As our industry demands the construction of larger and more complex projects in shorter durations than ever before, it is increasingly critical for project management to embrace enhanced technologies. Gone are the days of giving a hard set of drawings to the field and checking in periodically to walk the job. Today’s real-time, 3D modeled and prefabricated projects require more involved and technology savvy project management teams.

In the current market, almost all complex projects utilize some level of Building Information Modeling (BIM). While this tool has existed in the industry for years, the trend toward concurrent design completion and 3D constructability review has recently picked up speed. This has led to clash detection occurring prior to the finalization of the design, as one such outcome. In order to maintain the speed of these project delivery schedules, it becomes imperative to quickly identify solutions to issues. As a result, the project management team must intimate itself with the BIM process and software in order to facilitate timely solutions. It is not unusual to see project management utilize the model in a meeting to show an area of concern, or to see project management routinely attend coordination meetings.

Further, the increased size and volume of electronic documents and assets, such as BIM files, drives the need for project management to include a “technology plan” as part of the standard construction plan designated at the onset of a project.  Consider the following questions when creating a technology plan:

(1) Which documents will be used electronically?
(2) What (if any) software is contractually required?
(3) What Cloud software best fits the application, since tablet computers are now a common tool used in the field?

Some projects have even gone fully paperless. All field related files such as timecards, dailies, drawings, RFI’s, submittals, punch lists and 3D models are accessed though tablet computers. The information is updated remotely at the office and sent to the field in real time. The project management team needs a strong working knowledge of the new technologies in order to ensure correct setup, utilization and proper maintenance throughout the project; as well as to be able to trouble shoot when issues arise in the field.

For future projects to be successful and completed in a reduced timeline, project management teams must continue to embrace and implement the use of technological tools. In order for this to occur with optimum utilization, additional training is recommended. Although the initial implementation requires more of a time investment at the project’s kick-off, the combination of current technology and a well-versed project management team will produce a successful project outcome.

Stephen George is a Senior Project Manager for the Southern California division of Southland Industries, a national MEP building systems firm. He can be reached at sgeorge@southlandind.com.