The American Professional Constructor, The Journal of the American Institute of Constructors (AIC) – December 1998, Volume 22. Number 2
Colleges’ Emphasis on Construction Safety Richard J. Coble, Jimmie Hinze, Michael J. McDermott, Brent R. Elliott
ABSTRACT The research contained in this paper is focused on construction safety education; with respect to the extent that safety is taught at the college and/or university level. Construction safety is a critical subject since it is basic to all aspects of the construction process, but construction education programs at the college/university level have varied approaches and emphasis on this subject. Construction graduates will face multiple issues related to safety throughout all phases of construction projects in which they are involved. Because construction injuries are such a large part of a construction company’s exposure to liability, especially in regard to workers’ compensation exposure, building construction graduates are often placed in positions where knowledge of construction safety is essential to their job performance. It is therefore critical that the institutions of higher learning provide a thorough and practical education which introduces students to the identification of job site hazards, the proper use of protective safety devices, and a reasonable understanding of the OSHA regulations as they pertain to the construction industry. The focus of this research was to inquire about safety education at the colleges/universities which offer programs in construction science. This study was designed to provide a general idea of how, and to what extent, construction safety is promoted within their curriculum. This
The American Professional Constructor, The Journal of the American Institute of Constructors (AIC) â€“ December 1998, Volume 22. Number 2
paper presents the results of the study, which was conducted during the Spring 1997 semester.
Key Words: Construction education, construction safety, college engineering curriculum, OSHA training.
INTRODUCTION Construction worker injuries can seriously compromise the completion of a project and have a significant impact on the profitability of a firm. Even in the absence of any litigation, the high costs of medical treatment can severely impact corporate profits. This realization in the construction industry has become more widely recognized in recent years. In light of this new awareness, it is prudent that graduates of building science programs have training in the area of safety. But to what extent are the various building science programs responding to this need?
The results of a survey of a selection of building science programs
provide an answer to this question, conducted during the Spring of 1997. The need for construction safety education is not an issue of consensus among construction educators at the college level. This study was designed to evaluate the extent that construction safety education was being emphasized in construction programs at the college level throughout the United States.
addition to the obvious importance placed on the study of OSHA construction regulations, by legislative mandate, there are also cost considerations that affect bottom-line profits. Because most graduates from a construction education
The American Professional Constructor, The Journal of the American Institute of Constructors (AIC) â€“ December 1998, Volume 22. Number 2
program can expect to be in a management position at some point during their careers, it is imperative that these students are well prepared in the area of construction safety management, from preliminary estimating to project close out.
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY To obtain information regarding the extent that safety is integrated in construction programs, a survey was developed that asked for some basic information.
The questionnaire used for this report was designed to gather
information from colleges and universities offering bachelor programs in construction related fields. A key question being asked was whether a course in the program is completely devoted to construction safety. Additionally, if such a class is offered, what portion of the class is devoted to the discussion and understanding of OSHA regulations.
A copy of this survey is provided in
Appendix A of this paper.
Intent of Survey The survey of four-year college/university level construction programs in the United States was conducted in order to find out how many programs were teaching construction safety to their students, and to what extent the program covered this subject. Furthermore, the survey was intended to discover what portion of the construction programs focused on OSHA regulations. Another focus of this study was to ascertain if construction safety was incorporated into other courses within their program.
The American Professional Constructor, The Journal of the American Institute of Constructors (AIC) â€“ December 1998, Volume 22. Number 2
Sample Selection All colleges and universities offering at least a four (4) year bachelorâ€™s degree in a construction related field were contacted and asked to participate in this survey being conducted by the Center for Construction Safety and Loss Control at the University of Florida.
The contact persons, along with their
telephone and fax numbers, were obtained from the Associated Schools of Construction (ASC) 1996 membership directory. Multiple attempts, through mail, facsimile, email, and phone calls were made when necessary to contact all representatives listed in the ASC directory.
Procedure All representatives were contacted first by facsimile and/or mail. All those who did not respond were contacted a second time by telephone or email, if available. If there was no response, then repeated attempts were made by telephone and email wherever possible. Fifty-eight percent (58%), or 55 out of 95, of the institutions surveyed provided a response to this survey.
Analysis The reasons for some programs not participating in the study varied, including lack of interest in the survey, lack of an established safety course at the corresponding institution, or absence of an instructor or informed individual at the time this questionnaire was introduced. The recipients who did respond were generally positive about the issue of construction safety in the college classroom,
and were very eager to discover the current and future safety education trends of other U.S. colleges and universities. All results were analyzed in a scientific manner, producing graphic results from a calculated distribution of yes and no responses.
responses contained data that was not easily quantified in descriptive statistics, binary responses to yes and no questions are included in charts and graphs as separate variables.
RESULTS In response to Question #1, forty-five percent (45%), or 25 out of 55, of the responding institutions have a course within their curriculum which is wholly devoted to construction safety issues. As summarized below in Figure 1, some of the respondents who answered â€˜noâ€™ to this question cited either that safety is addressed in a more generalized manner through other courses in the program, or that a certain group of required classes provide a satisfactory discourse on the topic of safety as it relates to each individual class. Sixteen institutions reported that one-half (1/2) of the entire class is devoted to construction safety issues, while the other half covers estimating, materials and methods, or soil mechanics. The second question asked at what level the safety course (if available) was taught. Most institutions indicated that a safety course is taught predominately at the junior and senior levels. Some schools responded that this course was available to all academic levels within the program, though most tend to complete the course during the last two years of the program. Another
Question # 1: Does the curriculum in your construction program include a course that is wholly devoted to safety? (55 responses) 35 30 25 20 15
10 5 0
question asked if the class is required or if it is an elective. Senior and junior levels have the highest levels of respondents who indicate that the class is required.
Because some of the institutions do not offer a class which is
completely devoted to construction safety, but do offer a fairly substantial inclusion of safety in a portion of one or more classes, only the yes respondents are presented in the graph. Many of the school representatives made it clear that a definite effort was being made by the department to include a mandatory construction safety class or seminar for graduating seniors. Questions #2 and #3 are grouped together in Figure 2 in order to illustrate the relationship between the level at which the class is offered, and whether or not the class is mandatory.
10 8 6 4 2 0
#2,3 - At what level is the class taught? Required or elective?
Level Figure 2: Questions #2 and #3
Figure 3 provides a range of how many students take the safety class per year, in schools which offer a course wholly devoted to safety. Fifty-two percent (52%) of all schools who responded reported that between thirty and fifty students take the construction safety class per year. On this question, many respondents from schools where construction safety is not a mandatory class noted that some students take elective courses outside their department which may relate to safety. Four percent (4%) who did not respond to this question either did not have access to class registration data or did not wish to disclose this information. Questions were also asked about the instructional content that related directly to the OSHA regulations. All of the schools that offer a separate safety class responded that they do cover OSHA regulations to varying degrees. Fortyfour percent (44%), or 11 out of 25, of these institutions with a separate safety
The American Professional Constructor, The Journal of the American Institute of Constructors (AIC) – December 1998, Volume 22. Number 2
course include OSHA Outreach Training (i.e., OSHA ten-hour, OSHA thirty-hour, or OSHA 500 program), with certificates and wallet-sized cards awarded upon
Question #4 - Approximately how many students take this class per year?
“All No Students” Response
50-80 (32%) Figure 3: Question #4
successful completion of the class. The results are summarized in Figure 4. Some of the respondents who stated that no OSHA Outreach Training was offered within their program cited that steps were being taken to include OSHA Outreach Training by the next academic year.
Number of Schools
#5 - What portion of the class (%) is devoted to safety? #6 - Is an OSHA certification offered by completing the course?
15 10 5 0
Portion of the Class Figure 4: Questions #5 and #6
Type of OSHA Outreach Training Offered 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 Figure 5: Type of OSHA Outreach Training Offered by Participating 10hr Schools 30hr 500 none
Six of the eleven respondents whose
separate safety class stated that the thirty-hour OSHA Outreach Training
course, while four offer the tenhour training (see Figure 5). The
offers an Outreach Program to colleges, universities, and technical or vocational institutions who provide a thorough discussion and demonstration of OSHA regulations for the construction industry. Passing students are issued a certificate and wallet-sized card, which recognizes their successful completion of the OSHA training program. Questions #7, #8, and #9 will only be addressed briefly here. Answers to Question #7 indicated the use of OSHA regulations and/or safety management texts. Results of Question #8, regarding when the safety courses were first taught, show a wide distribution of years, ranging from the early 1970â€™s up to 1997. In Question #9, most programs with a safety course were willing to provide a copy of their syllabus. Question #10 asked if a deliberate attempt has been made to include safety in any other courses taught in the construction programs in these participating schools. The results are presented in Figure 6.
The American Professional Constructor, The Journal of the American Institute of Constructors (AIC) – December 1998, Volume 22. Number 2
#10 - Has any deliberate attempt been made to include safety in any other courses taught in the construction program?
Yes No No Response
75% Figure 6: Question #10
Figure 6 provides responses from all participants in the survey, without regard to whether or not they have an individual safety course in their curriculum. The five percent who responded ‘no’ to Question #10 indicated that they either offer a class devoted to safety and/or guest lecturers who discuss construction safety issues at the schools. Some indicated that time constraints on the delivery of other course materials often do not allow for a thorough discussion of construction safety issues.
CONCLUSION The future for an improved, safer working environment for the construction industry is integral to the training that is done in the classrooms of colleges and universities. Students who graduate from a construction science, engineering, or architecture program will eventually find themselves involved in construction safety issues on the job. Therefore, it is important that the construction programs in the United States colleges and universities incorporate safety into their
curriculum, not only as a momentary topic of discussion in each class, but as a separate class which focuses on all areas which will help the graduates in their careers. Since the OSHA regulations dictate the minimum construction safety standards on all U.S. job sites, it is encouraging to see from the survey that some colleges have formed a positive relationship with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, most commonly by becoming involved in the Construction Safety Outreach Program.
The closer the relationship between college level
construction safety programs and the OSHA Administration, the more prepared students will be when entering the modern construction management workforce. This study shows that some colleges and universities are very proactive in their safety education, but the authors recommend that all construction science programs seriously consider specifically addressing safety in their curriculum. With the importance of this subject being emphasized by federal mandate and also by construction management, all graduates from construction science programs can benefit in their career by being safety educated. The job site should not be the place where graduates of construction science programs have their first exposure to OSHA and construction safety.
M.E. RINKER, Sr. SCHOOL OF BUILDING CONSTRUCTION Survey of Safety Education in Construction Programs 1.Does the curriculum in your construction program include a course that is wholly devoted to construction safety? If yes, answer the following: 2. At What level is this class taught? ____ freshman ____ soph.
3. Is this class an elective or is it required? ____ elective
4. Approximately how many students take the class each year? _____ 5. What portion of the class is devoted to coverage of the OSHA regulations (as opposed to coverage of safety management issues)? ____% 6. Is OSHA Outreach Training earned by completing the course? ____ yes, 10-hour ____ yes, 30-hour ____ no 7. What text is utilized in this class? _________________________________________ 8. When was this class taught for the first time (which year)? _____________ 9. Could you provide a copy of the syllabus? _____ yes, attached
10. Is any deliberate attempt made to include safety in any of the other courses taught in your construction program? ___ yes ___ no If yes, please describe the course and describe what safety material is covered: ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Please provide your name and address below, and a summary report will be sent to you. Thank you for your assistance. Incidentally, your comments will remain anonymous. Name: ___________________________________________
Address: ________________________________________________________________ University: ______________________________________________________________ City, State: ______________________________________________________________ Fax: ___________________________ e-mail________________________ Please return to: Center for Construction Safety and Loss Control M.E. Rinker, Sr. School of Building Construction Gainesville, FL 32611-2032
Or Fax to: (352) 392 â€“9606
Richard J. Coble, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the M.E. Rinker, Sr. School of Building Construction at the University of Florida, and is the Director of UF’s Center for Construction Safety and Loss Control.
Jimmie Hinze, Ph.D., P.E., is a Professor and the Director of the M.E. Rinker, Sr. School of Building Construction at the University of Florida.
Michael J. McDermott, MBC, is a Project Estimator / Project Manager with O’Connor & Taylor, Inc., in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Brent R. Elliott, MSBC, is a Ph.D. student in the M.E. Rinker, Sr. School of Building Construction at the University of Florida.
CONSTRUCTION RESEARCH AGENDA: FOCUS AREAS AND TOPICS
Matt Syal, Ph.D., AIC, CPC
ABSTRACT This paper presents a construction agenda including focus areas and major research topics.
The proposed agenda is envisioned to provide a starting point
towards the development of a research emphasis for construction programs. The paper provides the definitions and classification of various types of research in construction. It presents a detailed research agenda by using a work breakdown approach.
INTRODUCTION There is a growing trend among construction programs to offer graduate degree programs and to enhance the research productivity of their faculty members. During the last 10 years as an educator and researcher in areas related to construction management, the author always felt the lack of a document, which provides systematized classification of research topics in the construction area. Construction faculty and practitioners have to initiate efforts towards developing a comprehensive research agenda in construction due to the interdisciplinary nature of the field and also due to increasing construction research needs among faculty and graduate students in construction programs (Oglesby, 1988). The work in this paper consists of using a work breakdown approach to divide the construction field until it reflects specific research topics. In order to get to the
specific topics, two of the focus areas are developed in extensive detail while other areas are developed to a certain extent. The development of the research agenda is envisioned to be an evolutionary process and the readers are encouraged to add or modify to the proposed research agenda to make it fit their situation.
CONSTRUCTION RESEARCH The goals of any construction program at the graduate level almost always include a research component. For example, at Michigan State University, the goals of the graduate program are (BCM 892, 1997): 1. To teach advanced construction management techniques, 2. To prepare the graduates to manage various functions of complex design and construction projects, 3. To enhance the decision making process by creating innovation seeking and research “mind set,” 4. To assist in the development of an area of specialization through coursework and research, and 5. To create an awareness of the global aspects of construction management.
The evolving focus on research in construction programs is also evident by the work of the research committee of the Associated Schools of Construction. This committee took upon the task of developing a definition of Construction Research for its 80 plus member schools. After considerable discussion and many revisions, the following definition was adopted by the committee on April 6, 1995 (ASC, 1998).
“Construction Research is any scholarly activity that expands the knowledge base in the field of construction. This may include: a) development of new knowledge, b) refinement of existing knowledge, and c) the transfer of knowledge from other fields to construction. The evidence of acceptable Construction Research should result in accessible publications, reviewable reports to sponsoring organizations, and/or presentations to professionals. The highest level of research is that which is critically reviewed by experts in the appropriate construction discipline and published.”
Similar to research in many fields, construction research can be categorized into two major types. These two categories are:
1. Based on the type of problem and the applicability of the solution (Borg, 1983; Carr, 1983): a. Basic Research - it is the development of new theories or testing / evaluation / modification / expansion of existing theories. Its essential aim is to contribute to the
knowledge base without regard to immediate practical application. This
research attempts to: - provide a scientific base for empirical knowledge or practices, - produce scientific explanation of unexplained phenomena, or - develop new methods of analysis.
b. Applied Research - this type of research aims to solve specific practical problems with
problems and under
It is performed in relation to actual
conditions in which they were found in practice.
c. Combination of Basic and Applied Research - this type of research is neither purely basic
This type of research is very common in
construction, where a particular
problem is solved in such a way that the
solution is somewhat generic in nature.
2. Based on the nature of the topic and the methodology (Syal, 1995) a. Survey-based Research- collection of data through questionnaires, interviews, or other
data collection instruments. The collected data is analyzed to draw
inferences or assist
with other parts of the research, such as, identifying or
defining the problem,
supplementing the background information, or validation
of the research solution. b. Experimental Research - laboratory or computer-based testing to come up with new
It can also deal with testing the effectiveness of existing
solutions in new settings. c. Exploratory / Developmental Research - development of solutions for construction
problems without experimentation but by utilizing existing
expertise in other aspects of construction (highway to residential construction) or from other fields (manufacturing, business management, computer science, etc.)
d. Descriptive Research - description of an unexplained or unknown problem or practice, including its causes, history, evolution, and possible solutions.
Out of the above-noted categories, existing research literature has defined the first category very well.
The second category has particular relevance to
construction and most of the on-going research in construction can be defined in terms of this category. Table 1 Contractual Arrangements 1. BY TYPE OF AWARD - Competitive Bid - Negotiated - Combined 2. BY TYPE OF REIMBURSEMENT - Fixed Price - Lump Sump - Fixed Price - Unit Price - Cost Plus Fee - Guaranteed Maximum 3. BY TYPE OF PROJECT DELIVERY - Design-Award-Construct - Design Build - Design Manage - Turnkey - Owner Builder - Construction Manager - Program Manager - Build-Operate-Transfer
DEVELOPMENT OF RESEARCH AGENDA As part of the efforts in developing structured graduate level construction research seminar courses at Michigan State University and at Colorado State University, the author has been working at developing a construction research agenda. The efforts in this regard have been supplemented by authorâ€™s work as the editorial board member of the Journal of Construction Engineering and Management,
editor of the Building Research Journal, and my involvement with the National Consortium of Housing Research Centers. In addition, works published by many other researchers (Carr, 1983;
Perreault, 1992) were reviewed to develop a comprehensive agenda.
Various research focus areas and topics, presented as part of the construction research agenda, are generic in nature. The research efforts on most of these topics will be greatly influenced by three related factors, which are: 1. Project Size, Duration, and Location
2. Type of Construction Project (refer to Figure 1) 3. Contractual Arrangements (refer to Table 1)
The entire spectrum of construction research can be divided into six major focus areas, which are: 1. Construction Management and Administration 2. Construction Technology 3. Engineering Related Aspects 4. Advanced Technology Applications 5. Design Related Aspects 6. Other Areas
Figure 2 provides a summarized version of six research focus areas and major research topics under each of the focus area. Attempts have been made to further divide some of the major topics further into detailed research topics so that either one of the detailed topics or a combination of two or more detailed topics can assist a graduate student in defining his/her thesis topic. The detailed topics for focus areas for Management and Administration, and Technology are provided in Tables 2 and 3. Table 2 Detailed Research Topics I. CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT AND ADMINISTRATION
1.1 CORPORATE - Organization Design - Growth - Survival/Failure - Strategic Planning - Organization Behavior - Marketing - Decision Analysis - Total Quality Management - Computer Applications 1.2 PLANNING - Project Planning - Estimating - Scheduling - Work Breakdown Structure - Safety Planning - Quality Assurance - Productivity - Value Engineering - Life-Cycle Analysis - Risk and Uncertainties - Materials Management - Computer Applications 1.3 CONTROLLING AND MONITORING - Progress Controls - Cost Controls - S-Curve - Earned Value Analysis - Historical Records - Safety Control - Quality Control
The American Professional Constructor, The Journal of the American Institute of Constructors (AIC) â€“ December 1998, Volume 22. Number 2 - Productivity - Computer Applications 1.4 PROJECT ADMINISTRATION - Submittals and Approvals - Project Team - Project Communication - Home Office Reporting - Liaison with Other Parties - Documentation and Records - Codes and Regulations - Computer Applications 1.5 PERSONNEL AND LABOR RELATIONS - Motivation - Productivity - Union Relations - Labor Demand and Supply - Work Force Projections - Education/Training/Apprenticeship - Computer Applications 1.8 CONTRACTUAL - Construction Manager Approach - Supplier/Vendor Management - Subcontractor Management - Bonds/Insurance - Contract Documents - Change Orders and Design Conflicts - Bidding Process and Contract Type - Partnering - Negotiation - International Construction - Computer Applications 1.7 LEGAL - Delays and Time Extension - Claims and Change Orders - Dispute Resolution and Mediation - Arbitration - Litigation - Codes and Regulations - Computer Applications 1.8 FINANCIAL - Project Budgeting and Financing - Corporate Budgeting and Financing - Cost Benefit Analysis - Feasibility Analysis - Accounting - Computer Applications 2.1 METHODS AND TECHNIQUES - Analysis of Existing Methods and Techniques - Innovative Methods and Techniques
The American Professional Constructor, The Journal of the American Institute of Constructors (AIC) â€“ December 1998, Volume 22. Number 2 - Energy Efficiency - Performance of Building Systems - Integration of Building Systems - Temporary Structures - Environmental Aspects - Retrofitting, Renovation, and Reuse - Precast/Prebuilt Elements and Systems - Nontraditional Construction, e.g. In Space - Failure and Forensic Analysis - Equipment Selection, Operation, and Maintenance - Computer Applications
2.2 MATERIALS - Properties and Performance - Testing - Disposal - Salvage and Recycling - Hazardous Materials - New/Innovative Materials - Storage - Computer Applications
2.3 SERVICE AND PERFORMANCE SYSTEMS - Electrical Systems - HVAC Systems - Plumbing Systems - Fire Protection Systems - Elevators - Other Specialized Systems, e.g. in Hospitals - Smart/Intelligent Buildings - Acoustics - Lighting - Infiltration and Energy Efficiency - Computer Applications
2.4 INDOOR AIR QUALITY - Healthy/Sick Buildings - Radon - Asbestos - Lead Paint - Health Effects of Building Materials - Computer Applications
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS Construction research is a relatively young field in itself. In recent years, there has been a greater push for construction research and innovation from many
avenues such as, universities, industry associations and research foundations, individual companies, and federal and state government agencies.
systematic classification and representation of construction research areas has been felt by many researchers, especially by those in the university settings. This paper presents a construction research agenda which includes focus areas and major research topics.
Such representation of construction research
agenda using work breakdown approach provides an understanding of various research areas in a comprehensive fashion. With the growing emphasis on graduate programs and research productivity in most university programs in construction, there is a strong need to define a construction agenda. Such an effort will provide a starting point for many graduate students and faculty members embarking on the road to pursuing research projects.
It will also serve as a tool for the industry
organizations and government agencies to formulate a long-term research plan for the construction industry.
ASC (1998). “Associated Schools of Construction,” URL: http://ascweb.org.
BCM 892 (1997).
Construction Management Research Seminar, Course Notes,
Building Construction Management Program, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.
Borg, W.A. and Gall, M.D. (1983). Longman, Inc., White Plains, NY
“Educational Research: An Introduction,”
Carr, R.I. and Maloney, W.F. (1983). Engineering.”
“Basic Research Needs in Construction
Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, American
Society of Civil Engineers, NY, NY, vol. 109, No.2, 181-189.
Halpin, D. (1993). “Process-Based Research to Meet the International Challenge,” Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, American Society of Civil Engineers, NY, NY, vol. 119, No. 3, 417-425.
Mohan, S, Johnston, D.W., and Shoemaker, L. (1990). “Residential Construction: Research Agenda for the 1990’s and Beyond,” Working Paper, National Consortium of Housing Research Centers, NAHB Research Center, Upper Marlboro, MD.
Oglesby, C.H. (1988). “Dilemmas Facing Construction Education and Research in the 1990’s,” Third Annual Robert L. Purifoy Construction Research Award Lecture, Annual Convention, American Society of Civil Engineers, St. Louis, MO.
Perreault, Jr., R.J. and Stroh, R.C. (1992). “Identifying Research Needs,” Building Research Journal, Building Research Council, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL., vol. 1, No.1, 7-12.
Syal M. (1995). “Research Agenda for Construction Programs,” Presented during Research in Progress Session,
Associated Schools of Construction Annual
Conference, Tempe, AZ.
Dr. Matt Syal serves as an associate professor and the graduate coordinator in the Building Construction Management Program at Michigan State University. He also serves as the research director of the Housing Education and Research Center, a partnership between Michigan State University and the housing industry in Michigan.
Dr. Syal received his Ph.D. in Construction Engineering and Management from Penn State University.
Prior to joining academic world in 1988, he served as a Vice
President and Senior Project Manager for a general contracting firm in the Boston area.
His interest areas include, Construction Project Management, Computer-
Integrated Construction Management, International Project Management, and Management aspects of Housing Industry.
Bar Code Applications In Construction â€“ Three Case Studies Dr. Constantine, A. Ciesielski, Mr. Milton Emory, Mr. Tom Stockmal
ABSTRACT This paper presents three case studies illustrating the use of bar codes in construction. The first case deals with the control of parts at a Caterpillar dealership. Applications include inventory control, receiving and ordering, order processing, and engine kits. In some uses over 50% savings were realized in terms of time and money saved. Case two involves tracking labor and equipment usage for maintenance and construction activities at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. The system, ALEC, developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, has been in use at Fort Wainwright since 1991.
installation saves $50,000 per year using the system, and has virtually eliminated errors in record keeping. The third case is SHOPFAX; a bar code based system that tracks maintenance for heavy equipment and vehicles, used at the Fort Lee, VA army installation. documented.
Using a series of menu cards, fleet maintenance is controlled and A special advantage of this system is that part warranties are fully
utilized, which contributes to over 50% of the $30,000 annual savings attributed to the system. Overall, the use of bar code technology has saved considerable time and money in controlling parts, labor and equipment, equipment/vehicle maintenance.
INTRODUCTION Bar code technology has been used extensively in several industries including retail sales, medicine, automotive, and others.
Although the technology has been
around for a long time, it has been slow getting started in the construction industry. Recent studies have shown that less than one percent of construction companies uses bar code technology on the projects (Ciesielski, 1997; Condreay, 1996). Over 10 years ago the Construction Industry Institute (CII) commissioned a formal research project to study the potential applications and cost benefits of using bar codes in construction (Bell and McCullouch, 1988). Typical applications included field material receiving, control, and inventory; tool and equipment issue and tracking; capital asset and equipment tracking; drawing and document issue and control; quantity takeoff; and a potential for time and progress reporting, and field inspection. An important conclusion of this study was that most any data processing that involves repeated keyboard data entry is a good candidate for using bar code technology. There has been a recent effort to update the CII (Construction Industry Institute) Project Manuals Management Handbook.
During research and preparation of this
document it was found that approximately 42% of CII member engineering/construction firms used bar code technology on at least some projects to control tools. And about 35% of these firms used bar coding to control materials on at least some of their projects (Bell, 1998). One key area where bar code technology is extensively used is materials management.
The Construction Industry Institute emphasizes the importance of
standardization of a bar code system for all construction materials (Stuckhart and Cook,
1989). The Construction Industry Action Group (CIAG), formed in 1992, undertook several projects, one of which was to publish research reports related to quantifying the benefits of bar coding and other technologies (Bell, 1988). The Common Industry Material Identification Standards (CIMIS), formed from the merger of a subcommittee of the CIAG and others in 1993, has worked on bar code standards for the construction industry (Molad, 1996). However, progress has been slow, and CIMIS is still in the developing stages for those standards. In the meantime, companies have developed and implemented their own internal systems to control parts and other materials. An area not receiving widespread attention as yet is the control/tracking of labor and equipment using bar code technology. One system developed for this purpose is ALEC (Automated Labor and Equipment Card) developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for use at military installations (Flickinger, 1995). The system has been in use at several army installations within the U.S. for the past several years. This paper presents three case studies using bar code technology for construction related activities. The first case is the control of parts at a major Caterpillar dealership in Atlanta, Georgia. The system controls the inventory and distribution of over 44,000 parts for large construction equipment. The second case study addresses the use of ALEC at the Fort Wainwright, Alaska military installation. The third case study is the use of SHOPFAX to control vehicle/equipment maintenance at Fort Lee, Virginia.
CASE 1: Parts Control Yancey Brothers is a major Caterpillar Dealership located in a suburb of Atlanta Georgia. Besides handling a full line of Cat equipment, they also carry a full line of Cat parts, over 44,000 of them. Up to several years ago, management of these parts was tedious and time consuming. Then, in the mid 90s, Yancey introduced bar coding and streamlined their parts management system.
Applications Yancey Brothers uses bar codes for three principal parts management applications: 1) Inventory Control (called Bin Counts), 2) Receiving and Ordering (called Stock Receipts), and 3) Order Processing (filling orders).
They are currently
implementing a fourth use in Engine Kits that will be explained later in this section.
Inventory control is required for several reasons, not the least of
which is a requirement by their accounting firm for reporting assets in their quarterly and annual financial reports.
Yancey began using bar codes for inventory control (Bin
Counts) in October 1995. At that time they were using the Caterpillar “DBS” (Dealer Business System) for inventory reporting.
DBS is not a bar code based system.
However, Yancey was receiving a number of bar coded parts from Cat. They decided to implement a bar code based system for their inventory control function; they call it Cycle Counts or Bin Counts.
Many large parts were already being received with bar codes; the remaining large parts needed to have bar code labels applied at the Yancey facility. Small parts could not have labels applied and were placed in bins that were bar coded. It took three months to bar code all parts and bins, from January to April 1996, and required about 500 manhours. Yancey stocks about 44,000 parts. Under the old system (pre-bar code era), taking parts inventory required about 48 man-hours per week. Under the new bar code based system, it requires only 20 minutes each day, or approximately 3 man-hours per week, a 94% savings. This time savings equates to about $20,000 per year, and only accounts for saved labor time.
There is additional and substantial savings in the
accuracy of the collected data (bar code data collection is virtually error free as compared to human data entry which is subject to input errors). The procedure used for Bin Counts (Inventory Control) is as follows. Each day a range of part numbers is selected for count. The range is pre-selected based on the inventory cycle and the physical location in the warehouse. Parts are located in the plant based on function, movement, and size, but not on part number. The parts range is selected such that personnel movement during inventory counting is minimized. The bar code reader the technician uses is a laser scanner with radio frequency data communication (RFDC) capability. This makes data communication with the host computer instantaneous and makes the scanner virtually interactive with the host computer. Bin Counts are RF menu prompted. That is, as a quantity entry is made, the user is prompted as to the agreement with data stored in the computer.
Inventorying individual pieces is performed by scanning the part number, either on the part or on the bin in which it is stored, making a visual count, and keying in the quantity. The computer checks the quantity keyed in against the quantity stored in the computer and prompts the user of agreement or disagreement. If agreement is indicated, the user moves on to the next part. If disagreement is indicated, the user overrides the computer, saves the new quantity as true, and notes the discrepancy.
Receiving and Ordering.
The second function for which bar codes were used was the
receiving and ordering (inventory replenishment) of parts. Yancey calls this function Stock Receipts. Bar code use began for this function in November 1995, just one month after Bin Counts (inventory control). With regard to Receiving, Cat electronically sends a packing slip and expected delivery date to the AS400 Parts database in Yancey’s IBM computer. When the parts actually arrive at Yancey’s facility, part numbers are scanned, quantities are counted and keyed in on the scanner, and the information is RF’d back to the computer for verification and “receiving”. Discrepancies are noted as exceptions and an exceptions list is electronically sent back to Cat.
The exceptions list is also sent to Yancey’s
accounting department so adjustments can be made to invoice payments. With regard to ordering, when minimum threshold quantities are noted during inventory counts (Bin Counts), depending on the type of part, orders for additional parts are either made automatically and electronically, or a reorder advisory report is printed out for review and consideration.
Prior to bar coding, receiving and ordering used to require two man-hours a day. Under the new bar code system that is down to 20 minutes a day. This is an 83% savings on time alone, again not accounting for the advantage of virtual errorless data collection/record keeping.
The thousands of parts that Yancey Brothers has on hand are
either sold to customers (mostly construction companies), or used by Yancey’s mechanics in the dealership’s large equipment repair shop. If sold to customers, the customer is prioritized as either 1) Emergency, where the customer has an immediate need for the part, whether on site at the shop, or at the customers shop or work site, 2) Waiting, where the customer comes to the shop, orders, and waits for the parts, 3) On Call, where he calls in an order, and will come to the shop at a later time to pick up the order, and 4) Delivery, where he calls in the order and the parts will be delivered to the customer by routine delivery schedules. Whatever the priority, each customer order must be processed. By processing is meant that the stockperson must pick up the customer’s order, go to the stock room/warehouse, pick up the required number of parts at each part location thus filling the order, and bring the completed order back to the front desk for point of sale transactions. In the pre-bar coding system, there was a lot of time spent walking back and forth to the sales desk to fill orders and clarify priorities. The bar code system was introduced to speed the process up and to minimize errors in completed orders. It
works like this. Each order and its priority are keyed into the computer at the sales desk (point-of-sales desk). The order is RF’d (radio frequencied) to the stockperson with the fewest orders queued on his handheld RF scanner (which act as a minicomputer itself). The order appears on the LCD readout screen of the stockperson’s scanner. The stockperson can immediately begin filling that order. He goes to the bin location of the first part ordered. He scans the bar code on the bin, takes out as many pieces as ordered and places them on his cart. He keys the number he took and hits ‘enter’. The information is immediately RF’d back to the computer which reduces the quantity in stock by the number just entered, and adds a line on the order invoice form for that part number, the quantity, and cost. The stockperson continues the same procedure for each part on the order. When the order is completed, the stockperson places all the parts in a plastic bag, tags the bag with the order number, and brings it to the point-of-sale desk. In the meantime, the completed order is RF’d to the computer, and an itemized invoice is printed out at the point-of-sale desk. Before the bar code system was implemented, each order took one to two hours to fill, including processing the invoice.
Also, accommodating priority orders was
difficult. Now, 98% of the orders are processed in 45 minutes, a 63% savings in time. Also, there used to be 20 errors in 5,000 line items when completing orders. Now, it is virtually errorless with an average of 1 error in 5,000 line items, which represents a 95% reduction in errors. Another advantage of the computerized bar code system is the ease with which records can be kept. Previously there were no records kept on the productivity of order
processing. Now, because itâ€™s all in the computer anyway, records are easily generated as to how long it takes to fill an order, how many orders are filled by each stockperson each day, and how many pieces are on hand (a check against Bin Counts, inventory control).
Yancey Brothers latest use for bar codes is tracking parts used for
repairing Cat engines. The concept is this. Previously, when engines were repaired in the engine repair shop, mechanics would order parts helter skelter throughout the repair process. This was because they wanted parts available for replacement at the time they came upon a worn or damaged part. This could occur at various stages in the overhaul process. By the time the engine overhaul was completed, they may have ordered up to 40 or 50 parts at different times over a week or two period. It was hard to keep a clear track of the type and quantity of parts used. Also, there was considerable time used in repeatedly going back to the stock room to retrieve individual parts. Now, Engine Kits are assembled containing all parts required for a particular engine.
Each part is bar coded.
When an engine comes in for overhaul, the
appropriate Engine Kit is taken from the stock room and delivered to the equipment shop. As the engine overhaul proceeds, the mechanic retrieves any parts he may need from the Engine Kit. When he takes a part, he marks it on an inventory sheet for the Engine Kit. When the overhaul is completed, the Engine Kit is inspected and where parts were taken out, the corresponding bar code is scanned. The data so collected is used to generate an exceptions list for invoicing the customer, and for replenishment of
the Engine Kit. The Engine Kit use has just recently been implemented and has not been in use long enough to quantify its benefit.
The Bar Code System Yancey was looking for a way to collect data on their vast parts inventory with greater speed and accuracy than they had prior to 1994.
They saw bar code
technology as the answer to their need. Yancey was getting some parts from Cat already bar coded using a Zebra product. Yancey decided to place bar code labels on the rest, or on the storage bins of small parts. The bar code symbology selected was Code 39 which can encode all 128 ASCII characters and is a dense code (many characters can be fit into smaller spaces).
The scanner had to read bar codes at a distance from the label because it would be very inconvenient to have to make contact with each label. A laser scanner was the answer. The scanner would also have to communicate with the host computer in real time so that 1) multiple scanners (multiple stockpersons) could work at the same time knowing that the data in the computer accurate to the moment, and 2) time to download batch data would be eliminated. Yancey had to make menus for the scanners, to appear on the scanners’ LCD displays, for the different functions the scanner does. They wrote terminal emulation software in COBOL 400 for the scanner to operate. The scanner is a virtual “dumb” terminal for the host computer. One of the challenges was the small size of the screen
on the hand held scanner. The use of acronyms and abbreviations was imperative to get all the information needed onto the screen.
The host computer used by Yancey is an AS400, a mid range IBM product.
software is DB2-400 (IBM proprietary). The system set up enables multiple scanners to operate simultaneously all feeding into one AS400.
The AS400 was set up by
The timetable for development of Yancey’s applications is: 1) Oct 1995, started Inventory Control (Bin Counts), 2) Nov 1995, started Receiving and Ordering (Stock Receipts) 3) Jan 1996, started Ordering Processing 4) Jan-Apr 1996, completed bar code labeling of all parts/bins 5) 1997, started Engine Kits system
Yancey Brothers is pleased with its experience with the use of bar codes. They are planning more applications in the future. These include using bar codes in their rental fleet, and tracking returned parts from customers. When Yancey Brothers first looked at using bar code, they envisioned faster and more accurate data collection as its advantages. They found this to be true, plus they realized an additional advantage; they are able to collect enough data to track things they were unable to track before. This has been an advantage they didn’t count on.
They found however, that there are a couple disadvantages to the bar code technology. One was the learning curve of the battery cycle. Being left with scanners with either low charge or no charge has been frustrating at times. Also, they have become very dependent on their bar coded applications. They don’t see how they could do what they do now without them.
CASE 2: Automated Labor & Equipment Card (ALEC) ALEC is a Personal Computer (PC) based, menu driven software program that captures labor and equipment time data, and uploads it into a mainframe database (1995, Flickinger).
At the same time, ALEC generates a barcoded Labor and
Equipment Work Request, a typical one of which is seen in Figure 1. Each craftsman has access to a handheld wand for scanning his/her labor and equipment (L&E) time use daily. At the end of each day, the craftsman’s wand is downloaded to the shop’s PC. The data is then uploaded to the mainframe computer. The ALEC software was written by the Corps of Engineers at their Research Lab (CERL) in Champagne, Illinois. ALEC was implemented at Fort Wainwright, Alaska in 1991. The driving force to implement ALEC was the high cost of manually keypunching labor and equipment time into the computer. Several issues had to be addressed to implement the system. psychological.
Craftsmen did not like the idea of having every minute of their day
monitored (the “Big Brother is watching” syndrome). Another hurdle was convincing administration managers that real monetary savings would result. And then also, there was the technical reliability issue.
To alleviate the psychological concern, the internal time clock in the handheld bar code scanners would be turned off. The administration was sufficiently convinced of monetary savings on paper. And ALEC’s data entry was manually monitored for approximately two months until the craftsmen had mastered the procedures, and the data collected was accurate as wanded. Some new equipment had to be purchased for system implementation. The only new products that had to be purchased were Micro-Handwand III’s, produced by Handheld Products.
Batteries for this product are disposable (one 9 volt battery a
piece). Individual shop PC’s to which ALEC’s data would be downloaded had to meet specific minimum requirements. Each PC had to be a 486 or better, with at least 16 megs of RAM. Laser printers were used to print bar codes. Software for ALEC was developed and written by the Corps of Engineers Research Lab (CERL) in Champagne, IL. It took about one full year to implement ALEC into the workforce at Ft. Wainwright. Initially ALEC was used on a small scale, implemented in only one shop with 20 craftsmen.
This was the initial pilot study.
The system proved to be a
significant money saver and within that first year, its use was expanded to three additional shops with a total of 110 craftsmen using the program. ALEC was easy to implement, and its evolution quickly advanced.
How ALEC Works A request for work is called into the work order clerk. The clerk inputs this request into an Army program (IFS-M) using specific information such as task and shop
codes to identify the specific work to be done. ALEC automatically interfaces with this information, intercepting the data and generating a barcoded work order. The work order has specific fields of barcoded information, and is made available for dispatch to the craftsman. Appropriate crafts required are identified by the superintendent. Bar coded work orders can be generated for routine maintenance, repairs, new construction including additions or modifications to existing facilities.
Figure 1. Labor and Equipment Work Request â€“ ALEC Bar Code System.
The craftsman uses his/her handheld wand to capture the barcoded data.
craftsman’s personal handheld wand includes his/her identifying information such as Social Security Number, Truck ID Number, and Shop Code.
Wands are relatively
inexpensive, costing approximately $300 to $600 depending upon make and model.
Capturing barcoded information into the wand is a simple procedure – the craftsman passes the wand over the barcodes on the work order. He/she knows where the job is located and what work is to be accomplished there. The Document ID Number, Task Code, and all pertinent data are now in his/her personal handheld wand. The craftsman then goes to the field site to do the work. A craftsman may stop working on a job either because work is completed or it is temporarily interrupted. Temporary interruption may occur because the end of the work shift has arrived, because a portion of the work is being returned to the shop for further work, because parts or supplies are needed and are not available, or because access to the work is terminated for whatever reason. When the craftsman terminates work on a work order, and once again, using the handheld wand, he/she scans the necessary information to indicate status of the activity (i.e., Complete, Access interrupted, Lunch Break, etc). At the end of the day, the craftsman’s handheld wand is downloaded into the shop PC. Then the shop PC uploads the data for all craftsman for all jobs worked on that day, in batch form, to the mainframe computer. The process is complete until the next day. ALEC introduced barcoding only to an existing work flow process. The process itself was not changed, only the method of capturing the data. Barcoding has corrected
all penmanship errors, and eliminated the putting off of paperwork “until tomorrow”. It also eliminated data collection errors, and the time required for data collection and subsequent keying data into the computer. Craftsman personal ID badges are also barcoded. This is accomplished using true type fonts and “ACCESS” program software in conjunction with laser printers. The result of the overall system is a considerable financial savings related to work order activities. ALEC is able to generate Error and Edit Reports when necessary for each foreman or management personnel. The Error Report identifies inconsistent data such as input from craftsman not matching data on the mainframe. An example is when the Work Center is different than that listed for the craftsman. The Edit Report lets the foreman edit incomplete or inaccurate data entered by the craftsman.
Advantages of ALEC The following are advantages realized by Fort Wainwright operations: 1)
Two staff positions eliminated (one keypunch person required instead of three).
Approximately $50,000 saved annually in operations cost.
A 100% reduction in errors (data entry via bar code scanning is virtually errorless).
Virtually eliminates the need for handwritten work orders.
Pressure reduced on foremen. They no longer worry about penmanship, nor are they required to rewrite reports.
There is much less confusion as to what is or is not accomplished on a daily basis. This is made clear by daily downloading each craftsman’s wand into the Main Database.
ALEC costs $1,000 per handheld scanner. While each craftsman must have their own scanner, the cost is still less than the cost of extra keypunch personnel. It also only costs 1 to 2 man-hours to train a craftsman to use ALEC (approximately $60).
Disadvantages of ALEC The following are disadvantages associated with using ALEC at Fort Wainwright: 1) ALEC does not prioritize work to be accomplished.
The foreman must
manually do this. 2) Craftsmen had the initial difficulty with the perception that their handwand would monitor each minute of the day.
The “Big Brother is Watching”
syndrome had to be overcome. 3) Breakdowns of the handwands do occur, making keeping extra handwands on hand a necessity.
Final Note on ALEC Being developed by the Corps of Engineers, ALEC operates at Fort Wainwright with an excellent support staff. ALEC has been very successful with management, keypunch operators, and craftsmen throughout the entire Fort Wainwright organization.
CASE 3: Equipment Maintenance This is a look at how a bar code system transformed operations in the heavy equipment shop at Fort Lee, Virginia. Record keeping at the shop had been a chronic source of problems. Shop mechanics kept the records, and clerical accuracy of data input was lacking.
Poor record keeping made it hard to schedule and prioritize shop operations. Inaccurate inventories led to either shortages or over stocking of parts and supplies. Preventative maintenance was off schedule, and maintenance jobs were either overlooked or unnecessarily duplicated.
Shopfax Shopfax is a bar coded based software package developed by World Info Systems Inc. which records and tracks maintenance for a fleet of vehicles (Emory, 1989).
It is a management system that uses the American Trucking Associationâ€™s
Vehicle Maintenance Reporting Standards (VMRS) conversion program, which only requires a part number to be entered once. Each part continues to be identified by supplier, and by a VMRS common numeric identification code and alpha description (1990, American Trucking Assoc.).
Implementation of Shopfax A test of the Shopfax bar coded management system at Fort Lee was successful and a decision to implement was made.
In about one month time, Shopfax was
installed and implemented with the support of JP Systems, Inc. Fort Lee’s five shop mechanics learned to operate the hand held wands that are used to read, record, and time-date stamp all transactions. An equipment operator learned to track job orders, work performed, parts, fuel use, and vehicle dispatches on a computer. As a result, every transaction left an audit trail. Bar coding permitted workers to gather all the information in one operation, and download it into a computer almost immediately. The use of historic paper records was virtually eliminated. The new bar code system out-performed the old manual system, which at times could take three days to enter a repair order into the maintenance system. Workers no longer key in data; they just scan the bar code on the VMRS menu card thus saving time and ensuring accuracy. There are four VMRS menu cards used for this system: 1) one contains codes for vehicle/equipment type and identification, 2) another card has a set of bar codes for routine tasks that might be performed on the equipment/vehicles, 3) still another menu card contains position codes to show where on the equipment work is to be performed, and 4) the fourth menu card contains “indirect labor codes” and “part failure codes” pertinent to the work order. Shopfax is also used in the preventative maintenance program for equipment at Ft. Lee. Whenever a piece of equipment is fueled, the meter reading is keyed in on the handheld wand, the equipment identification number is wanded, and the mileage or
hours of operation are also keyed in. When the data is uploaded to the PC in the shop, Preventative Maintenance (PM) is flagged by either mileage, hours of operation, or amount of fuel consumed, since the last time maintenance work was performed.
Results The shop mechanicâ€™s efficiency has improved by about 20%.
significantly reduces time spent on record keeping. Continually updated maintenance and repair records have brought preventative maintenance under control. The result is that there are fewer breakdowns on the job, and duplicated maintenance has been eliminated. Before the system was installed, at least 30 man-hours a month was spent to fill out forms required for travel and recording mileage information. Now, the computer generates the forms, and mileage information is recorded during refueling. Total parts inventory at Fort Lee has decreased by 50%. The system allows the equipment specialist to anticipate parts needs. He stocks only frequently needed parts, ordering them in volume at a 40 to 60% savings. The system has been in operation for 10 years. The implementation cost was recovered in just one year. Current savings exceed $30,000 annually. Use of the system use has been expanded to facilities maintenance in addition to its original use as an equipment maintenance tool. Approximately 50% of the savings attributed to the use of bar code based SHOPFAX is the virtually full usage of warranties on equipment/vehicle parts. Prior to SHOPFAX, parts were replaced in equipment with little awareness of the warranties involved because record keeping was so poor. The
speed and accuracy with which SHOPFAX tracks parts has permitted the installation to take full advantage of all applicable warranties.
DISCUSSION There are three basic ways to develop a bar code based data collection system. One way is to purchase a commercially available system for a specific use like tool control. Systems of this type typically include all the software and hardware you need. Limited technical support is available from the vendor.
This method may be
characterized as a purchased package system. A second way is to engage a consultant to study your operations, write custom software to satisfy your needs, and specify hardware for you to purchase.
consultant typically sets up the system using his/her software, and gets it running. The consultant debugs the system and trains company users for the system. In-house employees are typically instructed on trouble-shooting minor problems, but usually the consultant must be called in for major troubleshooting, or when changes to the system are required/desired. The third way to implement a bar code system is for the construction company either to hire new employees, or utilize current employees to design the system, write the required software, purchase the hardware, and implement the system. This method may provide the most flexibility, but it requires a sufficiently large size firm such that revenues can support the required overhead expense. ALEC is of the third type.
The Corps of Engineers staffs and supports its
Research Lab that developed the software and the system. SHOPFAX is of the second
type, where a private consulting firm developed the system for Fort Lee, and instructed several key personnel at the installation on how to manage the system. The Caterpillar (Cat) parts control system is a combination of methods two and three. Initially the system was developed in-house by personnel employed by the Cat dealership. Later, a consulting company was engaged to refine the system and make it commercially available to other dealerships.
ALEC has been in use at Fort Wainwright for seven years now. SHOPFAX has been in use at Fort Lee for several years, and the Caterpillar parts system has been used for approximately two years. All systems have been in use sufficiently long to demonstrate their merit.
CONCLUSIONS All three systems discussed have provided significant savings both in time and money, to the organizations using them. The systems have been used long enough so that a confident evaluation of their performance can be made. The users in all three case studies are convinced of the merit of these systems and do not plan to terminate their use in the foreseeable future. The case studies indicate lower costs for those organizations discussed in this paper. These companies use bar code based data collection systems to control labor and assets. The Corps of Engineers have realized a savings in time and a lower the cost of construction work.
The Cat dealership parts control system should be of special interest to highway and pipeline construction companies which routinely maintain fleets of over 400 pieces of heavy equipment. ALEC, the labor and equipment tracking system used by the COE, demonstrates that a bar code based system can be used effectively to track labor and equipment. Though ALEC was developed in-house at the Corps of Engineers Research Lab at Champagne, IL, systems similar in concept may have merit for the smaller private contractors.
SHOPFAX has proven to be a money saver for the military. A similar bar code system for preventative maintenance would be of interest to many contractors, especially those with large heavy equipment fleets. The use of bar coded data collection systems has been successful in the three case studies presented. The users have realized savings both in time and in money. It is recognized however, that the infrastructure for the two organizations (Caterpillar dealership, and the US army Corps of Engineers) permitted these organizations to utilize in-house resources for system development. This is a large advantage over smaller, individual construction companies that may not have these kinds of resources available.
American Trucking Association, “Vehicle Maintenance Reporting Standards”, a publication of the Maintenance Council, 220 Mill Road, Alexandria, VA 22314, 1800-282-5463, or 703-838-1776, Jan 1990.
Bell, L.C. and McCullouch, R.G., “Bar Code Applications In Construction”, Source Document 33, The Construction Industry Institute, Austin, TX, February 1988.
Bell, L.C., “Bar Code Applications in Construction: A Historic Perspective”, Proceedings, Bar Codes in Construction Conference, Las Vegas, Nevada, March 25-26, 1998.
Ciesielski, C.A., “Bar Code Use in Construction – Carolinas AGC”, The American Professional Constructor, the Journal of the American Institute of Constructors, Vol. 21, No. 3, September 1997.
Condreay, E.S., (1996), “Automatic Data Collection Technologies in a Construction Curriculum”, ASC Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Conference, pp. 77-81, College Station, TX, April 18-20, 1996.
Corps of Engineers, “Automated Labor and Equipment Card – Bar Code Training Handbook”, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Construction Engineering Research Laboratory, Champagne, Illinois, 1988.
Emory, M., “Bar Codes Lighten The Workload”, DEH Digest, Directorate of Engineering Housing, Fort Lee, VA, Vol. 2, pp. 7-9, April 1989.
Flickinger, W.H., “Automated Labor and Equipment Card (ALEC)”, Proceedings of the 2nd Congress on Computing in Civil Engineering, Part 2 (of 2), Volume 2, Atlanta, GA, June 5-8, 1995
Molad, C, “Bridging Industry-to-Industry Culture Gaps”, E-COMM, May/June 1996.
Stukhart, G. and Cook, E.L., “Bar Code Standardization in Industrial Construction”, Source Document 47, The Construction Industry Institute, Austin, TX, June 1989.
Constantine A. Ciesielski is an Assistant Professor in the Construction Management Department at East Carolina University. He holds a PhD in Civil Engineering from Penn State University and is a registered Professional Engineer. He has 20 years of design and construction experience and four years of teaching experience at the university level. His current interests are focused on automatic data collection, primarily the use of bar coding, in the construction industry.
Thomas Stockmal is Work Order Supervisor for the Department of Public Works at Fort Wainwright U.S. Army installation, Fairbanks, Alaska. He has held this position since January 1993. He has 22 years of experience working in the public works arena.
Milton Emory is the Equipment Maintenance Supervisor at Fort Lee U.S. Army installation, Fort Lee, Virginia. He has held this position for the past eight years. He has worked in equipment maintenance for 30 years.
THE USE OF MOBILE GIS BY CONSTRUCTION FOREMEN Richard J. Coble, John F. Alexander, Tan Qu, Wei Sun
ABSTRACT Foremen are an important and unique link between management and the workforce. With advanced computer technologies propelling the process of construction automation, construction foremen are intrinsic to the success of this implementation. While geographic information system (GIS) technology is a burgeoning science that is gradually interfacing with other industries, its tie with the construction process is relatively unexplored. This paper discusses the characteristics and needs of construction foremen and how the application of GIS through handheld computing devices can be accomplished to enhance the efficiency of construction information management, which in turn helps reduce design and construction cost while at the same time promote project profit. With the combination of mobile GIS and global positioning systems (GPS) technology come powerful and effective tools for the use of construction foremen. Mobile GIS and GPS, utilized with handheld computers, can be very effective for documenting construction field activities. These systems can capture geographic features or field utility data and update the local municipal GIS. An additional feature of these systems is to create the as-built drawings necessary for project documentation. With this documentation comes the information necessary for maintenance or additions or modifications to the facility being monitored. Furthermore, the use of mobile GIS and GPS technologies can offer solid evidence for dispute resolution in the construction process through accurate and timely documentation
of construction job-site conditions.
KEYWORDS Construction Foremen; Construction Automation; Mobile GIS; GPS
INTRODUCTION Information technology has greatly impacted the traditional construction industry. The construction industry has entered a new information age over the past decade. The uses of computer technologies have been steadily increasing in the offices of construction firms. Computer Aided Design (CAD) drawings, project management tracking software, word processing, spreadsheets, and computerized schedules are already common tools which have enhanced construction operations. This paper attempts to present Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as a new candidate that has great potential to be incorporated into the construction industry. GIS has been recognized and praised for its power of combining geographic information with other mission-oriented databases. GIS has been successfully implemented in urban and regional planning, environmental protection and other large-scaled applications. Due to the similarity between urban-scaled applications and construction site-scaled applications, a GIS related application has the potential to be of great use in construction management tasks such as site engineering and project progress documentation. Several applications developed by large pioneering Architect/Engineer/Construction (A/E/C) firms have found GIS to be particularly useful in large-scale projects such as civil engineering, transportation, utilities, and industrial types of works.
This paper will discuss GIS and its applications to the construction industry. As an important part of any GIS, data acquisition is the foundation for the whole system. Since GIS is most useful for monitoring the construction process, most data would be acquired in the field and relatively repetitive from day to day. This data, most similar to us in a form as construction day logs, is documented by construction foremen. The involvement of construction foremen in GIS data acquisition and uses of mobile GIS tools will be discussed. Foremen play an important role in construction project management and some of their characteristics regarding acceptance and resistance to information tools will be also be reviewed. While it may seem too far ahead of the construction industry today, the use of a GIS related application by construction foremen is potentially a future direction and an important step in harnessing information technology for construction automation.
GIS AND CURRENT USAGES GIS is an information system based on digitized maps containing geographic and other comprehensive information. According to the National Science Foundation, GIS is “a computerized database management system used for the capture, storage, retrieval, analysis and display of spatial data.” The first GIS was developed in Canada in the 1960s' and based on mainframe technology. Due to high up-front investment and maintenance cost especially for data storage, GIS was once regarded as an expensive technology. With the advancement in satellite usage and drastically reduced hardware cost, GIS is gradually becoming a prevailing technology. At this time, a GIS can even be set up on a desktop computer for some small-scaled applications.
GIS has a broad application range, from primary use in research and regional development decision-making assistance to many emerging areas such as using it to determine an optimal location for a new store or organize key information for utilities. To date, applications of GIS are found in the following areas:
Building asset management
Building permits control
Emergency planning and services management
Fire services management
Land based taxes, ownership records
Pollution forecasting and control
Utilities (water, sewers, gas, electricity, and telephones), etc.
THE ROLE OF FOREMEN IN CONSTRUCTION Foremen play an important role in construction project control. From the stand point of organization theory, the position of foremen lies at the linking bridge between the levels of supervision and the workforce who actually do the physical work (see Figure 1). The nature of the job of construction foremen can also be regarded as semi-supervisory since they direct workers. Typical communication channels in construction are issued by the construction manager, to the project engineer, to the superintendent, and to the foremen.
Foremen are final and most essential communication link for they hold the key to the final as-built construction according to their understanding of the communicated information.
This communicated information also includes the design implementation process (see Figure 2). Depending on the reliability of communication, the designs of architects or engineers are implemented through the involvement of foremen. After receiving the plans of architects or engineers, a project manager will develop corresponding means and methods to implement the plans. Project engineers will monitor the means, methods, and quality control in this implementation process, but it is foremen who are responsible for producing the job-site documents, putting implementation means and methods into
practice, and fulfilling the project quality control function. Foremen are also responsible for recording or communicating the changes made on the job, which constitute the source for as-built documents and drawings. Project engineers can then develop the as-built drawings based on the change documentation made by foremen, which are eventually fed back to the architect who renders the project design.
FOREMEN AND CONSTRUCTION AUTOMATION The ability of foremen to understand the instructions from their supervisors and to know how to use the technologies employed in construction directly affects the construction product and how the task is performed. The advancement of computer technologies is creating more and more opportunities for automating paperwork in the construction industry. Desktop and laptop computers are commonly used in the work of management personnel. Various kinds of software for construction shop drawing production, contract administration, estimating, scheduling, and accounting have already become part of management tools for the home-offices and field-offices of construction firms. At present, e-mail and file transfer programs are no longer magic to management personnel. However, the working fashion of construction foremen remains largely unchanged; they hardly touch
computers and only relate to computer generated documents such as work orders. Because of the important role of construction foremen in construction, they must be enabled to use certain computer and automation technologies in order to truly take advantage of efficiency tools in the construction process.
Previous studies have found that the productivity of construction foremen can be improved through automation (Coble, 1994). Part of the job responsibilities of construction foremen include filling out standardized forms for different purposes such as daily reports, accident investigations, daily safety reviews required by OSHA regulations, and internal report forms for job performance monitoring by management. The information collected by
foremen is used for job cost tracking, productivity measurement, and legal evidence, which rely on the accuracy and timeliness of the data acquisition process. In a lot of cases, the working conditions and the reluctance to do the repetitious paperwork prevent construction foremen from fulfilling the field data collection in a timely manner. Therefore, there is great need and potential to automate the paperwork of construction foremen.
Construction foremen have been surveyed regarding their concerns about current computer technologies (Coble, 1994). They were shown to have the aspiration to learn how to manipulate computer proficiently, yet their limited technology knowledge background indicated a detriment to their development in this area. This prior research also found that the resistance from foremen to computer technologies is due to the intensive training
needed to become proficient users. Therefore it should be noted that the need of foremen for computer technologies is different from the need of management personnel. Foremen need computing devices that have an easy-to-use user interface and do not require a lot of prerequisite computer knowledge to operate them. Based on the above described findings, handheld computers specifically for construction supervisors are being developed to meet the needs of construction foremen. One of the handheld devices is the Gator Communicator, which has been under development for the last ten years. The Gator Communicator is a handheld computer equipped with a dual digital stereo camera, a Trimble Scorpion 8-channel GPS receiver, a differential correction receiver, a bar code reading component, a digital compass, a pitch and roll indicator, a two-way digital packet radio, and a touch screen embedded in a ruggedized case. Preliminary field-testing has shown that this is an appropriate tool for construction foremen to use in the field. With a Gator Communicator, which applications that have simple user interface, such as icon-driven menus, a construction foreman can go into the construction field to conduct various data collection and information query tasks (Alexander, Coble and Elliott, 1997). Testing with the Gator Communicator has included taking digital pictures of ongoing work, monitoring construction process, and sending real time information back to the field office by wireless communication. The collected data can be stored on the field or home office server for future use such as job productivity assessment by the management.
GPS AND MOBILE GIS IN FIELD DATA COLLECTION The Global Positioning System (GPS) was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense to facilitate accurate navigation. GPS uses triangulation of three or more satellites that measures distance using the time travel of radio waves. GPS can give a user the precise longitude, latitude, and coordinates of the GPS receier. A site management GIS is a GIS system based on a digitized site map by converting to a GIS shapefile a site CAD file generated by civil engineers during the design stage. This site map can also be geo-referenced to a local GIS map, which is of a much larger extent. By this way, the relationship between information about this site GIS and local GIS can be established. Various information can be encapsulated into the points, lines, and polygons on a site GIS map. By placing a point on this GIS map, a user can store information such as a safety violation location and a short description of the incident. How GPS can be effectively used in construction has been quite controversial. First of all, what level of positioning accuracy is really needed in construction is a difficult question. Some people contend that only high accuracy is useful since the construction site is normally a small area and buildings on the site need to be precisely positioned. But the positioning needs in construction are actually different from purpose to purpose. For surveying tasks, current laser-aided positioning technologies are already adequate enough to address the need, and GPS receivers that have the accuracy within a centimeter can serve as an additional tool for tasks of less accuracy such as pile driving. GPS receivers of normal accuracy (around 1 meter) can be used for data acquisition tasks where positioning accuracy is not critical. The captured coordinates can be converted to relative site coordinates to establish site management GIS. With this small-scaled site GIS, reasonable
map accuracy can be achieved on a small area so as not to incur the massive amount of data storage as was previously believed to be inherent.
Mobile GIS refers to the client GIS applications running on the handheld computing devices which depend on a GIS server in the field office to perform most processing functions. By this kind of distributed computing system, GIS applications for construction use can be very cost-effective. This is because most GIS operations require a lot of computing power and memory and storage space which are technologically cumbersome and cost ineffective to be put on handheld devices. The combination of GPS and mobile GIS creates the opportunity for the use of GIS in field data collection. By connecting mobile GIS tools such as the Gator Communicator to a field office-based GIS through digital wireless communication means, a user can go into the field and conduct data collection (Figure 3). The mobile GIS tool can retrieve information through the field office-based GIS, which also can be connected to other large GIS servers, and it can upload the information collected in the field to the home-based GIS server as well. An example of the role that a mobile GIS tool can play is demonstrated in a research project conducted by the University of Florida to find how the Metro Dade Property Appraiserâ€™s office may assess the damage caused by Hurricane Andrew in south Dade County (Alexander, 1996).
THE USE OF GIS TECHNOLOGIES IN CONSTRUCTION BY FOREMEN Various information during construction can be input into the site GIS. The site GIS develops as the construction process is developing. The original site before construction
commences should be recorded, thus allowing for a benchmark to measure alterations during the phases of construction. This will be done in different layers or themes. With virtual reality technologies being incorporated into GIS, the whole construction process can be documented and revisited by the user. Issues such as rain days can be verified, as well as other conditions that affect construction performance or delay. Site GIS can provide for a lot of information such as site layout and spatial analysis. Since spatial analysis is the strength of the GIS. Mobile GIS users can find out information such as where the materials should be stored for convenient access, whether or not all the areas of the working zones can be reached by the tower cranes, or transportation design flaws within the site, etc. Through the site GIS, inquiries about the underground conditions and interrelationships between utilities can be easily accomplished. The time spent in the past looking up volumes of documents and communicating with utility authorities can be eliminated. In construction, the information represented on engineering plans as part of construction contract documents does not always comply with actual conditions. This has created many disputes in the construction process. Since the GIS is much easier and quicker to update than the physical maps, the information provided by the local municipal GIS may be more accurate than the physical maps. The site GIS is an effective tool to record the as-built environment, not just limited to the final product. In cases where utility lines are not located accurately as reflected in the local municipal GIS, the site GIS can be a source for the local municipal authorities to update their GIS. With mobile GIS tools, information such as the working areas, activities being performed, material being delivered, and visitors can be collected and sent back to the field office GIS server. Similarly the pictures of the construction process or specific
positions such as connections or places that will be covered by concrete can be sent to the server.
Figure 4 is an example that shows how a site GIS can be used to record all the changes on a construction project. As stated above, numerous legal disputes occur on construction projects because the changes to the works are not properly recorded and maintained. GIS can wield its power here because all the information and digital photos associated with the changes can be attached to the point features in Arcview shapefiles. Different layers such as structural and electrical layers on existing as-planned CAD drawing file can be converted to corresponding themes in a shapefile. In figure 4, change #24 on nd the 2 floor electrical layer has a data dictionary containing all the key information such as
date, additional materials, labor hours used, and how they affect the project critical path. Digital photos showing the changes to the works can also be linked to this point. When users click on these points, the system will display information regarding changes occurred on these locations and also accompanying digital photos. It should be noted that the use of GIS by construction foremen does not include the administration and maintenance of a site GIS, which is the job responsibility reserved for GIS professionals. The use of GIS by construction foremen is to collect the job information. With a mobile computing device equipped with a client GIS application, a construction foreman could use a GPS receiver mounted on the handheld computing device to get the coordinates of the GPS receiver, and record the work finished in the engineer-assigned working zones such as “the east corner of 2nd floor of building #209”. With the touch sensitive screen or pen computing tools, the construction foreman can record the activities
occurring at the site such as inspections. With the digital camera, the construction foreman can take pictures of the construction process and close-up shots of places that are vital as later on disputes regarding construction details.
With the mobile GIS tools, the working efficiency of construction foremen, for their paperwork duties, can be greatly improved by providing immediate accurate information to solve problems. The image of foremen could be greatly enhanced with the use of advanced automation tools. The use of GIS technologies by construction foremen is not necessarily limited to the areas stated above, because new uses continue to emerge as these technologies develop.
CONCLUSION Construction foremen play a pivotal role in the communication between management and the workforce. Construction foremen are also an important link to automating construction documentation and communication processes.
GIS is a
developing technology, which has the potential to revolutionize construction project management. To this end, the combination of construction automation and GIS technology also offers an enhancement to the working efficiency of construction foremen. Foremen enhancement must start with the automation coming down to their level of competence. At the same time, GPS and mobile GIS enabled handheld computers open a new era for the construction information transfer, which is positioned to have a revolutionary impact on the construction industry.
Coble, Richard J. Bring the Construction Foremen into the Computer Age, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Proceedings of the First Congress on Computing in Civil Engineering, 1994, pp. 1446-1453.
Alexander, John Gator Communicator: Design of a Handheld Computer Digital Mapper, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Proceedings of the Third Congress on Computing in Civil Engineering, 1996, pp. 1052-1057.
Alexander, John F. Coble, Richard J. and Elliott, Brent R. Handheld Communication For Construction Supervision, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Managing Engineered Construction in Expanding Global Markets: Construction Congress V: Proceedings of the Congress, Minneapolis, MN, Oct. 4-8, 1997, pp. 972-979.
Associate Professor, Director of the Center for Construction Safety & Loss Control, M. E. Rinker, Sr. School of Building Construction, College of Architecture, University of Florida. Primary research interest includes construction safety and construction automation related fields. Also actively engaged in consulting services for private sectors.
Professor, Director of GeoPlan Center, the Department of Urban & Regional Planning, College of Architecture, The University of Florida. Developer of Gator Communicator. Primary research includes developing handheld computing device for construction industry or mission-oriented industries. His research received funding from IBM, Motorola, Trimble Navigation and other internationally leading information technology companies.
Ph.D. Student, M. E. Rinker, Sr. School of Building Construction, College of Architecture, University of Florida. Certified RangeLAN2 Wireless LAN Specialist. Primary research includes Icon-Driven Menu Operating Systems (IDIOMS), Construction Automation and Application of Wireless LAN Technologies In the Construction Industry. Also a project engineer with a private construction firm.
Ph.D. Student, the Department of Urban & Regional Planning, College of Architecture, The University of Florida. Primary research includes Geographic Information Systems In Construction, IDIOMS, and Stereo Image Range Finding.
Published on Dec 1, 1998
The American Institute of Constructors is an association serving individuals in the construction industry. The American Professional Journa...