- Construction Industry Podcast Episode 18
- Craig Adam’s Proschedule’s website
- Presentation on remote construction monitoring on SlideShare
- Example of construction monitoring live feed
- Example of construction monitoring “smart” time-lapse recording
- PHOTO-NET Dynamic Scheduling Demo
Listen to the entire episode by clicking the orange “play” button above.
Hello everybody, my name is Cesar Abeid and this is the Construction Industry Podcast, and this is the podcast dedicated to helping you as you navigate the waters of the construction industry. Whether you’re looking to start your career, looking to improve your professional knowledge, or if you are a construction project or business owner, this show is for you.
Today I will talk about why you are not using your construction camera to its full potential, and if you do not have a construction web camera, I will teach you how they can be an excellent tool in project management. stay tuned!
My friends, let me tell you, it has been a crazy busy week for us here at Remontech. I have seen a great response to the last episode of the Construction Industry Podcast. If you haven’t listened to it, I recommend you check it out. I interviewed Mr. Jorge de la Guardia, engineer in charge of the expansion project of the Panama Canal. I asked him some questions about the history of the construction of the canal and the current expansion project.
The feedback I’m getting has been awesome. I think it’s really cool because I really had a lot of fun doing that episode, and I guess it shows, because I think you can pick up on my excitement as you listen to the interview.
One thing that I’ve struggled in the past was to choose a focus for the construction industry podcast. As you know very well, the construction sector is very diverse. We can talk about things such as the economic aspects of public-private partnership projects, all the way down to how to lace up your safety boots, and it would all be “construction topics.” The problem is, if I start talking only about this or that aspect or area of the construction industry, I will excite some of you and put 90% of the rest of my audience to sleep. It’s hard.
I’m not alone though… Every website, magazine, podcast, even TV shows, who set out to appeal to construction people struggle with choosing a niche. The problem is, once you choose a segment and focus on it, you alienate a large part of an audience that considers themselves to be in the construction sector.
As a result of this, I think we are an industry in search of a “glue” or a voice that keeps us together.
So what does make us one? What unites the construction industry? After the response I had from last weeks episode, I started to think that what real glue that creates unity in construction is our passion for building things. It’s that passion for being a part of a project that changes the landscape forever. It’s that pride that we get from driving around town and pointing to bridges, buildings, factories, and telling our family that we helped build them. Whether you are a carpenter or a Ph.D. in concrete technology you can relate to this.
So my promise to you is that regardless of the topic we will cover here in this podcast, I will always try to bring it home to our passion for building and changing the landscape.
Now, last week I mentioned we have a “voice mail” feature button on our website now. You can go to constructionindustrypodcast.com and click on the tab on the right end of the page that says “Send Voicemail” then just speak into your computer’s microphone to leave me a message. Think about this: besides giving me some feedback, you can promote yourself or your business, so don’t forget to tell me your name and the name of your company when you do leave a message.
So listen to the episode to hear our first voice mail message from my australian buddy and listener Craig Adams. Craig is a construction scheduler in Melbourne and his website is preschedules.com.au.
Thanks Craig… Craig mentions the cameras that are available at the Panama Canal because as you know I provide web camera services to construction projects, and the Panama Canal expansion team is using cameras to monitor their project. Not with Remontech, of course. Craig, yes, I know, it’s a tragedy. I checked them out and it looks like they put a lot of thought into the system they have now. The cameras look great. But if any of you listening are thinking of using web cameras to monitor your construction project, our website is www.myconstructioncamera.com and I’ll be happy to talk to you about what we can offer.
And this is a perfect segue to today’s topic.
Last tuesday, April 3rd, I conducted a webinar for the Project Management Institute on the topic of using cameras to help your project management experience. There were over 100 people from around the world in attendance and I had a great feedback from them. I even continued my conversation with some of the attendees over at LinkedIn and Twitter. I have uploaded the slides I used for the presentation to slideshare, and you can visit them at www.remontech.com/pmislides.
What I’ll do on today’s episode is to give you an audio version of my presentation. It’s what I call “using cameras and remote monitoring in construction projects.” I believe that many camera systems that people are using are not being taken to their full potential as a project management tool. So here we go!
In this episode of the Construction Industry Podcast, I will talk about:
- The problems with the way cameras are currently used in many construction projects
- Why using construction cameras smartly can help your management experience and project oversight
- What can be done when cameras are put to good construction management use
Let me start with a little story.
In the 1980s, a municipality in the south of Brazil built a large light rail transit system. Instead of one main contractor, the project was divided into 32 contracts, with a consulting firm in charge of planning, coordinating, and controlling the project as a whole.
The construction moved “horizontally” as each of the following activities were performed:
- Pole installation
- First layer of coarse
- Second layer of coarse
- Installation of cables on poles
This was done 1km at a time, waterfall style.
Weekly meetings were held to discuss delays. Delays created an obvious domino effect. The number of contracts and the massive footprint of the project created an exorbitant number of disagreements and claims. The large area covered made it difficult for the planning and controlling engineer to keep track of progress.
Dr. Jorge Abeid, Ph.D. (not a Ph.D. then) was this planning and controlling engineer.
Out of the difficulties encountered in that project (and many others) Dr. Jorge Abeid, Ph.D. developed PHOTO-NET as his thesis during his time at the Illinois Institute of Technology. His work awarded him his Ph.D. in Construction Project Management. PHOTO-NET won 1st place as best graduate research award that year.
PHOTO-NET basically leverages the use of cameras and their feed as a powerful tool for construction project management, and it is Remontech’s main service that we have been providing since 2002.
Now let’s talk about how cameras are used today in most projects. They are either a security/surveillance system, or a novelty.
Novelty camera systems are usually a single “high definition” camera set up on a location far enough from the construction as to capture the entire project. The camera feed is set up for visual impact, not for project management purposes. Also, the camera is there to showcase the overall project for an outside audience, not to help the manager.
- They are “cool” but not very useful
- Recordings are done on an automatic way, regardless of what’s happening on site.
- Generated video is often used for marketing and promotions.
Security cameras, on the other hand, are there to protect the project from break-ins, not to help you manage it.
Cameras should act as your eyes while you are not present on site. Surveillance cameras usually point at gates, fences, and doors, not the project itself.
If you think of a construction project as a sporting event, Surveillance systems would be like security guards. Remote construction monitoring systems are like referees. They both are on the field, but with different purposes.
When I presented this webinar for the Project Management Institute, I ran a couple of polls. About 30% of the audience had participated in projects in which cameras were used. And about 50% of them were for security purposes, while the other half were used purely as a novelty.
I think there is much more you can do with construction site cameras.
A camera system dedicated and designed for remote monitoring in project management can be helpful in a variety of ways:
- “Monitoring and Controlling” process group. They can act as a complement to the other tools you already use for other process groups.
- They can help you stay updated on project progress even when you are not there.
- They will help communications management as you can have the image as a facilitator.
- They will help with Project Time Management as a tool for the “Control Schedule” process. More on that later.
- They will help you control costs, as you will have a way to track usage of equipment and personnel.
- They will help you with risk management, as you will be able to monitor and control risks such as dangerous activities and accident prevention from a distance.
When we talk about remote monitoring as a tool for project management, I like to subdivide the topic into two: Live feeds and recordings. They will help you in different ways.
- Cameras will look at areas of the site where key activities in your project schedule will take place, preferably those in the critical path.
- It’s important that management and maintenance of the monitoring system does not become another item on your WBS:
- Because it is not essential to project execution, cameras and auxiliary equipment will not be a priority for the project team, and rightly so.
- The way to ensure that the monitoring system will stay up and running throughout the project is to hand that management off to a subcontractor.
Live feed example: http://remontech.com/livefeed
Video recording in project management
- Cameras will be on site for months, sometimes years
- The amount of data that is potentially generated is astounding
- In order to make sense of it, it is needed to capture what the cameras are seeing in a methodical and purposeful way
- They have front-row seats to all activity
- You can’t afford not to capture it. But how?
The answer is time-lapse recording.
- In time-lapse recording, a frame is recorded on a fixed time rate. For example, a recording is done on a frame rate of 30 frames per minute.
- The recording is played back at a higher frame rate such as 30 frames per second.
There are some issues with time-lapse recording in construction:
- Projects are very long in duration, so even time-lapse recordings can be extremely long
- Typically the recording/playback is done at a randomly selected frame rate, regardless of the particularities of the project
- Construction project activity levels over time are not linear: at times there will be many activities taking place, but there will be periods of time when nothing of value happens on site for days. Regular, automated recordings do not accommodate for that.
The solution is what we call “smart” time lapse. It takes into consideration construction activity levels when deciding what frame-rate to use for a particular day.
Smart time lapse example: http://remontech.com/smarttimelapse
Linking your smart time lapse to your construction schedule
This is where it all comes together. On one hand you have your schedule in which all your activities are laid down on a timeline, and on the other this time-lapse video that is optimized according to time and activity level. What we did is to find a way to connect these two concepts and bring them together, which is the heart of our remote monitoring system.
Imagine your gantt chart. At the same time that we are monitoring and recording project progress, we also collect precise information regarding percentage of completion for each activity. Most of the time this information is available to the project manager – after all, often this is the way that subcontractors are paid: based on their progress. We take that progress information and enter into its own “schedule” creating an “as built” schedule. We then overlay the as-built schedule on to the as-planned schedule. This immediately shows us which activities are delayed and which started earlier. Most importantly, when we play the video, we can see as we move down the timeline on the gantt chart, when exactly the project starts to get off-track. The video provides a powerful tool to pinpoint precisely what was happening on site on the day of the delay or issue. Since you can clearly see which activity is to blame for the delay, it makes it easier to decide which subcontractor is in charge of the task and as a result you can focus your efforts in finding a solution.
Now, this is a very visual tool, and the audio podcast fails to convey exactly what I want to show you. So please check out this video at:
I hope this has helped you see how cameras can be insanely helpful in your construction project oversight. Please visit this episode page at http://remontech.com/episode19 and leave me a note there. I would love to get your feedback. Have you had cameras on your project? What was your experience with them. Let us know and I’ll share your thoughts here on the Construction Industry Podcast.