The Industrial Revolution transformed industrial production methods a few hundred years ago. Social structures also changed and in terms of work, the population largely shifted from agriculture to industry.
In the construction sector, on the other hand, there was a great increase in productivity when combustion engine-driven machinery was introduced about a hundred years ago. Today's industrial revolution is about digitalization and the integration of information technology in people's everyday lives. Using technology as part of daily life can be considered a major trend and a global phenomenon.
An example of digitalization in the construction sector is the introduction of information modeling process (BIM, Building Information Modeling, or CIM, Civil Information Modeling). The basic idea behind information modeling is processing project-related information in a digital form so that the required data can be transferred smoothly to the next project phase.
Picture: Information model of a street, screenshot of a machine control system.
The introduction of new technology or new working methods does not represent intrinsic value. What is essential is how the new technology or new working methods facilitate and enhance work. Information modeling is a working method that helps you to see the whole picture instead of just individual phases.
Generally speaking, an earthworks project consists of the following steps: source data, design, construction and maintenance. When information modeling is used, the digital data is saved in an open format. Data from the previous step is utilized during each phase and the results of each phase are applied during the next step.
The life cycle approach is a key element of information modeling. Thanks to new tools and working methods, any design errors are easier to detect before the construction phase. The as-built data is transferred simply from the construction phase to the maintenance phase. The maintenance model can be updated during the site’s whole life cycle.
Picture: Phases of an earthworks project: source data, design, construction, and maintenance.
Machine operators will not be able to use digital models without having control systems in their machinery. In fact, 3D machine control is an important element of the information modeling process.
When having 3D models on the screen of a machine control system, the operator's work becomes more independent than before. The operator knows exactly how much to excavate and where, eliminating the need for staking-out. Thanks to 3D models, even the most difficult sites can be finalized in one go without having to make corrections afterwards. The 3D system installed on the machine also helps to minimize material costs, as it is no longer necessary to excavate too much just to be on the safe side.
Without machine control, operators will not have tools to document the work done i.e. to collect as-built data on the site. For example, in cable installations there may be a need to deviate from the original plan due to obstacle along the way, such as large rock. Thanks to machine control, the deviation can be documented immediately to accuracy within a few centimeters.
Picture: Productivity in the infrastructure sector is boosted with new technology and new working methods.
Improving productivity is a challenge for many construction sites. Productivity refers to the ratio between output and input. New tools and new working methods enable productivity to be increased – thus obtaining better results with the same effort. An increase in productivity does not necessarily mean working more hours: it means working smarter.
In many countries, the information modeling process is already being used at jobsites. For example, the Finnish Transport Agency, a government organization in Finland, requires the use of the open LandXML-based data exchange format in its projects. Where productivity development is concerned, it is important that the software and systems used in earthworks projects support open data exchange standards. It is also important that the clients require the use of information modeling and open formats.
Picture: The MOBA Xsite PRO machine control system supports open data exchange standards without additional format conversions.