A Game Plan for Real-time Construction Progress Tracking

Today, let’s start with a little thought exercise. Cast your memory back to the last time you wanted to make meaningful change. Did you take the approach of setting hard goals, tracking them using tools and strategies, checking in frequently and reporting on your progress to a person or group that supported you? 

Or did you take a more spontaneous approach? Jumping right into what you felt like at the moment and improvising based on a hunch. We’re not judging anyone. We’re all human, after all–and every single one of us humans has had experiences with both approaches. Suffice to say, there’s only one that actually works. 

Research shows that if you want to reach your goals, you must be diligent in tracking your progress. Moreover, the more frequently you monitor your progress, the higher your likelihood of success. For our purposes, that means there is a direct correlation between construction progress tracking and project success. 

Why Construction Progress Tracking Matters

With so many moving parts in an average construction project, progress tracking is essential. It’s the only way to know if you are meeting schedules and budgets, and it allows teams to see if they need to adjust to achieve their goals. 

Unfortunately, progress tracking is quite complicated in construction. Teams often rely on manual methods, which provide general snapshots in time but fail to reflect real-time progress in any given moment. Therefore, it’s critical teams have the right modern tools to manage real-time progress tracking in construction. 

So, what exactly does real-time construction progress tracking achieve? Among other things, it offers: 

  • Reduced schedule delays 
  • Enhanced visibility 
  • Improved decision making 
  • Improved accountability among the whole team 

With such benefits on offer, you might wonder why more people aren’t claiming them. The answer is pretty simple: They’re not using the right tools. 

Why Has Progress Tracking Historically Been Difficult?

In previous years, teams used a variety of analog tools for construction progress tracking. Unfortunately, while today offers a number of in-the-moment, paperless construction planning and tracking tools, many companies aren’t using them. For reasons of cost, time or simple intimidation, construction companies around the world have put digital and mobile strategies on the back burner and stuck with their old-school technologies instead. 

That means that they’re using manual processes that: 

  • Don’t meet industry standards 
  • Sometimes don’t even meet standards at their own companies 
  • Create disjointed communications 
  • Silo data in separate systems and portals 
  • Fail to unify tracking of the entire project 

Clearly, it’s time to make a game plan for real-time construction progress tracking. 

A Game Plan for Real-Time Construction Progress Tracking

If you want to track construction progress in real-time, there are several areas on which it’s essential to focus. While it’s helpful to track everything, improving progress tracking in just one area can make a huge difference. Even if you can only add another system or two a year, it’s worth starting now. 

1. Establish a Single Source of Truth

As mentioned, real-time progress tracking is challenging because documents and information are disjointed, and data is siloed. Creating a single source of truth for all documentation helps solve this issue. 

Even if you have multiple platforms and technologies, they should connect and integrate, so the information stays accurate at all times. Consider your construction document management system the foundation of your whole progress tracking system; it’s crucial you get it right. 

Similarly, if communication is occurring on separate channels and programs, it’s difficult to determine what the latest status is. Instead of hosting conversations across various platforms like email, text and more, aim to keep correspondence central in one system. 

2. Invest in Workflow Tracking

Tracking certain processes and workflows can be cumbersome; if you’re not careful, they can delay your project schedule significantly. Getting set up with the right platforms early in the process is key to streamlined construction progress tracking throughout. Specifically, you should set up: 

  • Submittals: Simplify submittals by managing the review process in a single, centralized submittal log. Use digital tools to create custom, automatic submittal review workflows, and track the status of Submittals in real time in a project dashboard. Once that’s created, you can streamline and track the review process with multiple stakeholders in one program. 
  • RFIs: Standardize how your team handles RFIs with digital tools to automate RFI review workflows and provide real-time updates on RFI status. Manage all RFIs in one central place, making it easy to track RFI status and document progress. 

3. Set Up Task Tracking

With so much going on in the thick of construction, it’s helpful to see how individual construction tasks are progressing. The right construction progress tracking tools will enable you to break down momentum by team, trade work or even individual tasks. Better yet, it will allow you to set workflows, to begin with, so everyone understands the way projects progress. 

For instance, quality problems, safety observations, or punch lists can be documented within Issues. Teams can build out status update workflows to designate where an issue is on its path to resolution and who is doing the work. Then, once work is complete, the issue can be closed out. 

New tasks are often assigned in meetings and can sometimes be forgotten. Improve team coordination and task tracking by managing construction meetings with a dedicated tool. Document meeting minutes, plan follow up meetings, and assign and track tasks to completion -- all in one place that's easy for all attendees to access after. 

4. Schedule Tracking

Scheduling is one of the most challenging situations to navigate in construction, as there are so many elements to it, and it changes constantly. Construction schedules are made up of thousands of activities and it can be difficult to sift through the paper printouts or static PDFs to locate desired activities and details. You need tools that help you centralize all schedule information in the cloud so project teams can have access to the latest schedule in real-time to look up information and make data-driven decisions quickly. Having access to the latest schedule at their fingertips drastically improves communication and collaboration. 

Construction schedules are often updated as the project progresses, which leaves project teams to manually compare schedules line by line to see what exactly changed.  There is a better way to manage schedule versions in a more digitized manner.  

Within the Schedule tool in Autodesk Build, while comparing versions, you can dive deeper to get better insight into changes such as activities delayed, pulled forward, or new activities added, along with any name changes 

5. Provide Field Productivity Tracking

Once construction has started, how well and fast the field executes plans is the real indicator of project progress. It is therefore essential to understand how teams are progressing with day to day tasks, which is where construction progress tracking tools for the field come in. 

By leveraging tools like Assets teams can visualize progress directly on the models or drawings. This helps to quickly understand where things are falling behind and where attention might need to be spent. By connecting asset information directly to the model or drawings also allows teams to get fast access to information about that specific asset.  

6. Elevate Photo Documentation

Photos are already a standard method used for progress tracking in construction. The problem is, a messy collection of untagged images–which, let’s be honest, is the status quo for most construction companies–doesn’t help track overall progress. 

Instead, you need a crisp, clean system that allows you to take photos, categorize them, and use them to track the overall progress of the project. Even better, find a solution that uses GPS tagging to populate photos in your plans and documents. Not only does this make life easier as you go, but it creates a fantastic visual record for operations and management later on. 

7. Connect the Dots

The last item on the construction progress tracking docket? Connect the dots. 

If you’ve followed the above steps, you have the tools in place to help you keep track of your on-the-job progress. But whether you’ve opted for two tools or twenty, you want them to connect to provide you with one accurate snapshot of progress. 

Therefore, you need to integrate your construction data to de-silo it for once and for all. The solution? Use a platform that will efficiently connect your applications and automate their workflows, both now and in the future. 

Construction Progress Tracking: Make It Your Own Today

As we’ve said before and will say again, construction progress tracking requires implementing comprehensive systems–but it doesn’t require implementing them all at once. Go through the above steps and apply them to your company one by one, and you’ll notice a measurable difference in your progress, accuracy and efficiency sooner than you think. 

With Autodesk Build, progress tracking features allow teams to track, visualize and report on work progress to reduce uncertainty and miscommunication. Learn more about Autodesk Build here.