One of the greatest barriers to entry for construction technology adoption isn’t a lack of interest; it’s fear. Fear about process, fear about personnel, and above all, fear of change. And those fears, in some ways, are justified. While evolving the construction administration and inspection process away from field books and spreadsheets and into a digital environment is always, always beneficial, implementing new software takes time, effort, and investment from all stakeholders.
Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with the team at Jefferson County to discuss their recent e-Construction software implementation. Driven by everything but fear, Jefferson County was able to implement a new software, manage a project through closeout, and hit their goals in just 8 months - setting a new standard for e-Construction implementations.
We spoke with the following team members to figure out how they were able to accomplish this:
Matt Collums, P.E. Senior Civil Engineer, Roads and Transportation
George Chapman, P.E., Chief Civil Engineer, Roads and Transportation
Reid Coley, P.E., Principal Engineering Construction Inspector, Roads and Transportation
But before we talked about the how, we talked about the why.
So, what motivated Jefferson County to implement an e-Construction solution?
Improved Pay Item Management
As Chapman suggests in the above clip, many of Jefferson County’s issues - from quality control to transparency - all sourced back to a disparate process for handling pay items. The team sought a tool for pay item tracking that would form the basis of their construction administration process.
Eliminate Paper & Disparate Data Sources
As a lead inspector, Coley spends most of his team in the field. His needs went hand-in-hand; eliminate paper documents and create a single source of truth for project details and construction documentation to prevent lost files and potential delays.
Pay Estimate Support with Real-Time Data
For Collums, the man responsible for most of Jefferson County’s monthly estimates, it’s no surprise that pay estimate support was first and foremost in his mind. Since paper and spreadsheet-based project management can often lead to outdated or incorrect data, and thus, outdated or incorrect estimates, having access to real-time quantity data was a top priority.
How did Jefferson County decide on Appia, a cloud-based platform for Construction Administration & Inspection?
A technology panel at Jefferson County vetted several potential software solutions before landing on Infotech’s Appia, a cloud-based construction administration and inspection platform. The team felt that Appia, paired with tools for mobile inspection and paperless contracting, would address the core issues outlined above. More specifically, they honed in on feature and functionality aspects such as:
Anytime access eliminating the need for inspectors to return to the office to input or check quantity data
Pay estimate functionality eliminating the need to compile data from spreadsheets and increasing the bandwidth for estimate creation
Cloud syncing of data from field to office eliminating unnecessary inspector travel
Tackling the implementation process
When Jefferson County set out to implement Appia on their Deer Haven construction project, one challenge stood front and center; the implementation timeline would overlap with the project timeline. To ensure they could get up-and-running with Appia quickly, the team structured their Appia project set-up to be similar to their state DOT’s set-up, as this would make it easier on the inspectors who are used to conducting digital inspections for the DOT.
Since construction had already begun on the Deer Haven project, so had the typical duties of inspection and reporting. Jefferson County began managing the project on paper and spreadsheets, but once Appia was set-up to the agency’s liking, they imported all project data into the system.
Some agencies use technology implementations as an opportunity to evolve their process, while others like their process, they just want to create it in a digital environment. Jefferson County falls into this latter category - one of their core questions was, “how can we transition the core workflows of our process into Appia?” As the county implemented Appia and trained their staff, they focused on replicating several workflows:
The process of filling out a daily work report and ensuring the electronic report contains the same areas and information as their paper counterparts
Researching data for reports or audits and what it means to have instant access to a vast archive of project data
Ensuring the flow of data to certain stakeholders follows the same process, but is automated
“Appia allowed us to mold everything we do around the functionality that we had that was so close, that was already in place. We’ve used the word replicate, but we didn’t just replicate our functions - we augmented them… we can pinpoint data a lot quicker, cleaner, and easier,” summarized Chapman.
Training & Staggered Implementation
With a large staff to train, Jefferson County had to be strategic about rolling out Appia to their entire staff. After several training sessions with Infotech, they took a staggered project implementation approach, as Collums outlines above. This method prevented Jefferson County’s staff from growing overwhelmed with the dual responsibilities of managing projects and implementing new software.
What benefits did Jefferson County experience on their pilot e-Construction project
Mobile Access & Reporting
Many construction projects take place in plain view, often in the middle of your commute to work. As Coley points out, others happen deep in the boonies, where cell service is but a whisper of a dream. The ability to work in a digital environment, while in an incredibly rural environment, added increased productivity and ease to the inspection process.
Real-Time Access to Project Progress
For Collums, the ability to check in on projects from his office doesn’t just help with day-to-day project management responsibilities. It allows him to get an overarching sense of progress and of quantities placed per day, informing current and future project planning.
Collaborating with Contractors
e-Construction platforms don’t just improve collaboration within your team; they simplify and streamline external collaboration and transparency. Coley appreciated the ability to show contractors on the job site different data related to pay item progress.
Ease of Reporting
A year ago, a report request for work performed during a certain time period would have meant a night of pouring over spreadsheets to compile the right data for disparate sources. Now, Chapman can provide insightful reports to project owners and external stakeholders in a matter of moments.
From Jefferson County, with love
What would the team at Jefferson County say to an agency that is on the fence about investing in e-Construction solutions? In the above clip, Collums highlights added precision, accuracy, and speed.
If your organization is interested in adopting the benefits of a platform like Appia, we’d love to help assess your needs. If Appia is the right fit for your organization, we can set-up a demo project that reflects your process, so you can see the added efficiencies of digital project delivery. To learn more about Appia for construction administration and inspection, contact us today.