How software for infrastructure projects will help build back better

In the aftermath of the global pandemic, many countries have promised to invest heavily in infrastructure to kickstart their economies. In the coming months, we can expect big-ticket announcements about green energy projects, major infra upgrades, as well as new rail, roads, ports and other large public building projects. But is the industry ready to grasp this opportunity? Civil engineering and construction firms remain among the least digitally transformed in the world. By failing to use software for infrastructure, construction firms continue to struggle with efficiency and project management. They also miss out on potential growth.

Infrastructure project in the Netherlands

There are well over 1,200 technology companies offering software for infrastructure construction businesses today. What exactly do these firms do and could they help your company work smarter?

What is software for infrastructure?

Software for infrastructure refers to a range of tools that supports you at different stages in the civil engineering project lifecycle. Some of these tools use digital technology that aims to make it faster and more efficient to design projects. Others enable engineers and project managers to oversee their progress as well as manage what’s happening on the construction site. They aim to replace inefficient processes based on emails, paper drawings and clipboards, by using faster and more transparent digital tools.

Why infrastructure construction management struggles with digital

Although there are many civil engineering firms that are highly innovative when it comes to using digital tools, the industry as a whole struggles to make use of modern IT. There are several reasons why:

  • Transience: Most large civil engineering projects require multiple firms to work together, yet they may only collaborate once. The transient nature of the industry means it can be difficult to introduce software for infrastructure. It would be too costly and complex to deploy a new tool to all collaborators on-site and teach them how to use it.
  • Remote locations: Many infrastructure building projects take place in remote locations – in the great outdoors, underground. or even at sea. This of course makes it challenging if you need to use internet-connected devices powered by a battery.
  • Limited budgets: Many civil engineering businesses operate on relatively thin profit margins and therefore have limited budgets to invest in digital technologies.

New digital tools make it easy for civil engineers to innovate

So what kind of digital tools are out there, and how they can help you? Here are just some of the most exciting kinds of software for infrastructure that the industry is beginning to use:

  • Communication apps

If you are working across a large civil engineering project with hundreds of workers from multiple companies, it can be challenging to communicate with everyone at the same time and ensure everyone is on the same page. Emails are easy to miss, and it’s not always practical to speak with everyone verbally.

This is where construction site communication apps can help a lot. Every worker on your site downloads a mobile-based based app where all conversations relating to the infrastructure project are held. This means that everyone is up to date on decisions, can ask questions and get queries answered.

  • Using GPS to support task management

Some kinds of software for infrastructure allow you to attach tickets to the digital project plan and identify their precise location using GPS. This can be extremely valuable if you are assigning tasks on a large infrastructure project. You can tell builders exactly where you want them to work by creating tasks and assigning them to individuals or teams.

  • NFC tags for monitoring and security

An NFC tag is a kind of chip that can be placed inside a sticker. Users then place these stickers around the site. The chips contain a small amount of information that you can use for a huge variety of purposes. Using a smartphone, individuals scan the NFC tag which transmits the information to the smartphone. Here are just some use cases:

  • Recording who checked out a piece of kit
  • Verifying when material arrived on-site and who was responsible for signing it in
  • Sharing critical information about a specific piece of equipment

 

  • Checklists and task assignment

If you have hundreds of workers on site it can be challenging to manage all their tasks centrally. Checklist apps mean that project and team managers are able to hand out tasks to all workers. You can also verify when tasks have been completed by requesting photographs from the worker’s smartphone.

  • Sharing the latest project plans

Infrastructure building project plans change frequently for a wide variety of reasons. Unfortunately, this means that some on-site construction staff may not be up to date with the latest plans and therefore perform incorrect work.

Once again this is where software for infrastructure helps. Mobile apps ensure that everyone sees the latest digital building model, so everyone is working from the ‘same version of the truth’.

  • Automatic document generation

Major civil engineering projects must generate and store records of all decisions made, as well as other key documentation. This is especially true when public money is funding the works, as this requires a higher level of transparency. If you store all of your documents on paper or in various file shares and inboxes, it can become very confusing to search through this content later. Additionally, digital solutions make it much easier to complete site diaries, record conversations and store digital forms.

Could you benefit from software for infrastructure?

In the coming months, we can expect a major wave of investment in large civil engineering projects as countries try to build back from the pandemic. By using smart software for infrastructure, civil engineering firms can manage projects more effectively, save money and deliver public works on time and within budget.

PlanRadar is already widely used by developers and contractors in the construction industry and is perfectly suited to the challenges facing infrastructure project managers. Contact us for a demo of the app, or read how the city of Vienna used PlanRadar to modernise one of its major subway lines.

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