IoT in Construction: Why the Industry Needs to Catch Up
Over the last few years, the construction market in North America has increased at a staggering rate. Today, the total value of new privatized construction in the US is now close to 1 trillion dollars, taking up about 4% of the country’s GDP. In 2018 alone , there were over 400 new skyscrapers planned for the city of Toronto, 80 of those being residential buildings aimed for 2020.
Even though we’re seeing remarkable growth in this industry, the process of constructing a building from the ground up has pretty much stayed the same. Old processes also have certain bottlenecks that affect a project’s performance. A lot of these pain points are still prevalent today, the two biggest ones being time delays and overspending. This is true for all sectors of the industry, like civil, residential and commercial construction.
Construction projects are almost always behind schedule. Of course, there are a number of things that could delay a project, ranging from environmental conditions to poor planning. However, what affects project time the most, though – which we’ll touch on in this blog – are concrete testing, supply chain monitoring and preventive maintenance. Any one of these factors can also make a huge dent in the project budget, especially with damaged machines or shipment delays.
What the industry needs now more than ever is a change. A new approach to starting, managing and completing construction projects and focused more towards efficiency and performance. Something that can help drive projects forward while saving on unnecessary costs.
That change is IIoT.
In this four-part blog series, we’ll be focusing specifically on the construction industry and how IIoT helps to streamline concrete testing, supply chain monitoring, and preventive maintenance.
Let’s begin with an overview of all three challenges.
Concrete is one of the most important materials used in construction. The overall structural integrity of a building is based on the quality and strength of every slab. A concrete pour can take up to 28 days to fully cure , but the only way to really know is through testing.
Traditional cylinder testing involves sending periodic samples of the concrete to a lab. The lab runs a series of tests where they check for strength and moisture content. They match the results with historical data to make sure the concrete is curing properly. Although the tests are very detailed, the time it takes both to perform the tests and coordinate logistics could add weeks to the already long wait time.
IIoT technology can help bypass this process entirely.
By embedding small sensors within the concrete you can easily monitor every slab, from when it’s initially poured to once it’s finally cured. These sensors are able to track metrics like internal temperature, pressure, moisture content and evaporation rate. The data they collect gets sent to the cloud and can be accessed at any given time.
Sophisticated software – powered by artificial intelligence – can provide you a clear breakdown of vital information, like when each slab will be fully cured and which slabs need more time. This means you’ll never need to send any samples back to a lab. Monitoring everything on location saves potentially months of testing and waiting and supplies can arrive earlier to the site.
This brings us to the next benefit of IIoT in construction.
Supply Chain Monitoring
In most cases, the supply chain can be thought of as the weakest link of any project. The time it takes to complete a skyscraper is more often than not reliant on how quickly the contractor gets materials and supplies at each stage of the build.
There have been efforts made to optimize supply chains with technologies like RFID and cloud-based management software. Although they’ve helped establish communication channels between suppliers, there’s still room for improvement.
One of the biggest opportunities that IIoT brings to all industries is the ability to have small devices communicate over long distances. This is possible using long-range wireless networks. Embedded tracking devices can provide real-time status updates on your shipments.
Plus by storing information to the cloud, it’s possible to allow suppliers to coordinate with each other. If one supplier knows the status of a certain shipment, they can then coordinate their logistics accordingly. Think about it like following a JIT (Just in Time) model. Materials get shipped to the site as soon as they’re required.
This same model can be applied to machine maintenance as well, bringing us to the third benefit of IIoT in construction.
In order to preserve the health and longevity of machinery and heavy equipment, they’re put on a preventive maintenance schedule. The problem is that a lot of these maintenance cycles are what the manufacturers recommend. These schedules are based on machine specifications and don’t account for environmental factors or conditional usage.
Overuse or underuse will affect the health and performance of any machine. Most of the time, companies end up paying for maintenance that either isn’t needed or wasn’t expected. To keep machines running smoothly, it’s important to monitor their performance on-site in real-time.
IIoT makes it easy to leverage current and historic data for each machine. Plus, when paired with Artificial Intelligence capabilities, you can get accurate estimates of when the machines will fail for years ahead. By keeping a constant record of every machine, you’ll be able to make a highly accurate and optimized maintenance schedule.
The construction industry – even with its constant growth – still has room to grow. IIoT can help facilitate that growth.
By integrating connected sensors and cloud computing, this technology tackles the three biggest inefficiencies of construction.
It can monitor vital aspects of concrete slabs in real-time, allowing you to know exactly when each slab will be dry. It can create a more streamlined supply chain by linking suppliers together. It also keeps machines running longer by tailoring maintenance schedules according to their specific usage.
We’ll dive into each one of these aspects individually in future blog posts, so be sure to follow us on social media to stay updated. In the meantime, you can check out our previous article where we break down the differences and similarities of IoT and IIoT, as well as how you can integrate it with your business.