Putting Quality Control Data Front And Center For A Safer, More Efficient Project

Traditional construction quality control data is collected during construction activities in field books, communicated verbally to stakeholders, then archived to be siloed in the project file.  The data may be incorporated into weekly or month reports with too much lag time to catch any errors.  A recent project coordinated by GZA’s Michael DeVasto, however, put quality control data front and center to efficiently share it in near real-time.

This helped to limit risk and free up time and budget on a tailings embankment project. "GZA completed the geotechnical investigation and design of the embankment and, as part of our design package, recommended construction quality control criteria throughout the construction project," Mike tells us. The embankment as designed was large, high, and had strict compaction requirements. In addition, any backfill had to meet stringent criteria to be used on the site. 

Efficient, Near Real-Time Quality Control Data

This made the subsurface particularly important. While weekly or monthly reports that compile a large amount of compaction testing data, it’s unlikely this information can be properly leverage to catch errors or ensure the proper test spacing is being applied. With all these factors in mind, a more efficient method of sharing data  was needed for safety and efficiency.

“We wanted to actualize the field data,” Mike explains, and create a tool that could be accessed by everyone, regardless of their GIS infrastructure. So, leveraging GZA’s ArcGIS Enterprise for Portal and Collector for ArcGIS, Esri’s geospatial analysis and visualization software, “we built out a database that can be accessed from the field using our phones.”  Instead of the data being written down in a notebook for submission to a report, the compaction testing data was captured directly into a database and published to an online web map in near real-time. We created a space for the data to land that stakeholders with an internet connection can access. 

This data was combined with the ArcMap analysis, construction progress data submitted elsewhere, and aerial photography of the site to create a quality control tool that was faster, easier to use, and more efficient. “One of the top qualities of this platform was that our client would periodically check the webmap and would call our field staff directly when he saw something he wanted to follow up on. In any traditional format, there is no way that information would have been relayed in the proper time. It was empowering for our client as much as it was for our field staff.”

Saving Time and Budget For The Project

Despite the seeming complexity, this was a simple project for an Esri user to assemble. “I almost thought of the webmap as a side product, because you need something for everyone to access,” DeVasto notes. “I saw it as a convenient data capture tool.”

It quickly became more than that. “It democratized the information,” DeVasto explains. The map became the de facto staging ground for stakeholders on the project. “Everyone was able to get on a call, open the webmap, and interact with the data. It became a forward-facing space for collaborators to use.”  

It also democratized the data. As the data is independent of the map, querying, graph creation, and other needs could be done quickly and efficiently. The project deliverables shifted away from paper, as a weekly memo was unnecessary, freeing up time and budget to focus on the project. “ It was already in a table format online, and our clients could view the map whenever they wanted to ensure all was going well,” Mikes explains. “After three days of seeing the tool at work, the client told us the weekly reports weren’t needed: He had everything he wanted from the tool!”

It also assisted in the field, as the data wasn’t tied to a particular device. Project supervisors on site accessed the map to check data and address concerns as work on the project continued, creating a safer site and project. 

And in the future, this can be paired with other methods . DeVasto notes that as sensor packages are refined and implemented in work sites, instrumentation will allow a constant flow of data in real time that can be automatically collected, mapped, collated, and viewed by stakeholders in real time, making construction quality control data more actionable, transparent, and accessible.