The coronavirus pandemic has massively impacted construction sites around the world. While some construction staff are considered ‘key workers’, most industry professionals are currently working from home. From project managers to customers to architects, if you don’t need to visit a site, the government advice is not to. This shift has given real impetus to the notion of remote construction monitoring. For years, we have had the option to use technology for monitoring building site progress from a distance, but few companies used it to its full potential. However, the pandemic has pushed remote construction monitoring into the mainstream – just like remote working more generally.
If you’re not using remote construction technology yet, it’s helpful to understand what it is and how it works. You can then explore ways that it could benefit your projects.
What is remote construction monitoring?
Remote construction monitoring refers to a variety of technologies that allow people who are not physically at a building site to check in on a project. It encompasses a range of tools and use cases:
- Project progress: Viewing reports on work completed, snags, evidence collection, queries and even site inspections.
- Productivity: Automated sensors and tools that can track a contractor’s activity.
- Health and safety: Computer-vision sensors which monitor for dangerous activity (such as staff not wearing hardhats).
- Theft prevention: Low-cost video cameras and movement detection systems that support theft prevention.
- IoT: You can use internet-connected sensors in a wide variety of scenarios. For instance, they can check if machines are being used, alert you to the need for repairs or geolocating equipment.
Construction companies can use one or a combination of these tools to improve how they manage their sites. Project owners don’t need to travel miles to a site to view progress. Instead, they can conduct many checks from the office.
7 benefits of monitoring systems
Here are seven key benefits of remote construction monitoring:
- Saves money: Remote construction monitoring can improve productivity, time management and reduce waste.
- Cuts theft and loss: With equipment and materials under video or sensor surveillance, remote construction monitoring is a strong deterrent against theft.
- Faster insurance approvals: Insurers have greater confidence in projects if they know you are tracking assets, equipment and monitoring health and safety.
- Never sleeps: Monitoring continues throughout the course of your project. It does not get bored or tired, thereby reducing human error risks.
- Covers multiple areas at once: Human site inspectors must physically walk around the site and cannot see all activity at once. A remote monitoring system improves their monitoring capacity.
- Improves health and safety: Cameras and sensors can spot if subcontractors are breaking health and safety rules, if they are tired or detect if a machine is overheating, among other use cases.
- View your site wherever you are: You no longer need to travel to perform site inspections and assess project progress.
IoT, sensors and more: 7 innovations in construction tech
Remote project monitoring
Remote construction monitoring is not just about video surveillance or installing IoT sensors. It’s also about using apps that let project managers assess progress from a distance. These tools mean that the project manager or site manager does not need to continually visit and inspect sites. They can track activity remotely based on reports from the site manager and other people in the field.
Here’s how you can support projects with remote construction monitoring:
Defects can cause delays in a project’s progress, yet it might take days or weeks before information about defects reaches the project manager. That means there are no adjustments to the project plan, throwing progress off course.
However, by using PlanRadar’s ticketing tool, the site manager can mark a defect’s location directly on the construction plan from their smartphone, tablet or by using the web application. They can then work with filters to categorize the defect and add the main attributes as well as a deadline. The application also allows you to add pictures, text, and voice memos attached to the ticket. If a subcontractor has issues while working on a defect, they can communicate directly with a site manager.
Back at head office (or indeed, in their home office), the project manager will be able to see this change on the project plan in real-time. They can then cost it into their project completion forecasts. Without remote site monitoring, this would simply be impossible.
Say the owner of a project wants to verify whether contractors have used the correct materials on-site, or if they have resolved an earlier problem. In the past, they would have to travel to the site to conduct their own inspections.
However, with PlanRadar’s evidence collection tools, someone on-site can provide evidence, taking photos of repairs and uploading them so the owner can see the changes centrally.
An important aspect of construction site monitoring is the generation of reliable and legally compliant reports. In many building sites this is time-consuming and requires the project manager to travel to the site and take notes. Back in the office, they then have to create a report and circulate this to colleagues. With remote monitoring, the trip to the site becomes unnecessary and data can be pulled easily into flexible report templates.
Remote construction monitoring is the new normal
Just as the pandemic means that remote work will become more common for office staff, it’s also reasonable to expect that remote construction monitoring will become a permanent feature of construction projects too.
To save your project managers endless hours of travel to building sites, start your free trial with PlanRadar and begin remote construction monitoring today!