In this two part blog series, join us as we explore how the latest technologies can be used to drive improvements in quality, reduce risk and create more integrated data ecosystems in tunnelling and ground engineering.
Technology has been a strong driver for industrial efficiency in the twenty-first century. Rapid growth in infrastructure projects has necessitated innovation from all spheres of geotechnical work – including civil, ground remediation, structural, and drainage.
The tunnelling sector has has had to rapidly rise to the challenge from tunnel asset owners demanding improved digital design and process solutions.
Geotechnical mobile applications have have been a key driver in revolutionising the design and construction of underground facilities, and will continue to be critical to the delivery of operational efficiency as paper and spreadsheets become increasingly redundant.
Safety in Tunnels – A Data Problem
Business decisions, regardless of industry, are only as good as the data you that drives them.
Even with the advent of newer technologies like remotely-operated drones, robotics and TBMs (Tunnel Boring Machines) within the tunnelling industry – the most valuable and first-impact means of inspection is still visual, and combined with the subsequent use of paper-and-pen, or mobile devices, to record observations.
Information gathered from visual inspection gives a preliminary indication of the condition of a structure and allows for the formulation of subsequent testing programs.
However, there are distinct challenges associated with visual testing, particularly when augmented with poor tools such as spreadsheets, or paper. Some of these challenges can be defined as:
- Human error and the subjectivity of each assessment to each member of personnel
- The loss of valuable information in multi-step processes dependent on the input of several individuals or teams.
- The lack of an audit trail offered by such solutions poses further complexities
- Data corruption, or loss, through flawed or poor validation controls
- Limited access to design, or site data to make informed decisions
These key factors can impact the validity and utility of every facet of collected data.
An incorrect input, a missed block of text, an unsigned form, or an overlooked data variation can lead to significant errors that compound the longer that they are left. In turn, compliance deviations can present distinct SHEQ, reputational and financial risks.
How to Improve Safety and Compliance
Data and safety processes are inextricably linked. For the safest inspections and audit processes, astute stakeholders prioritise the following aspects when looking at mobile data capture solutions to enhance the quality and efficiency of inspections:
- Offline functionality: this allows field teams to collect data and store it in low, to no network coverage areas. Data is then synched up once connectivity is restored. This removes the problem of data capture delay (either from paper or other antiquitated information gathering tools) and improves efficiency by eliminating duplicate data capture
- Access to site and design data offline: the ability to access and validate data while offline (site data, design data, SHEQ issues etc) and aggregate outcomes through automated logic significantly reduces human error and incorrect information being recorded
- A reliable and annotatable way to record images and sketches: delivering this functionality through existing hardware (tablets, phones etc) allows for images and photos to be embedded within data capture applications and saves costs by eliminating additional camera equipment, as well as dramatically reducing the time taken to append images and sketches to relevant documentation
- Time-stamped signature functionality, to ensure that inspections are completed within timeframes and with a clear audit trail of who has completed relevant tasks
- Integrated data flows, Analytics and Data Storage: linking site data flows to core operational software, or SQL databases, means that submitted information is automatically logged in a centralised repository to visualise critical metrics and eliminate data silos
READ more about our work so far in this industry in the case study below
Skanska engineers and geologists working underground on the construction of new road and train infrastructure in Norway are using our Formworks iPad solution.
Forms have been created and optimised with formulas and logic to capture information on tunnel construction activities. Read more below.
While visual inspections offer vital information in the construction and maintenance of tunnelling assets, the right mobile technology can considerably enhance efficiencies and reduce the risks posed by human error, as well as the chances of data being lost or corrupted.
While this article has focused on mobile data capture, our next entry in this series will explore some of the fundamental components of integrated architectures that promote the flow of data between systems, teams and reporting mechanisms.
In the meantime, if you have any queries or are looking to enhance your organisation’s mobile strategy to reduce risks and deliver cost savings, please contact us at the email enquiry links below.