Industry Insights

IoT Applications for Construction Equipment Tracking

The construction industry needs a better solution and IoT is likely the answer.

Grace Varughese

There are a lot of moving parts in the construction industry. You’ve got people, large equipment, and tons of materials. Any of these parts could act as a bottleneck, delaying the project and resulting in huge profit losses. Especially where equipment is concerned, the construction industry needs a better solution and IoT is the answer. IoT-enabled construction equipment tracking will enable companies to increase productivity, lower maintenance costs, eliminate security concerns, and improve worker safety. Let’s dive into each of these pain points a bit further.

Pain Points in Construction 

Productivity  

It’s estimated that construction workers spend 35 percent of their time on non-productive activities, totaling $177 billion in lost profits each year. These tasks can include waiting on site for equipment or materials, looking for equipment or tools, or stalled by equipment downtime. 

Not only does this result in unnecessary labor costs, but the material waste can be extremely costly. For example, if ready-mix-concrete (RMC) trucks arrive late at a construction site, project managers have no choice but to reject the hardened concrete. Clearly, improving productivity in the construction sector is crucial and resources need to be allocated effectively to meet deadlines and increase customer satisfaction.

Maintenance

Waste piling is a huge problem in the construction industry.  If not actively managed, it could highly impact the overall cost of the project. Many builders and contractors rely on rental disposal services to help remove their job site waste. However, some disposal companies charge for bins that are close to empty. The lack of fill monitoring of these additional bins leads to extra pickups and valuable money lost. 

Security and Worker Safety

It may be surprising that nearly a billion dollars are lost per year nationwide due to construction equipment theft and the recovery rate is less than 20 percent. Construction equipment is often left unsecured overnight and, unlike cars, they are not registered in a national database so most lost equipment is never found.

Problems with Current Solutions 

Recently, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and autonomous vehicles have gained popularity. This technology is great for monitoring huge spaces, specifically with the use of drones. However, it doesn’t provide real-time monitoring because it depends on where the vehicle is at a specific time. To manage construction productivity, many companies rely on project management construction software to manage schedules, communicate with clients, and organize change order requests.The problem is this only helps for information flow and scheduling, but does not remotely monitor all construction activities in one localized platform. This is where IoT comes in. 

Why IoT is the Answer

A recent study by McKinsey Global Institute found that construction company owners could save upwards of $160 billion by adopting IoT technology.

To implement an IoT system in construction, sensors are affixed to each asset and the aggregated sensor data will be sent via the cloud to provide real-time valuable equipment insights. Primarily, construction equipment tracking utilizes IoT-enabled outdoor tracking sensors, mainly GPS, to track and monitor the usage of large equipment.The devices are typically agnostic to the type of equipment they are used on and can help upgrade your existing equipment to avoid purchasing new equipment. 

With the addition of IoT, construction companies will be able to:

Monitor equipment status and utilization: Monitor asset use to easily identify idle equipment, which can be redistributed to other projects or eliminated to reduce overhead costs.

Track equipment in real-time: Know the location and status of your equipment to quickly act when unauthorized activity occurs. 

Receive instant notifications: Set geofence departures and receive notifications when equipment is moved off-site without permission. 

Monitor engine run-time: Forecast your equipment engine’s performance to optimize predictive maintenance schedules and improve efficiency. 

IoT Applications to Address the Pain Points in Construction

IoT for Productivity 

Machine Control: Machine control is synonymous to self-driving cars in construction. It utilizes GPS and positioning sensors to allow a construction equipment operator to have a reference between the blade and the target. Not only is it precise, but it reports progress, movements, and status in real-time. This technology can be used to plan and coordinate construction activities, which increases productivity and reduces delays.

Concrete curing: To ensure no concrete is wasted, sensors are embedded in concrete during casting, and they follow curing of concrete in real-time allowing the construction manager to adequately plan their schedule with minimal waste.

IoT for Maintenance 

Fleet Management: IoT sensors and telematics can be extremely valuable as equipment and machinery renters want to know exactly where their equipment is at all times. Since the primary advantage for rental companies is to maximize their asset’s lifetime, they want to leverage telematics for predictive maintenance. Predictive maintenance allows fleet managers to forecast when replacement parts will need to be ordered.

Waste Management and Structural Health Monitoring: Trash can easily pile up on a construction site so fill-levels must be constantly monitored to maximize space and minimize hazards. Using IoT trackers, it is possible to real-time monitor waste disposal bins cost-effectively.

Iot for Security and Safety

Security: To reduce construction equipment theft, IoT asset tracking can place GPS tracking devices on your heavy equipment to monitor an entire construction fleet either online or through a mobile app. With accurate IoT sensors, you can customize your solution to receive valuable insights on things such as equipment location, engine diagnostics, and run-time status. 

Wearables: To increase safety and efficiency during COVID, there are companies such as Triax technologies that have developed an IoT social-distancing solution for construction workers. This technology places a proximity sensor on each construction worker’s hardhat, and when two workers breach a 6-foot distance, an audible and visual alarm goes off. All worker interactions are monitored on their software platform should an individual test positive.

Grace Varughese

Technical Project Manager

Grace is a technical project manager at Leverege who is passionate about developing transformative technology that improves the human condition. She studied biomedical engineering with a minor in industrial engineering and a certificate in product development and entrepreneurship. She has previously worked for a year as an R&D engineering co-op at Becton Dickinson and Company (BD) and has collaborated on multiple design projects with physicians and researchers. In her free time, she can be found creating her own dance videos, exploring the best food places in the city, and cuddling her adorable pets!

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