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Automation in Construction Volume 14, Issue 4, August 2005, Pages 467476 20th International Symposium on Automation and Robotics

in Construction: The Future Site

Automated project performance control of construction projects Ronie Navon Associate Professor, Head, Construction Engineering and Management; and Head, Construction Automation Laboratory Faculty of Civil Engineering, Technion City, 32000 Haifa, Israel Available online 23 November 2004., How to Cite or Link Using DOI Cited by in Scopus (30) Permissions & Reprints Abstract Real-time control of on-site construction is a growing field still in its infancy. The most impressive developments to date are in the area of earthmoving operations where quality control tools and tools to support the functionality of earthmoving equipment operators have been introducedthe main ones are described in this paper. A number of research efforts to fully automate project performance control of various project performance indicators have been carried out at the Technion in recent years. These are also briefly described together with the concept of measuring indirect

parameters and converting them into the sought indicators. These are (1) labor and earthmoving productivity based on measuring the location of workers or earthmoving equipment at regular time intervals; (2) progress based on the above data or data collected from a tower crane; (3) a comprehensive control of construction materials starting by monitoring orders and purchasing up to the movement of the materials on site; and (4) monitoring the status of guard rails to prevent falls from heights. Keywords Automated data collection; Control; Monitoring; Performance measurement 1. Introduction Construction is one of the largest industries and contributes to about 10% of the gross national product (GNP) in industrialized countries [1]. Hence, the performance of the construction industry has a significant impact on national economies. The construction industry lags behind other manufacturing industries in project performance control. There are both subjective and objective reasons for this situation, a detailed discussion of which exceeds the scope of the current paper. Success from the project management's viewpoint is when the project is completed with the lowest possible cost as quickly as can be achieved, with the highest quality, with no accidents, etc. In other words, success means bringing each of the project performance indicators (PPI)such as cost, schedule, quality, safety, labor productivity, materials consumption or waste, etc. [2]to an optimum. Therefore, a control system is an important element of a project management effort. For each of the project goals, one or more PPI is needed. Massive data are collected and used as a basis to evaluate the PPI's actual value to compare it with the planned value and forecast its future value based on past performance. Control limits are set to assess the severity of deviations and to trigger corrective action. The role of the control system is to identify the discrepanciesthe construction manager then identifies the causes for the deviations and, accordingly, decides about appropriate corrective measures. Accurate data is needed not only to control current projects but also to update the historic database. Such updates enable better planning of future projects in terms of costs, schedules, labor allocation, etc. Traditional control methods are based on manual data collection, which is slow and inaccurate [3]this is probably why many construction managers perform generic and infrequent control. If they want more accurate control, project managers have to spend a disproportionate amount of time collecting data, causing them to be

distracted from the more important task of supervising the project [4]. Because current data collection methods are time consuming and expensive, many construction companies do not collect extensive data and even less so in real-time. Even recent developments in automated data collection [5] have not alleviated this situationSaidi et al. [6] assert that although construction measurement and sensing technologies and project information management software have advanced considerably in the past 20 years, accurate and up-to-date knowledge of the current status of a construction project remains elusive. Because current data collection methods are performed off-line, they do not enable corrective measures to be taken in time to mitigate the damage to the ongoing project. As a result, construction projects do not meet their objectivesthey are expensive and long. It is all too often that owners and entrepreneurs (private and public alike) encounter cost and schedule overruns. Corrective measures can be effective in the ongoing project if they are taken in real-time or shortly after the deviation occurs. Real-time control of on-site construction based on high-quality data is essential to identify discrepancies between desired and actual performances. Such control enables timely corrective measures to be taken when needed and, consequently, a reduction in damages caused by the discrepancies. The longer it takes to identify discrepancies, the more serious the potential damage is and the more complex and costly the corrective measures will be. The focus of the present paper is automated performance control (APC), which is a promising solution to the problem described above. The paper reviews the state of the art in this field, describing how automated data collection (ADC) enhances real-time construction data to be collectedso far, mainly in the area of earthmoving operations. The paper also reports about current efforts being taken at the Technion to fully automate the control process by automating both the data collection and its interpretation into meaningful information. 2. Project performance control 2.1. General A comparison between the desired and the actual performances is the essence of any control procedure. When a deviation is detected, the construction management analyzes the reasons for itthe reasons for deviation can be schematically divided into two groups: (a) unrealistic target setting (i.e., planning) or (b) causes originating from the actual construction (in many cases the causes for deviation originate from both sources). If the deviation is caused by the actual construction, the construction manager analyzes the reasons for it and takes corrective measures that will bring the actual performance as close as possible to the desired one. Consequently, the definition of the desired performance is very important. Normally, the tendency is to equate the desired performance with the planned one because it increases predictability and reduces uncertainty.

When the deviation is caused by unrealistic target setting (plans), the latter and the historical database have to be updated. This approach, where initially, the desired performance is the planned one but as the project progresses and after analyzing the actual performance, the desired performance changes accordingly, is called adaptive control. Effective control needs two types of information in real-time: (a) a list of the activities to be performed on the given day broken down in terms of PPI and (b) measurement of the actual performance in the same terms. The first type of information is automatically extracted from the project model (PM, shown in Fig. 1), which has upto-date project planning and design data [7].

<img class="figure large" border="0" alt="Full-size image (53K)" src="" datathumbsrc="" data-fullsrc=""> Fig. 1. Project performance control.

View thumbnail images The following example will be used to explain the difficulty in measuring the actual performance and converting it into information to be compared to the planning information extracted from the PM. The example relates to measuring the actual productivity of a given construction activity and is illustrated in Fig. 1. In the context of productivity, the basic data collection involves registering what activity each worker is engaged in and the number of hours worked for that activity. This is the only relevant data collected on site, but from the point of view of control, this has very little meaningthis cannot be compared to the plans. The cumulative format of the same data becomes more meaningful information (500 h worked for Activity A in the example). After determining the number of units associated with Activity A (1000 in the example) a more generic or synthetic format of the information can be calculated (2 units/labor hour in the example). To determine the number of units, the building elements and their quantities associated with the given activity have to be identified and calculated. For example, if Activity A is formwork erection in third floor of Building 12, all the slabs and beams of that floor have to be identified and the area of the formwork calculated. Conducting such a process manually is not complicated but labor intensiveit requires extensive monitoring, data extraction from drawings, from plans (schedule, budget, etc.) and from databases (standards, historical database, etc.) as well as calculations. Automating this process is more complicated. Section 3 of this paper (APPC) reports the recent advancements in this direction. 2.2. Review of related work This section reviews current efforts being made in the US and Europe to automatically measure various parameters of construction operations. The review is divided into two disciplinary areas of construction pertinent to the present proposal: monitoring earthmoving operationswhere most of the efforts to date have been conducted and labor tracking in building construction. 2.2.1. Monitoring earthmoving operations Earthwork project management is experiencing quite impressive advancements, which increase the accuracy and the quality of the product, increase the efficiency of operations and save costs. These advancements include measuring various parameters relating to the health and maintenance of the earthmoving equipment such as valve pressure, weight of bucket, well as continuously monitoring the location of the equipment during its operation. The notion of using measuring instrumentation to improve the performance of earthmoving operations was introduced by Sotoodeh and Paulson [8] who proposed to use on-board microprocessor-based sensors to optimize the operation of scrapers. The authors considered various sensors for the data collection, such as load sensors,

strain gages, etc. They suggested to interface selected sensor-based data acquisition technologies to microcomputer-based software for automatic collection, storage, retrieval, preprocessing, statistical analysis and control decision making in real-time. The lack of accurate and frequent information regarding the move of cut and fill materials has led Trimble to develop an automated system [9]. The author points out that this information normally comes from a measure undertaken by the survey team, and this may be on a fairly irregular basisotherwise status information comes from truck counters. Ackroyd reports about initial experiments with a prototype that uses load sensors and GPS, both for real-time display and database storage. According to this report, their experience clearly illustrated that timely information of earthworks operations could add significant value to the earthworks monitoring and scheduling task. This effort was discontinued in 1999. An increasing number of earthmoving machines are equipped with sophisticated sensors and digital networks, but most of this digital data are lost [10] because they are not being recorded. As a result, much time and money is lost due to lack of information and poor management of the available data. Even automated weighing systems mounted on tracks are used in a rudimentary levelthe output of such a system, which includes load time, travel time while being loaded, dump time, travel time while being empty, along with delay times, is normally printed, collected in the field office and processed manually. Autonomous data collection (i.e., with little human intervention) available from existing sensors, measuring machine health parameters of earthmoving equipment, can be used for monitoring purposes [11]. The authors see the advantage of such an approach that the data collection is done continuously, autonomously, and it is not influenced by the conditions on-site, such as line of site and weather. The authors state that the primary challenge of this approach is to associate the autonomous data with operating conditions information, such as space constraints, haul road surface conditions, etc. The other challenge, according to the authors, is how to represent the large volume of data in an intuitive format. The authors observe that data reduction methods should be developed to make the approach practical. Maio and Schexnayder [12] proposed and tested methods for data reduction based on goodness of fit test. Another area of automated data collection is quality assurance (or control) of compaction and paving operations. The compaction level depends, among other factors, on the number of passes. Extensive work has been done to develop systems that monitor the trajectories of the compactor's movement and to display them visually to the operator, e.g., see [13] and [14]; an example is shown in Fig. 2. Thus, the operator can cover the entire area, the exact number of passes and make sure not to miss anything. These systems normally use GPS technology for real-time measurement of the compactor's location. Another approach to monitor asphalt density was presented by Jaselskis et al. [15]. The authors developed a rollermountable real-time asphalt pavement density sensor. The sensor uses two antennas,

one in front of the roller and the other behind it, to measure differential microwave signals to indicate to the operator when optimal compaction has been reached. The report from the initial field testing is promising although additional refinement is necessary.

<img class="figure large" border="0" alt="Full-size image (49K)" src="" data-thumbsrc="" datafullsrc=""> Fig. 2. Compaction monitoring system (courtesy of CIRC consortium). View thumbnail images Peyret and Tasky [16] developed a system that monitors asphalt paving parameters, starting from the production plant to the actual spreading, using radio frequency information data (RFID) and GPS. The monitored parameters (more than 15) include bitumen and asphalt temperatures at various stages of production and spreading, ratios of asphalt components (aggregates, bitumen) in each production batch, average asphalt weight per unit area and theoretical thickness of each layer. The authors assert that all the abovementioned data, if recorded, can also serve for other managerial, supervisory or legal purposes. Another approach for quality control of asphalt pavements is presented by Minchin and Thomas [17]. The authors developed a patented vibration-based onboard asphalt density measuring system (called ODMS) which measures in real-time the density of asphalt mats. The system measures asphalt mat density on the strength of the vibratory signature of the compactor and other physical parameters. Experiments with the prototype have shown that the ODMS is as accurate or more accurate than that achieved by nuclear density gauges, which is the current measurement method.

Krishnamurthy et al. [18] describe a semiautomated asphalt paving systemcalled autopaveaimed at increasing the efficiency and quality of the operation. The system accepts relevant paving project inputs (highway layout, equipment specification, etc.); generates appropriate path plans for the compactor and displays it graphically; monitors and graphically displays the real-time paths, coordinates, number of passes and overlap areas of the equipment; and then it guides the operator audio-visually to follow the planned path, using GPS technology. This system operates together with another system called instantaneous motion planning and controlling tool (IMPACT; [19]). IMPACT uses RTK GPS for multiple construction equipment. The system measures the location of equipment, as well as static obstacles, to plan the shortest collision-free paths for equipment to increase productivity and safety. Caterpillar [20] and Trimble [21] have developed real-time location measurement systems called CAESultra and SiteVision, respectively. The systems use on-board computers, software, GPS and radios communication to replace the manpower and time-intensive processes associated with conventional surveying. The systems bring designs into the machine's on-board computer, which displays the plan, showing the operator where the machine is relative to the design area, what the current surface is and where the final design surface is to be. This same information is transmitted back to the engineering office for analysis and documentation, enabling the generation of reports on productivity, cycle times, volume and material type, etc. The companies report that the result is improved communications and greater production accuracy. Since the year 2000, McAninch, a large infrastructure contractor, has been using these systems with their earthmoving fleet [22]. According to them, among the main benefits from using this system were increased profitability, 1530% increased production, dramatically reduced (sometime even elimination of) staking costs, better quality control, etc. 2.2.2. Labor monitoring Very little work has been done to automate labor tracking primarily because of the complexity of the problem. There were isolated efforts to automate labor tracking, but they were only partially automated as they still rely, to a large extent, on human involvement. Some researchers have proposed to use radio frequency identification (RFID) or barcodes to collect data relating to labor, e.g., see Jaselskis and El-Misalami [23]; others have suggested spreadsheet or electronic forms [24] and [25]. The common denominator of these approaches is that they all rely on the workers or foremen to enter the data into the computerized systems. As a result, all these methods suffer from most or all of the drawbacks of the customary manual methods of data collection.

Echeverry and Beltran [26] proposed a system for labor inputs and materials tracking comprised of three modules: (i) a database which includes the project's plans, (ii) data collection using barcodes and manual inputting and (iii) an analysis module. This model was neither validated nor tested. Another approach to labor inputs/productivity measurement uses a full-time observer(s) and a hand-held computer [27]. The observer tours the site at regular time intervals and records tasks being undertaken, as well as what each worker does at the time of observation. The activity of the worker is classified as productive, nonproductive, productive support and standby. These data are downloaded to the central computer and processed to give a report for each workgroup relating to the percentage of their added value vs. nonadded value times. 3. Automated project performance control (APPC) The main challenge today in automating the control process is the automated measurement of the project performance indicators (PPI). There is no direct method to measure performance indicators automatically. Consequently, this paper presents an indirect method for it. There are many examples of measuring devices, which evaluate a given parameter indirectly, e.g. analogue thermometers, which actually measure changes in volume and translate them to temperatures; scales, which measure displacements and transform them into weights; and Global Positioning Systems (GPS), which measure time-of-flight of a signal from known reference stations and calculate positions. The same approach is used here for automated PPI measurementthe values of some indirect parameters are measured automatically and converted into the sought value of the PPI by special algorithms. 3.1. Conceptual framework The following explanation relates to productivity measurement. The basic concept behind the selection of the indirect parameter is the fact that to construct a building, a road, or any other facility, the construction worker, or the equipment, has to be close to the constructed elements. Therefore, knowing their location at a given time, together with additional information (automatically extracted from the PM), the activity, in which the worker, or the equipment, is engaged in, can be determined. Consequently, it is possible to determine what the worker/equipment is doing at all times by automatically measuring its locations at regular time intervals. A variety of technologies can measure locations (e.g. GPS), and others can be developed on the strength of off-the-shelf technologies (e.g. radio-frequency-based measuring techniques)a detailed discussion of these technologies appears in Navon and Goldschmidt [28]. The control model determines what a worker, or a piece of equipment, is engaged in at the time the location is measured. This is done by associating the measured locations to a construction activity, or activities, on the strength of their vicinity to the construction elements correlated to the activity. The location-to-activity association is

done in two stages using a concept of work envelopes. A work envelope describes a volume in space around a building element in which it is assumed that a worker, or a piece of equipment, must be physically present in order to perform a construction activity on that element. The shape and type of a work envelope depend on the nature of the activity, the type of element, and the construction technology. For example, a work envelope of a wall painting activity is a prism of approximately the walls planar measurements with a width, which is determined by the technology. Thus, if a measured location is enclosed within this volume, it is associated with the appropriate activity. This process is called geometrical association [29]. There are locations which are more difficult to associate geometrically because they might be enclosed within more than one work envelope or not enclosed within any. Such locations are associated, at a second stage, by an algorithm called logical association. The latter uses decision rules, which are based on work continuity, on crew affiliation, or on statistical considerations. More about geometrical and logical associations can be found in Navon and Goldschmidt [30] and Navon and Shpatnitsky [31]. 3.2. Recent advancements in APPC This section describes ideas of how to automate labor and earth-moving equipments productivity measurement, how monitoring tower cranes helps to control progress, how to control the entire materials management process, and initial attempts to automate workers safety control. 3.2.1. Labor productivity Navon and Goldschmidt [30] investigated the possibility of measuring indirect parameters and converting them into labor productivity or inputs. The idea was to measure the time workers spend being involved with each activity and associate it to the amount of work performed by the worker or the crew. Thus, if the workers spent 500 working hours performing activity A1, and the scope of the activity is 1000 m2, the productivity is 2 m2 per hour (or the input is an hour per square meter). The research hypothesized that the location of the worker could be used as the indirect parameter. This assumption stems from the fact that to construct a building element, the worker has to be in physical contact with it. Therefore, the assumption was that knowing the workers location at a given time, together with additional information pertaining to the schedule and the physical design of the building, the activity s/he is working on can be determined. To check this idea, a preliminary model that converts the locations into labor inputs was developed and tested on-site. An investigation was conducted on three construction sites, which included a location measurement and simultaneous manual measurement of the same activities. These locations were converted into productivity by the model and compared to the results of the manual measurements.

In one of the sites, 12 activities were monitored during the experiment. In most of the 12 activities, the difference between the productivity measured manually and that calculated by the model is less than 12% [30]. 3.2.2. Productivity of earth-moving operations The same principle served as the basis for another model, which was implemented in a prototype system for controlling earth-moving operations in road construction and tested for 3 weeks on the site [31] and [32]. This model was realized in a prototype system and tested on a road construction site, using a Global Positioning System (GPS) antenna mounted on each of the pieces of equipment performing the controlled activities. The productivity of four activities was measured with the prototype system, and, at the same time, it was recorded manually so that the accuracy of the model could be assessed. The comparison shows that the deviation between the actual productivity and the one calculated by the prototype is 2.2% to +4.4%. These results are very encouraging, indicating that automated productivity measurement of earth-moving equipment in road construction is possible. Moreover, the measurement technology (GPS) is available off-the-shelf and affordable. 3.2.3. Tower crane monitoring The idea of monitoring construction lifting equipment to provide useful feedback information for project management stems from the fact that almost all construction components and materials must be transported by machines, and monitoring them is relatively straightforward. A model, employing a black box monitor and a PM, was developed. The black box is based on crane monitoring systems that provide realtime monitoring of weight and position parameters, which some manufacturers of lifting equipment provide. For example, Potains Dialog Visu and Top tracing control systems [33] enable real-time monitoring and collection of the gross load weight, radius, distance of the trolley from the tower, length traveled (jib-to-hook distance), and jib-slewing angle. These advanced control systems are intended mainly to enhance site safety, for more accurate crane operation in zones with reduced visibility, and for operation with remote control. They can be programmed to give warning against overload or to prevent travel into dangerous zones. In order to evaluate the feasibility of using data collected by crane monitoring blackboxes to provide managerial information, an extensive series of readings were taken at a construction site on a Potain MD 345 tower crane. Measurements were recorded through a number of typical working days as the crane was observed performing distinct construction basic activities. The slewing angle of the jib, the distance of the trolley from the tower, and the cable length were monitored, thus providing the location of the hook in a cylindrical coordinate system around the cranes tower. These locations were transformed into the buildings local Cartesian coordinate system. The load on the hook was also monitored through time. The results indicate

that the system is technically feasible, but a sophisticated algorithm and additional monitoring sources are required in order to interpret the monitoring results unequivocally. 3.2.4. Materials The materials resource constitutes 4060% of the project's total cost[34], which makes materials an important and attractive subject to control. In spite of their weight in construction projects, not enough attention is given to their management. While the general industry invests 1% of the cost in materials management and control, the construction industry invests only 0.15% [35]. Research which included 20 construction projects has shown that proper control and management of materials can contribute 68% increase in productivity [36]. The aim of our research was to develop a model based on automatic data collection for materials management and control. The model manages and initiates ordering of materials automatically, based on project plans and actual flow of materials and stock at the construction site. The model permits real-time control enabling corrective actions to be taken. In this manner, costs and handling unnecessary traffic of materials are reduced. In addition, up-to-date information regarding materials flow is available, and different statistical analyses are enabled: materials flow for a specific supplier, materials used for a specific activity, materials used in a specific month, etc. The information generated by the model enables the update of historical database to be used for planning of future projects. 3.2.5. Safetyprevention of falls from heights Falling from heights is the number one risk factor in lethal accidents in construction an industry with a very high accident rate, many of whom are lethal [37]. Many of the fall accidents could have been prevented if the right preventive measures had been taken in time. These measures are guarding rails whenever a worker operates at heights higher than 2 m. The aim of our research was to develop an automated model to monitor and control the usage of preventive measures, mainly guard rails. The model identifies areas where there is a risk of fall from height and directs the construction manager (and/or foreman) to the suitable preventive measures as well as the time when they will be needed. Another module uses technological measures to monitor all existing guard rails and warn when they are incomplete. This research is in progress and is due to be completed this year. 4. Summary and conclusion Traditional project performance control is usually generic (e.g., costcontrol techniques). It relies on massive manual data collection, which means that it is done at low frequency (normally once a month) and quite some time after the controlled

event occurred (i.e., not in real-time). Moreover, manual data collection normally gives low-quality data and is error prone. Automated project performance control is a novel approach still in its infancy. It shows real potential to provide effective control of construction projects, thus solving an acute problem in construction management. Recent advancements in this area mainly automate measurements of various indicators of qualitynot the performance of the work from the construction management viewpoint. The most impressive developments of quality assurance are in the area of earthmoving operations where, in addition to quality assurance, tools that ease the operation of the earthmoving equipment operator's work have also been developed. Ackroyd [9] started the development of a system that uses load sensors and GPS to replace track counters to track cut and fill material. A popular area developed in various centers in the US and in Europe is compaction monitoring. The idea here is to use a GPS to show the compactor's operator in real-time, which areas have already been covered and the number of passes in each strip. Another approach to solve the same problem proposes a microwave or vibration measurement technologies. Another quality assurance for European project uses thermometers, RFID and GPS technology to monitor the production, hauling and spreading of asphalt. Two commercial companies have developed systems helping equipment operators to do their job better and easier. These systems use GPS installed on the equipment or on the tools (e.g., blade) to show the operator in real-time where the equipment is in comparison to the design or to represent the inclination of the tool. Much less work has been done in the area of labor tracking. Researchers have proposed partially automated methods using RFID, barcode or PDA technologies to collect labor data. Those approaches require manual data entry either by the workers themselves, by the foremen or by specialized observers. Other researchers have proposed the use of a spreadsheet to collect labor data. The best way to measure the actual performance in real-time economically is by automating it. This paper presented a variety of research projects whereby the measurement of the actual performance is fully automated. The first automates the measurement of labor productivity, using an indirect approachthe location of the workers is measured at regular time intervals and converted into productivity. In the second project, the same principles are applied to automate productivity measurement of earthmoving operations. The third project stems from the first two but uses two indirect parameters while monitoring a tower crane. These parameters the location of the hook and the gross weight of the load on the hookare then automatically converted to project progress. The fourth project automates materials management, and the fifth deals with worker's safety. References

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This paper is based on a keynote address given in ISARC 20 in Eindhoven [29]. 1 The example is based on Fig. 1. Copyright 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.