AROPCQA

Automated digital processes in factory production to improve quality control.

Last updated: 2nd December 2020

Date uploaded:

Approved for use

Innovation Lead: Liam Winder
Project number: 105096
UKRI funding: £617,691

Website:
laingorourke.com/


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Summary

A pan-industry team of large and small industrial technology companies, software developers and research centres have applied cutting-edge digital solutions to tackle issues around quality control. The Augmented Reality for Operative Productivity & Continuous Quality Analysis (AROPCQA) is a smart headset that blends together a suite of digital innovations - from Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, to Artificial Intelligence, 3D modelling and live video feeds. By sending rich data and images from the site to manufacturing teams overnight, these digital tools allow construction operatives to work with confidence and accuracy, while completing the necessary quality assurance alongside their installation work. The team has demonstrated the effectiveness of AROPCQA on a live project at Hinkley Point C nuclear plant. With sights set on a 20%+ increase in productivity, the team also hope its innovation will improve collaboration in the supply chain and attract new skills to the sector.

Innovation type: Digital, Process
Organisation type: ACE (Architect / Consultant Engineer), Construction tier 1 contractors, Innovative SME, Research centre, Supply chain

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Project pioneers

Laing O’Rourke (LOR) is an international engineering company that spans multiple sectors and delivers large engineering, construction and management programmes. It is a pioneer of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) and has invested in a pioneering offsite production approach, known as DfMA 70:60:30 allowing it to construct faster, more safely and more efficiently. With over 150 years experience and a perspective that spans the entire value chain, LOR is well placed to lead a consortium of design, technology, construction and research organisations to improve quality control in the supply chain.

The problem

The quality of installation on a construction programme is currently too reliant on manual processes. Construction operatives don't always have the most accurate information to support efficient installation, and may be trying to translate 2D designs into 3D sites which increases the margins for error. Checks on their work currently have to be done in person by project managers and surveyors, and can add time to the build while they wait for them to be available. This combination of manual processes can lead to delays or errors, and the associated rework can have a significant impact on productivity in the short-term, and quality in the longer term. It's a system that creates delays and waste in the supply chain, and impacts on the quality and value of the finished buildings.

Vision

The ability to identify, report and address issues at design stage before construction starts will remove delays and costs associated with rework. Through the use of vision and digital technologies such as augmented, virtual and mixed reality, laser scanning, computer vision, ubiquitous wireless communications and 3D digital design creates a common platform and workflow that increases consistency throughout the supply chain. It will improve not only the efficiency but the quality of construction and manufacturing operations. And because the platform provides tools to report and analyse quality and productivity, it will lead to continuous improvement across all parts of the design and delivery process. This in turn will have a positive impact on long-term performance and whole-life value.

Key Insight

Laing O'Rourke is continually exploring new methods, tools and technologies to improve programme efficiency and quality and, in particular, how to replace largely manual and time consuming processes within construction design and delivery. Working with longstanding and likeminded partners - notably Trimble, Offset Services, DesignTech, WorkMobile and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) - Laing O'Rourke wanted to meet the productivity challenge set by the government and industry, as part of its biggest investment in the construction sector for a generation.

First step

The funding from the Transforming Construction Industrial Strategy Challenge fund led to the launch of AROPCQA which stands for Augmented Reality for Operative Productivity & Continuous Quality Analysis - a smart headset and digital platform that would help construction operatives better understand process workflows around Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) and offsite manufacturing. The project set out to minimise errors and associated rework by identifying issues at design stage through the use of vision and digital technologies. The headset and platform was designed to be used on nuclear reinforcement cage production; residential and commercial fit-out; and the manufacture of precast modules. The EDF Hinkley Point C nuclear power station gave the collaboration a live project on which to demonstrate the impact of the new platform and utilise all the new digital technologies, with an aim to increase the performance and whole-life value of the building.

Barrier

Poor productivity, waste and rework is a huge challenge for the construction sector. Simply put, builds that aren’t accurate don’t perform and need rework which adds to the cost. But this short-term focus on cost, rather than long-term value, has restricted investment in R&D and kept the industry trapped in a system that works for no-one. The AROPCQA team were seeking to increase accuracy throughs a platform-based solution that improve quality and reduce waste to improve whole-life performance and value.

Process innovation

AROPCQA is an entirely digital innovation, but its development is intended to support construction operatives and help close their knowledge gap in the installation of Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA). This will ensure that builds that draw on these offsite manufacturing processes are more accurate, of higher quality and reduce the need for rework which adds delays and costs to programmes. This smart headset can also provide an accurate record that construction has proceeded compliant to the design. Methods are being developed to automate the production of model-based as-built records that can feed into down stream processes in the nuclear build. This offers the opportunity for later parts of the build to update their design to the elements that have been installed. The benefit of this is that it maximises the tolerance windows of installation for these later parts of the build.

Digital Innovation

The AROPCQA project set out to overhaul and digitise all the construction processes used, from design to delivery. The partners explored a broad range of digital and technological solutions to develop this new platform - from augmented, virtual and mixed reality, to laser scanning, computer vision, ubiquitous wireless communications and 3D digital design technologies. The smart headset and accompanying digital platform they developed provides construction operatives with accurate information that supports efficient installation and verifies (and records) that the installation has been done correctly for quality assurance and traceability purposes. Firstly, AROPCQA draws on Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technology to provide the workforce with digital model overlays in the real world. These help teams set out and verify the build from the outset. As the build progresses, laser scanning algorithms and infrastructure allow for automated overnight processing of mass data, which removes the manual and time-consuming methods of processing laser scanning information. AI Photogrammetry algorithms replace the current manual paper-based process at the manufacturing facility. They align 3D model data with a live video feed to guide the operative through installation and captures Quality Assurance along the way. This means the operatives can work freely while using the digital tools created to complete the necessary quality assurance tasks alongside their installation works. AROPCQA includes the Mobile Work pack-based document management tool which improves methods for packaging and reviewing the data that is relevant to the engineer’s packages of works, and improves the quality of information for the construction life cycle (prior to start, through construction and post-handover). And the Mobile Quality Assurance platform is driven using cloud data management tools, pushing and pulling data from the original sources (and from other platforms) to the mobile devices around the manufacturing line. The processes ensure that the data is entered once and used multiple times, improving efficiency with the process and accuracy of the data in the final quality assurance records.

Collaborators

The project is an example of collaboration between large and small industrial and technology companies. The large companies involved were Laing O'Rourke (LOR) who led the project and provided the use cases; and Trimble, one of the largest international architecture engineering and construction (AEC) digital technology equipment and software providers. The three SMEs were Offset Services Ltd, WorkMobile and DesignTech who provided different elements of the overall solution, building a route to market and pathway to growth through the large industrial companies. Microsoft, as developer of HoloLens, supported the project team, building on existing relationships and providing access to technology and development teams. Through existing research collaborations between LOR, Trimble and Cambridge University, the project will also benefit from related PhD work in computer vision and progress monitoring. EDF NNB (Nuclear New Builds) is the client owner/operator of the Hinkley Point C power station, on which the digital platform was tested. AMRC (Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre) Catapult brings extensive knowledge of augmented reality and digitally enabling production processes to the AROPCQA project.

  • Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC)
  • DesignTech
  • EDF NNB
  • Laing O'Rourke
  • Microsoft
  • Offset Services Ltd
  • Trimble
  • University of Cambridge
  • WorkMobile

Lead support

Thanks to early engagement, Laing O’Rourke and the Transforming Construction Challenge team developed a strong relationship that helped identify and assist with the consortia, in terms of sharing best practice and scaling up the potential of the project. Input from the UKRI funded AMRC (Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre) Catapult and facilities for trialling and demonstration will help connections across various industrial and digital sectors, as well as supporting an understanding of state-of-the-art technology and cross-sector challenges.

Long Term Vision

The AROPCQA project set out to overhaul the manual processes that are currently impacting on the accuracy and speed of construction programmes, and digitise them to increase efficiency, productivity and quality within the sector. By blending technology from areas such as Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, digitised data and mobile, the project team aims to demonstrate the positive impact on every level from design to delivery to occupancy. And with sights set on a 20%+ increase in productivity, the team hope the innovation will also improve collaboration in the supply chain and attract new skills to the sector, revolutionising the way construction is perceived.

Human Stories

Longstanding and like-minded industrial partners came together to collaborate on a digital platform that could remove inaccurate manual processes and, in doing so, increase the satisfaction that construction operatives feel around the quality of their installations. By automating many of the processes and removing the frustration of errors, delays and rework, the AROPCQA project is helping make work is more rewarding for site workers. Added to that, putting digitisation at the heart of construction processes will require new skills and help attract the new talent to the industry that it needs (requiring 22% more workers to satisfy future demand).

Powerful Processes

The AROPCQA project set out to overhaul and digitise all the construction processes used, from design to delivery. The digital tools provide construction operatives with accurate information that supports efficient installation and verifies (and records) that the installation has been done correctly for quality assurance and traceability purposes. The innovative tools ranged from Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality technology to provide the workforce with digital model overlays in the real world; to laser scanning algorithms that allow for automated overnight processing of mass data; to AI Photogrammetry algorithms that replace the paper-based processes with 3D model data and live video feeds to guide the operative through installation and capture Quality Assurance along the way. The EDF NBB Hinkley Point C nuclear power station gave the collaboration a live project on which to demonstrate the impact of the new platform, with an aim to increase the performance and whole-life value of the building. And the data and technology captured and shared enables the industry to continually improve all parts of the design and delivery process – addressing and achieving long term performance gains.

Fascinating Facts

The project team hope to see a 20%+ increase in productivity through the data it is capturing on the EDF NBB Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. The financial and economic impact of error and rework in construction varies widely by project, with reported impacts ranging from 0-80% of project costs. A commonly reported average of 5% (approximately £5bn in the UK) is supported by several papers. Efficient construction quality control can reduce construction rework and prevent repetition of mistakes from project to project, saving up to 20% on overall construction costs. 6-15% of rework directly translates to waste. In a previous Laing O'Rourke project, the implementation of better dimensional control and design optimisation led to 25% materials savings and 20% carbon reductions. The industry requires 22% more workers to satisfy future demand. By putting digitisation at the heart of construction processes, the team hope it will help attract the new talent and skills to the industry.

Benefits

Assurance
The project as a whole aims to improve Quality Assurance by improving the information provision and speed up the methods for verification. Tested at Hinkley Point C, the laser scanning tool was able to informs automated algorithms that then sped up the processing of the large volumes of data so it has been possible to verify that the thousands of embedment plates at the nuclear use-case demonstrator are installed correctly and in the correct positions.

Emissions
The AROPCQA project aims to improve efficient construction quality control, reduce construction rework and prevent repetition of mistakes from project to project. Rework is a great unseen waste in construction - not only is it a source of cost over-run, but 6-15% of this directly translates to waste. In a previous Laing O'Rourke project, the implementation of better dimensional control and design optimisation led to 25% materials savings and 20% carbon reductions.

Productivity
AROPCQA will be testing out the productivity gains within the various demonstrator projects, and hope to achieve a greater workforce productivity (20%+) for each of the related activities.

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