AEC Production Control Room

A NASA-inspired mission control to deliver up-to-minute data on construction projects.

Last updated: 9th April 2021

Date uploaded:

Approved for use

Innovation Lead: Chris Coonick
Project number: 106169
UKRI funding: £1,568,968

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Website:
macegroup.com/


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Summary

Smart construction planning just got smarter with this NASA-inspired control centre for large-scale projects. Frustrated by the lack of real-time, accessible information from sites, a diverse collaborative from across the industry has developed a sophisticated production control room that can improve decision-making around delivery. The data-powered platform acts as a single source of truth across a complex chain of contractors. Teams can digitally rehearse tasks, spot inefficiencies before they cause delay, and flag safety hazards. It means decisions can be made with certainty, so projects are more likely to be delivered on time, on budget and built as they were designed.

Innovation type: Digital
Organisation type: Construction tier 1 contractors

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Project pioneers

Mace is a global construction company headquartered in the UK, bringing digital and modular approaches to construction projects. Already pioneers of the use of data visualisation to improve performance, Mace brought together a broad team of specialists; 3D Repo, eviFile, Mission Room, UCL’s Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management and Imperial College London. The team set out to help increase data access and visibility, and create greater efficiencies in the major infrastructure projects it was delivering.

The problem

Large-scale construction and infrastructure projects are not getting built as designed because the complex teams involved don't always have access to the same detailed data at the same time. Teams understand the importance of accurate information and a huge amount of time is often invested in capturing and reporting on project data. Yet the information often stays within separate teams preventing a single holistic view over the project. And with teams under time and cost pressures to deliver, decisions are often taken offsite to stay on track. But if these decisions aren’t based on the latest, most accurate data, they can lead to huge onsite inefficiencies, delays and rework - sometimes as much as 25% of the total project spend.

Vision

Developed for the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) sector, the AEC Production Control Room takes smart planing to the next level. Its NASA-inspired mission control room turns highly-accurate, real time data into digital models at the touch of a screen, so the team has the same detailed access to site information at the same time. Project coordinators can then use it to run digital rehearsals before anyone even sets foot onsite. It means teams turn up to the site knowing exactly where they need to be and what they need to do. This virtual run through also helps project teams improve on inefficiencies they spot, saving time, costs and minimising disputes. Because roles are clear and understood, there is certainty across the project and increased trust among stakeholders.

Key Insight

Mace already appreciated the importance of smart data to improve project delivery and had tested out a digital control room on a number of earlier construction projects. Despite drawing on off-the-shelf components and not being as digitally precise, it was still able to save 4 weeks on a 12-week programme through increased efficiencies. This was enough evidence to bring together an industry-wide collaborative to develop a more sophisticated, customised model.

First step

Using the funding from the Transforming Construction Challenge, Mace engaged expert partners to take its vision to the next level and develop a digital control room for infrastructure projects. But the impact of Covid-19 meant the collaborative had to pivot the idea and test it out on construction projects. Unexpectedly, this allowed them to widen the scope of the platform and create something more flexible for the industry. By bringing in 3D Repo, Mission Room and eviFile into the project, the collaborative was able to develop a platform that integrated BIM technology, touchscreens and workflow management software. The installation of the first AEC Production Control Room at the UCL Connected Environments lab was an important milestone to start exploring the opportunities that this collaboration could realise.

Barrier

This project tackles a major issue for large-scale construction, and that's the lack of accurate and easily-shareable information. When a large number of contractors are involved, time and money can be wasted in the effort to communicate and ensure that everyone can see the same picture of how the project is progressing. The AEC Production Control Room solves the lack of transparency and accessibility to data and improves decision-making.

Digital Innovation

The AEC Production Control Room provides construction teams with the most detailed, accurate data literally at the touch of a screen, so they can conduct a full digital rehearsal of a project and know exactly where they need to be, when and with what materials and resources. The NASA-style mission control draws on a number of digital technologies and automated processes to visualise site data. It blends detailed 3D BIM modelling with the most up-to-date 4D programmes and onsite time lapse cameras to track the stages of the project's lifecycle from design coordination to construction and delivery.  The large touchscreens, developed by Mission Room, provide an interactive window into the backend software platform developed by 3DRepo and eviFile. It delivers data-driven dashboards on project scheduling, work assignments and progress against time and budget. Issues onsite can be logged and appear on the dashboard in real time. And it integrates with other systems seamlessly, including drawing on live traffic and weather data that could impact on project delivery. As well as displaying data through touchscreens onsite or at the clients HQ, information will also be available online for others to access, or for use with virtual realities. This high-level picture of the project is powered by accurate data that can be accessed and shared between contractors and other construction project stakeholders in real time to aid collaboration. It can also deliver huge benefits for industries where they only have a limited amount of time to be onsite, like Network Rail who can only close down tracks for repairs during specific periods.

Collaborators

Mace brought in experts in technology, data management, digital modelling and academic research to deliver the platform.

  • 3D Repo, a digital SME, brought their expertise in database architecture and software integration.
  • eviFile is an innovative SME based in Leeds that provided the workflow management software. Its mobile field data capture toolset is a critical component and will be augmented by its cloud-based reporting platform.
  • Mission Room created the Power BI touchscreens that act as the frontend to the platform.
  • UCL’s Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management are specialists in intelligent streaming analytics, state of the art control rooms and business model implications for integrated construction project delivery. They also hosted the first Production Control Room demonstrator at the UCL Connected Environments lab, at Here East.
  • Imperial College London undertook customer-based research so the platform could be developed around construction contractor needs.
  • 3D Repo
  • Imperial College London
  • Mace
  • Mission Room
  • UCL Bartlett School of Construction & Project Management
  • eviFile

Lead support

The Transforming Construction Challenge supplied the funding, and introduced Mace to another project, the Forge, being delivered by Landsec to create the first zero carbon offices. It is now co-manufacturing and assembly manager for the Forge and the developments will eventually support new dashboards for Landsec.

Long Term Vision

The AEC Production Control Room will make sure that everyone is clear about roles on a complex construction project and that everyone has easy access to the most accurate and up to date information. This level of transparency and accuracy will remove inefficiencies, increase team confidence and certainty in delivery, and ensure projects are completed and go on to perform as they were designed. 

Human Stories

This sophisticated and accessible use of data improves the roles of the site teams - everyone knows what they should be doing and when, making the best use of people's time and skills onsite. And for those living and working around the site, disruptions to their lives are minimised as things like road closures and deliveries can be better planned and timed.

Powerful Processes

A central challenge for the project is providing a solution that meets the needs of on site construction teams while providing higher level overviews for the purposes of steering as well benchmarks across an entire construction portfolio. The AEC Production Control Room supplies the most detailed, accurate data literally at the touch of a screen, so teams can all access the same single point of truth, as well as conduct a full digital rehearsal of a project and know exactly where they need to be, when and with what materials and resources. The NASA-style mission combines 3D BIM modelling with 4D programmes and onsite time lapse cameras to track the stages of the project's lifecycle. It also integrates with other data systems to supply safety, traffic and weather data to create a rich picture from which to make data-driven decisions.

Fascinating Facts

25% of project spend is on rework as a result of decisions taken on poor data. The AEC Production Control Room provides construction delivery teams with access to 50% more information being planned and reviewed, reducing daily briefings by 2.5 hours per week and resulting in a 40% reduction of time spent for planners alone.  The AEC Production Control Room is hoping to demonstrate productivity improvements in the region of 10-15% across the capital expenditure of a project. The project is aiming to demonstrate an increase in tasks completed vs planned, resulting in a 25% reduction in programme delivery timescales. eviFile’s workflow management process has already been proven to be more sustainable, replacing 500,000 sheets of paper by digitalising reporting.

Benefits

Assurance
Demonstrating good quality assurance processes is integral to efficient delivery in construction. The real time data and sophisticated, accurate visualisation in the AEC Production Control Room will improve the independent checks that can be made on critical decisions. This reduces inaccuracies, minimises risk and improves the financial assurance of delivery.  The AEC Production Control Room provides a repeatable and controllable process that provides a deep dive and insights into individual construction sites allowing clients to review trends across a whole portfolio of construction projects.

Emissions
eviFile’s workflow management process has already been proven to be more sustainable, replacing 500,000 sheets of paper by digitalising reporting. The AEC Production Control Room also brings the site into the office, reducing the need for everyone to travel to the site to obtain information.

Productivity
Having this holistic accurate view of a construction project gives greater confidence in plans and schedules and removes the need for excessive built-in contingencies. The AEC Production Control Room is hoping to demonstrate productivity improvements in the region of 10-15% across the capital expenditure of a project. These savings will be realised by the reduction of onsite meetings and greater planning efficiency around onsite tasks and deliveries.

Safety
The AEC Production Control Room can help identify hazards before anyone arrives onsite, supporting better planning and management of safety risks. Early warning systems will immediately flag site safety issues and visualise them on the 3D models. AEC Production Control Room can also help track and analyse real time data around health issues, such as particulates, noise and vibration, so contractors can act to minimise or remove the risk. The project team is hoping to work with the Health & Safety Executive to improve the type and quality of safety data being collated, analysed and reported.  

Time
The AEC Production Control Room provides construction teams with 50% more information, reducing daily briefings by 2.5 hours per week and resulting in a 40% reduction of time spent for planners alone. Reporting can now be produced at the click of a button, saving as much as 10 days on large construction projects. Overall the project is aiming to demonstrate an increase in tasks completed vs planned, reducing programme delivery timescales by 25%.

Trade Gap
Thanks to its work on this project, project partner eviFile is now attracting attention from several large construction clients and contractors that would otherwise not have been aware of the work that they do - from presenting at the launch of Infrastructure Industry Innovation Partnership’s (i3P) new innovation portal, to being involved in Australia’s equivalent of HS2, a massive undertaking and huge business opportunity.