Matrics Header

Paper Extract: Information Management on Large Construction Projects

Experience using the MET Database by Ingenionics
Alan Hodgkinson, Martin Smith

Keywords: project controls, risk management, project management, classification, documentation

Abstract – The operation of large-scale power plants is well understood and largely standardized, yet the management of the design and construction of such plants is not subject to the same rigor and standardization. The decentralized and unique non-standardized nature of large construction projects is dictated by their organizational structures which ultimately lead to many difficulties, including cost and schedule overruns.
This is partially caused by the inability to quickly locate critical project information to make the appropriate decisions in a timely manner. This paper explores why these difficulties occur and offers a vision for improving the information management methodologies and tools available to managers of large construction projects.

Construction projects currently rely on multiple information systems, with overlapping areas of responsibility. These systems are not integrated and offer only rudimentary capabilities for classifying the information they manage. Experience demonstrates that current state of the art of information management does not meet the modern needs of large construction projects.

It is the authors’ belief that:
all project information should be centralized at one location
all the information shall be accessible to all parties irrespective of their global position at any one time
all parties to the project can be provided with access rights depending on the level of confidentiality required
a single project-wide scalable classification system should be applied to all project information
the classification system should consist of a well-defined sequence of common criteria
the classification should provide the basis of a clearly structured quality assurance system
the information shall be extendable to meet the needs of all parties to all the different forms of contract
these criteria should be those already understood by engineers e.g. location, chainage, project phase, work type
similar to extending the principals used when designing a drawing numbering system.

The authors explain a number of extensions that need to be made to the current drawing numbering practice to make it efficient to apply as a classification system suitable to the diverse range of information found in a typical construction project. The immediate benefits of such a system include improved abilities to manage the design specification, work in progress, site queries, claims, correspondence, work scheduling and cost management.

The authors recommend that a universal classification system can be defined that is suitable for all construction projects which can easily be extended to satisfy local conditions. Such a system would provide significant additional benefits, specifically helping monitor standards, conditions of contract compliance and overcoming language and terminology differences. The universal classification system is one part of the methodology the authors propose for managing project information. Other components include the appointment of a project information manager (formerly known as a librarian but now extended to include other facets ) and techniques for improving the efficiency of the entry and classification of new information with the aid of modern computer techniques to reduce the effort and improve effectiveness of repetitive work.

The authors then discuss considerations associated with the practical deployment of a centralized information archive and classification system, particularly given the limited capabilities of the current generation of computer systems. Metrics are proposed for evaluating information management software, including specific requirements that will enable systems to be integrated with the classification system. Key success factors in the deployment of this methodology and tips for improving common project workflows are provided. 

Partial implementations of the methodology have been used in over ten major hydro, railway, highway and industrial projects in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The authors offer feedback from more complete implementations currently in use at the Kárahnjúkar Hydro-Electric project in Iceland and the Budapest Metro Line 4 project in Hungary. A short outline of a more complete implementation of the authors’ vision, currently under development is discussed in more detail.

For more information please contact either of the following at www.ingenionics.com

Partners to Ingenionics:

Alan Hodgkinson, SoftXS GmbH, alan@softxs.ch (Database Management)

Martin Smith, Matrics Consult Ltd, martin.smith@matrics.co.uk (Construction Management)