that this innovative, adaptive and intuitive operating concept will revolutionize the communication between and with construction machines. INTUSI connects Liebherr construction machinery and material handlers to the Internet of things (IoT) and is combining an intelligent operating logic with clever machine intelligence. With INTUSI, Liebherr has created a completely new, modern control environment.

CM Labs to exhibit Instructor Operating Station in Canadian Pavilion at Bauma 2019

CM Labs Simulations, developer of Vortex training simulators, is releasing the Instructor Operating Station (IOS), CM Labs' dedicated solution for directing, monitoring and assessing trainees. Designed to complement CM Labs' Vortex simulators for operator training, the IOS provides rich functionality for engaging training sessions, while its smart monitoring tools enable a 360-degree perspective on trainee progress.


Get our newsletter

Learn more

Trimble expands PULSE field management platform to seamlessly connect service, equipment and fleet managers on a single platform

Trimble has announced that it has enhanced the Trimble PULSE field management suite with an advanced, SaaS-based telematics platform that connects, monitors and manages assets to enable intelligent decision-making and timely actions. Trimble PULSE Telematics provides a single platform for service, equipment and fleet managers to collaborate and connect their workflows to allow for improved sharing of information.

Trimble brings next-generation mixed-reality to HoloLens 2

Trimble announced a new wearable hard hat compatible device that enables workers in safety-controlled environments to access holographic information on the worksite—the Trimble XR10 with HoloLens 2. In addition, an expanded set of Trimble software and services will be available to provide field-oriented workflows that leverage constructible 3D models and mixed reality to solve daily work tasks.

Trimble announces lightweight, rugged T7 tablet

Trimble introduced today the Trimble T7 Tablet, a rugged, lightweight and versatile device for construction surveying applications. Using Trimble Siteworks Software for construction surveying, the Trimble T7 provides real-time data to visualize cut/fill levels, calculate material volumes, check grade and communicate work orders to increase productivity and enable better decision making.

Trimble Exchange offers e-commerce platform for pre-owned Trimble gear

Trimble Exchange is an e-commerce platform connecting Trimble's SITECH dealer network directly with customers in the U.S. looking to purchase pre-owned, refurbished and legacy Trimble products. Inventory listed on Trimble Exchange is populated only by participating, authorized Trimble resellers. Customers shopping on Trimble Exchange complete their purchases through their trusted local dealer, allowing them to shop from a nationwide database and buy locally.

Topcon announces upgrade to MAGNET Collage Web complete with new deliverable options

Topcon Positioning Group announces the latest upgrade to MAGNET Collage Web, the web-based service enabling the sharing and collaboration of UAV and scanning data sets. MAGNET Collage Web version 1.3 is designed to allow operators to work with more types of data with greater flexibility, including the ability to import BIM models, as well as CAD and GIS data.   

New Kespry construction innovations further drive project profitability by enhancing drone flight and on-demand data accuracy

Kespry, the drone-based aerial intelligence solution provider, is highlighting its new construction industry-focused innovations at the World of Concrete industry trade show in Las Vegas, January 22-26. The international event is the only large-scale show dedicated to the commercial concrete and masonry construction industries. As part of its global strategic alliance with John Deere, Kespry will be featured at John Deere's World of Concrete booth located at C545.


Get Our Magazine

Paper or Digital delivered monthly to you

Subscribe or Renew Learn more

Taking technology into the field

Every construction contractor knows how paper can build up in the office and on the jobsite during work on any particular project. When it comes to a building contract, the requirements are pretty much the same no matter how high the bid, and owners need them all met before they sign the cheque.

New version of Trimble Earthworks Grade Control Platform includes support for motor graders and automatic guidance for tiltrotators

Trimble has released Earthworks Grade Control Platform version 1.7 with support for motor graders and automatic guidance for tiltrotator attachments. Trimble Earthworks for Motor Graders is a GNSS-based, 3D grade control solution designed to make fine grading more accurate, faster and easier than ever before. In addition, Trimble Earthworks now gives excavator operators using tiltrotators the advantage of automatic machine control, which can result in increased productivity.

Watch this: Topcon introduces Infrastructure and Technology documentary series

Topcon Positioning Group has announced a new series of documentary videos designed to bring greater awareness to automation and technology in the construction and agriculture industries. Along with thought leadership from Topcon, the documentaries feature interviews with various tangential industry experts and business representatives – including comments from Intel Corporation, SAP and Solar City Corporation, among others – offering their perspectives on how technological advancements have changed infrastructure and what to expect going forward. 

Sage, Procore integrations updated for enhanced operations across construction industry

Updates have been released to the Sage and Procore Integrations announced in June 2018, making them better equipped to serve users across the construction industry. With enhancements to the Sage 300 CRE integration and launch of the Sage 100 integrations, Procore is able to offer something to every construction professional, regardless of your size or trade. Improving upon these two Sage integrations has been another step toward providing tools that work for professionals throughout the industry, streamlining their jobs and simplifying the workflow.


Get our newsletter

Learn more

Earthworks GO! brings Trimble grade control to small machines

Trimble's Earthworks GO! Grade Control Platform is a 2D grade control solution for compact machine grading attachments. Trimble Earthworks GO! enables high-accuracy grading in an easy-to-use, portable platform. It is the only Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) compact machine control solution available today that runs on Android or iOS smartphones. The announcement was made at Trimble Dimensions.

LOADRITE to be integrated into Trimble Earthworks grade control for excavators

Trimble has announced LOADRITE Payload Management for Trimble Earthworks Grade Control Platform for Excavators integration. This integration will help increase productivity and efficiency for excavator operations, allowing contractors to track bucket-by-bucket payload, and monitor mass haul progress from the same Trimble Earthworks display. The versatile system can be installed on any hydraulic excavator that has Trimble Earthworks, and offers an easy transition between grade control and payload management, maximizing the contractor/s investment.

Digital Job Box from PCM offers management options for construction industry

PCM, Inc. has introduced the Digital Job Box, a rugged solution that will transform the way the construction industry manages job site projects and connects remote workers to their office counterparts. The Enterprise Technology Group at PCM worked closely with construction industry leaders to create a powerful, rugged, and scalable solution that will allow construction firms and project teams to reduce costs and wastes. 


Get Our Magazine

Paper or Digital delivered monthly to you

Subscribe or Renew Learn more