Heavy Equipment Guide Logo

Taking technology into the field

Paper plans and project info give way to iPads for large infrastructure contractor

Taking technology into the field

Company info

2111 Mission Street, Suite 400
San Francisco, CA
US, 94110

Read more

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.

All of those requirements can be a hindrance for everyone from the planner to the foreman. Efficient ways of managing information flow at all points in the construction process are essential to success, and the growth of construction software offerings is helping to rein in the piles of paper while smoothing the workflow across the board.

RK&K is a large civil engineering firm on the U.S. east coast, with around 2,000 employees that work on projects in various parts of the United States. It is involved in large construction management and engineering inspection projects that range from million-dollar contracts up into the billions. According to construction manager Ryan Atkins, that wide range of contracts means plenty of complexity in the paperwork.

"We just finished up a $25 million project – it was an interchange reconstruction, raising the clearance height of the bridge and widening it," Atkins said. "If you were dealing purely on paper with a project that size, you're talking probably at least five filing cabinets full of just documentation. Plus, pretty much every project we work on has federal funding involved, and whenever that comes into play your documentation requirements go way up. And, on a $105 million project we're on now, if we were working exclusively on paper you'd easily triple that, if not quadruple it."

While the hard copy of the project plans remains the gold standard for official records, electronic documents are becoming better and more popular for use both by head office and key staff in the field. Growth in mobile computing and connectivity has helped with that changeover, as has the growth in software development companies tackling the construction industry.

For RK&K, a long-standing partner is PlanGrid, a developer of construction productivity software that takes advantage of mobile technology to provide contractors with plans, documents, reports and other tools that can be easily distributed, reviewed and confirmed throughout all stages of the construction process.

"Our firm, in around 2012, purchased iPads for all the senior managers and directors; my director tossed it on my desk and said ‘hey, figure out how we can use this,'" Atkins said. "A Google search drew us to PlanGrid, and we've been using it ever since, on every project that I've been on."

Immediate benefits
The benefits of using an effective productivity solution was immediately evident, Atkins noted, as PlanGrid was used to manage the project punch list – the checklist that ensures a job is completed to the owner's satisfaction. 

"We had, I think, more than 1,000 punch list items that we had to resolve. The traditional method of doing that was to take photos, log it all in Excel and manually update the photos and the description of the issue and then make sure everybody had the most current copy of your punch list. So PlanGrid was able to step in there and eliminate all that manual process and keep everybody on the same page with closing out the punch list," Atkins said. "On that job the contractor, even though it was near the end of the project and just used for the punch list, he ended up buying a couple of iPads for his foremen, just to be able to stay up to date."

PlanGrid offers many different functions for businesses; for Atkins, the key is making it easier to reference project plans in the field without carting along a filing cabinet of paperwork.

"I still think one of the biggest features is that it's seamless, allowing you to get to your plans quickly," he said. "You can zoom and scale on your plans out in the field – it's a very user-friendly product in that regard, and I think it's one that makes it easily adaptable for field staff that might be hesitant to use new technology."

PlanGrid's functionality allows RK&K to get any changes to the plans distributed quickly and easily, Atkins noted.

"We love the fact that everybody's working off the same set of plans. Revisions, RFIs and submittals can be uploaded and hyperlinked to the plan set so that way when our inspectors or the contractor's foremen are in the field and they've got their iPad, they're seeing these other contract documents that are going to affect the work that they are doing, the changes that have been made from that original bid set," he explained.

Along with managing documentation and monitoring progress, PlanGrid offers solutions for completing reports, team collaboration and administrative oversight as well.

"A big one that I think will play into our work a lot is the forms feature – a big part of what we do as an engineering firm is documenting what is going on day to day. PlanGrid has a feature where we can automate our forms, which gives us more accuracy and quality control in our daily documentation," Atkins noted.

While there is always a learning process when it comes to introducing new products, PlanGrid has proven popular once team members have experienced it first hand, Atkins said. 

"I think it's all about getting people familiar enough to see the benefits it brings, and they're on board right after that," he said. "It couldn't be much more user-friendly or straightforward to get your plans and contract documents in someone's hands on an iPad." 

More from Construction Technologies

The future is electric, on and off road

When Volvo first started to explore electromobility back in 2005, the main driver was the need to reduce exhaust emissions and fuel consumption in our cities. But it is really over the last two years that we have seen this huge shift from local to global – with electromobility being recognized as a key tool in tackling climate change on a much wider scale. The company says that electric trucks are vital for meeting EU legislation calling for a 15 percent reduction in CO2 emissions for heavy-duty trucks by 2025. And that begins in cities with buses, refuse trucks, city distribution and urban construction – all powered by electric technology.

Topcon announces advanced Bentley integration for aerial photogrammetry processing

Topcon Positioning Group announces new cloud-based photogrammetry processing powered by Bentley ContextCapture to its MAGNET Collage Web web-based service for publication, sharing, and analysis of reality capture data. The integration allows MAGNET Collage Web users who share and collaborate with scanning and mesh datasets to now process and add UAV photos directly to the MAGNET Collage 3D environment.   

Trimble Siteworks software adds full GNSS tilt compensation and Android support

Trimble has introduced Trimble Siteworks Software version 1.1, featuring full GNSS tilt compensation functionality in standing, walking and vehicle modes, and support for the Android operating system. Construction surveyors can now capture accurate points without levelling the pole, making surveying in areas such as building corners accurate, fast and easy. In addition, Siteworks version 1.1 now supports the Android operating system, giving contractors the flexibility to choose the field device that best fits their needs and budget. 

Trimble releases update for Earthworks Grade Control Platform

Trimble Earthworks Grade Control Platform version 1.9 comes with support for fully automatic guidance for excavator tiltrotator attachments and Trimble Universal Total Stations for motor graders. Full automatic support for tiltrotators makes the attachment easy to use and learn, even for operators who have never used a tiltrotator. Universal Total Station support allows contractors to achieve millimeter-accurate fine grading with a motor grader. 

Trimble-ready factory option introduced for Liebherr PR736 generation 8 bulldozer

Trimble and Liebherr have introduced a Trimble Ready factory option for new Liebherr PR736 Generation 8 bulldozers. PR736 Generation 8 bulldozers that ship direct from the Liebherr factory are now ready for the installation of the Trimble Earthworks Grade Control Platform, which can significantly reduce the cost and complexity of the installation for the contractor. The announcement was made at bauma 2019.

free-paper-airplane

Get our newsletter

Learn more

Topcon introduces new heads-up display for hands-free construction layout

Topcon Positioning Group introduces a new LN-100 hands free, voice activated heads-up display (HUD) solution. This wearable assistant provides visual layout directions via HUD glasses that guide the operator using an LN-100 to efficiently perform layout work at a construction site. The wearable assistant enables customers to use both hands to accurately mark layout points.

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.

free-magazine-subscription

Get Our Magazine

Paper or Digital delivered monthly to you

Subscribe or Renew 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.   

free-paper-airplane

Get our newsletter

Learn more

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.

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.

free-magazine-subscription

Get Our Magazine

Paper or Digital delivered monthly to you

Subscribe or Renew Learn more