How to prepare a construction project for operations: A Project Director’s guide

PostedWillow Team

From coordinating multiple contractors to keeping projects on time and budget, the role of a Project Director has always been a complex one. With the construction industry slowly-yet-surely digitising, technology has vast potential to streamline project management and lighten the load. In addition, there is an inevitable increase in requirements & expectations by asset owners for digital completions in order to operate smarter assets and digital twins during operations.

However, with new opportunities also comes new challenges. There have been many technology and data entrants in the industry attempting to solve these challenges. The path to a solution has not been easy though, and Project Directors have been left navigating disjointed or bottlenecked data solutions. This can make construction project management and handover even more complicated.

The good news is: with the right tool and strategy, data digitisation can help — not hinder — the project management process. This guide will share how Project Directors can harness construction data to gain time and budget efficiencies and reduce risk on projects.

The biggest construction challenges for Project Directors

Project Directors encounter a range of challenges in their multifaceted roles, including:

1. Assurance and managing data compliance

Managing the compliance of data is a key challenge and underlies the importance of an end-to-end plan. Supply chains must be transparent and deliver precisely what is needed within the parameters and specifications set by project leads and the client. Data is often kept in silos and teams may struggle to account for the multiple disciplines that work together throughout design and construction. This causes contractual disputes and costly variations.

2. Asset data and handover

Without utilising established requirements, processes, and methods for collecting information early in the construction process, handover is far from straightforward. Contractors and subcontractors may think their current processes work well, but more often than not, they use different data formats and types of documentation as well as hand over inaccurate or incomplete data. As a result, Project Directors are often left chasing consultants and subcontractors for information after the fact and wondering why they’re still ‘handing over’ the project even 2 or 3 years after completion.

3. Managing scope of work and budget variations

Once construction is underway, it can be challenging to monitor the scope of the work while keeping track of performance progress and supplier contributions. This is often due to a lack of information or inconsistent data as a result of progress monitoring being collected through field personnel and supplier delivery requirements coming late. This frequently leads to missed targets, with costly downstream impacts on budget and schedule variations.

These challenges translate into real-world issues on a construction site, such as delays, significant costs and damaged reputations.

According to findings from a 2018 industry report by FMI and PlanGrid:

– Construction workers lose two working days every week searching for project data such as revised drawings and cut sheets and resolving avoidable issues.
– These non-essential tasks will cost a mid-sized construction company over $2 billion every year, at a $177.5 billion price tag across the sector.
Poor communication and project information account for nearly half of all rework – a $31.3 billion every year

However, all these challenges have the potential to be overcome with improved technology and proper planning.

The solution — WillowTwin™

Valuable data is generated every day on construction sites. On bigger infrastructure projects, teams produce an average of 130 million emails, 55 million documents, and 12 million workflows.

However, when managed through outdated data systems, this information is drastically underutilised. It’s locked away in proprietary systems, stuck within different disciplines or siloed between project stages. When fully harnessed, this data can drive powerful decision making that leads to substantial operational improvements. To unlock the full potential of this information, a unified, comprehensive and data-driven solution is required.

WillowTwin™ sets the foundation for digital twin technology. Typically, the value of data is introduced in the operations stage of an asset’s lifecycle, but there is value to be unlocked at every stage, including conception, design, construction, and handover. It begins by collecting and effectively managing data from day zero. This enables users to track projects, improves collaboration, reduces design errors, and sets up for a smooth transition into operations.

Our hybrid solution of software and services provides Project Directors with total transparency and control when tracking, managing, and validating supplier deliverables and data during construction. It also helps greatly in tracking progress including design changes as they happen, enables data-driven decision-making, builds your golden thread of information, and significantly simplifies lengthy handover processes.

By working with stakeholders from the beginning of the construction process – from design and construction to handover and operations – Willow collects, validates, and funnels information into a virtual replica of the asset. This becomes a hub of information through which assets, systems, and environments can be viewed and understood.

With more information available and presented through one portal, Project Directors can predict or avoid many of the traditional problems they face. A continuously updated database can help check asset compliance progressively, inform on engineering clashes and provide a more accurate picture of budgets and progress. Once the construction phase has been completed utilising this process, handovers are efficient, and the data collected has set the foundation for a digital twin to be enabled in operations.

The journey to enabling a digital twin

Journey to enabling a digital twin
The journey to enabling a digital twin

A simple, step-by-step approach ensures a seamless transition from on-site data management to digital twin adoption.

Construction stage

Step 1. Set up the digital twin vision, while keeping the end in mind: In-house subject matter experts link the customer’s vision to use cases and outcomes, to plan the delivery of desired outcomes and value targets.

Step 2. Establish the data collection framework: Willow collaborated with Microsoft on pioneering the Digital Twin Definition Language (DTDL): the coding language that makes digital twins more accessible and simpler to implement.

Step 3. Ensure there is validation during project delivery: WillowTwin™ helps provide transparency on risks in major projects across static, live and spatial data.

Step 4. Handover and commissioning: Willow implements the process and technology to enable more effective collection and tracking of the completion of asset data.

Operational stage

Step 5. Operations and maintenance: WillowTwin™ ensures that asset owners start with smarter processes and robust foundational data on day one of operations, to drive daily use cases, rather than spending months chasing data.

Step 6. Experience of occupants and passengers: Modern occupants expect smart buildings that work immediately, and infrastructure customers expect reliable transportation, without disruptions. Digital Twins provide that capability.

Benefits of WillowTwin™ in construction for Project Directors

WillowTwin™ provides tangible benefits to all key stakeholders involved in managing infrastructure or building portfolios. They facilitate better planning, improve collaboration, reduce decision errors and facilitate a smooth handover at the end of construction.

Benefits of WillowTwin for Construction for Project Directors
Benefits of WillowTwin™ for Construction

During the construction process for Investa’s Sixty Martin Place, Willow’s platform tracked and validated all 71,848 digital assets within the building, resulting in 100% completion and compliance a week prior to practical completion. Read more here.

How WillowTwin™ helps Project Directors prepare for the future of construction

The shift towards a more digitised construction industry is essential to its survival. A study by Visual Capitalist revealed that 70% of construction companies believe that they will go out of business unless they adapt, and 89% thought digitisation would transform how they work. Additionally, an RICS survey of 835 construction firms across 13 countries recently found that digital transformation is a priority for 72% of those questioned.

As such, the place of digital technology like WillowTwin™ is not to replace the role of the Project Director, but to help them to adapt to the inevitable shift already occurring. Without access to accurate and transparent data, Project Directors lack a birds-eye view across project infrastructure. This limits their ability to make data-driven decisions, measure the impact of innovation, mitigate risk and compliance, respond quickly to information requests, or accurately review progress and budgets.

A robust and unified data solution not only facilitates smoother project delivery and handover, but allows Project Directors to focus on the big picture: the full lifecycle of the asset.


To learn more, download our new assets eBooks: for real estate and for infrastructure.

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