Data is the heart of construction materials testing (CMT). Information from the field informs work at the lab, which informs important next steps for the project back in the field. But this is only true if that workflow is seamless and reliable. In this blog, we look at eight signs you need CMT workflow automation.
A manual CMT workflow is fraught with the potential for human error, putting your data—the lifeblood of a construction project—at risk. This is because inaccurate, incomplete, inconsistent or untimely numbers result in slower decision-making, poorer decisions and, ultimately, higher costs.
And, unfortunately, it’s more common than you’d expect.
In 2020, bad data as a result of manual processes and human error may have caused $1.8 trillion in losses worldwide. It also may be responsible for 14% of avoidable rework, amounting to $88 billion in costs.
At the same time, construction stakeholders are calling for an increased need for rapid decision-making in the field—making accurate, complete, consistent and timely data essential. However, only 36 percent of these construction stakeholders have implemented a process for identifying and repairing bad data, while 30 percent said that over half of their data is unusable.
The problem? More often than not, construction firms are unaware of bad data until it’s too late. To find out if you need true CMT workflow automation, be on the lookout for these eight signs.
Manual processes—and the potential for human error—are the root of broken CMT workflows.
What does a manual process look like?
If your technicians are still handwriting results or manually keying data into a system, that’s a problem. At any point, a result could be recorded incorrectly or in the wrong place. One miskeyed number can compromise an entire batch of data.
To note, CMT workflow automation is more than just implementing technology. Many labs likely have some sort of ERP, LIMS, or home-grown reporting system. But if those systems are disconnected and technicians have to manually transfer data from one system to the other, there’s always a chance for human error. Plus, it’s more difficult to make timely decisions because you don’t have all the information in one place.
In a manual process, there’s also no way to verify that a technician has pulled the right specimen for a test or if a specimen is being tested on the right date.
Your technicians can only do so much work in a single shift, and a manual CMT workflow offers no time to spare. Since you need to test specimens on certain days (you can’t test a 28-day specimen on day 29), your technicians have to work long hours to ensure the testing gets done on time.
This can lead to a low productivity environment and inhibit your capacity to scale and increase the number of tests per shift. As a result, you have to hire more people to do more tests during periods of high volume. This requires recruiting, hiring and training temporary workers.
The problem is this time-consuming and expensive hiring process only leaves you with workers that have to be let go once business slows down.
Then, when business picks up, you have to repeat the cycle.
Lab technicians must be certified to operate test machines. But some technicians may formulate shortcuts – performing their own variation of the standard – injecting variability into the workflow. Plus, test by test and technician by technician, there are natural variations in manual controls causing inconsistent results.
Manual data capture and transfer and inconsistent testing are primary sources of inaccurate results, which leads to costly and time-consuming rework. If your technicians have to backtrack to find or correct results or, worst-case scenario, have to take a core sample in order to retest, that’s a major sign you need CMT workflow automation.
In the CMT workflow, specimens must be tested at appropriate time intervals. If strength requirements are not met at the 28-day mark, labs need to conduct additional tests to verify the strength at a later date—usually day 56. These tests are conducted on what are referred to as “hold” specimens.
While not all hold specimens need to be tested, which to keep and which to discard is an important function.
If a technician mistakenly tosses a hold cylinder that ends up being needed, you’re stuck with the last resort: an expensive core sampling.
When “data goes dark” in a broken, manual workflow, you risk losing the data–and face the costs and consequences. This is because you can’t see or verify where that data has been and how it has moved or changed. For example, information generated on the field—like sample number and wet concrete information—could be mistranslated as it moves to the lab, causing problems when it comes to specimen identification, test dates and more.
Untraceable data also leads to duplicated efforts, which wastes time and resources.
A broken CMT workflow makes it difficult to collect, process and analyze unstructured data. So, it’s next to impossible to visualize trends over time.
The other problem is the lack of actionable information. Current workflows that only email a report PDF are not enough. You need to be prompted when there’s critical information to analyze or react to.
Construction projects can’t move to the next stage until the materials are verified through CMT. When labs struggle to get tests done fast due to manual processes, construction schedules drag. The labor shortage only magnifies this problem—but CMT workflow automation can help.
A broken CMT workflow causes significant productivity, time and cost challenges. If any of the above signs seem familiar, it’s time to fully automate your construction materials testing workflow—from the field to the lab to the office and beyond.
What does that look like?
To start, you need integrated, cloud-based CMT software that consists of a private database, an interface for accessing and communicating with that database, and a way to integrate everything with your lab’s automatic testing machine.
This type of solution automates how data moves through the material testing process and better structures and secures data forever.
For example, ForneyField, an app included with the ForneyVault subscription, fully closes the data gap, allowing field technicians to create, claim and locate samples onsite and synch field reporting data with the lab.
On the other end of the workflow, project stakeholders can get real-time text or email notifications of any lab updates, problems or next steps, making the report approval workflow faster and more actionable.
An automatic materials testing workflow eliminates manual, repetitive tasks and frees up technicians for more value-added tasks. Tests become consistent and reliable, results are more accurate and traceable, and analysis can happen at the click of a button. All to help project owners move their construction projects forward.