Despite all the progress made in digitalisation, construction sites are still dominated by paper documentation which makes life difficult for site managers. Whether sketches, plans, protocols, or forms – just about everything is printed out, manually completed, and sent by mail – only to be elaborately digitized again afterwards. Yet the majority of typical documentation tasks on the construction site can be handled digitally these days. This means that site managers benefit from seamless real-time data recording and gain time for important coordination tasks. Digital systems can also be used to automate entire fusion processes in piping system construction.
Whether below or above ground – the installation of piping systems requires seamless, comprehensible and carefully prepared documentation. Insufficient recording of the exact location of gas, water, or district heating pipes often leads to time-consuming and costly work at a later stage. In addition, expensive damage is often caused to the piping system on construction sites with multiple contractors. For example, if the location of a gas pipe is not precisely recorded in a GIS system during installation, the pipes may be drilled into and damaged during later work – with damage caused in these cases often running into the millions.
Felix Haberberger, Mennicke Rohrbau GmbH’s Site Manager, who is responsible for the construction of gas, water, and district heating piping on behalf of Infra Fürth Gmbh, knows the problems with paper-based documentation all too well: “Site managers are currently facing the problem that we no longer get to do our actual work. That means that we no longer actually manage the site, and no longer attend customer meetings, because we are mainly just working on the documentation.”
Felix is not the only one with this problem. In piping system construction, components and tools are usually recorded and documented only on paper during installation. Later the documents are sent by mail back to the office and then elaborately digitized. The construction site thus has come to represent a kind of black box during the construction process, which makes efficient and intelligent site management impossible. This reliance on printed documents also means very long response times, making timely interventions in the construction process virtually impossible.
The advantages of digital data acquisition
These days, the technical progress in the field of data acquisition and processing allows seamless documentation of the entire product lifecycle. This means, for example, that piping system layers can use QR codes to conveniently scan in all installed components and record them in the system. If a component is not equipped with a QR code, the EAN article identification number or a user-defined label can also be used. This way, the system can be used regardless of how many manufacturers have supplied products. Paperless data acquisition is a real advantage for field employees in particular: all project participants are kept up to date at all times and immediately informed about the progress of the project. The specialists on the construction site save time and thus work more efficiently by using digital recording.
Precise position recognition within seconds
Another significant advantage of the digital recording of piping systems is the ability to precisely record the position of all components. This allows the contractor to use a GPS system to record and store the X, Y, and Z coordinates of the respective component during installation. The complete data record is then transferred in structured form to the GIS system, where it is available on demand. This procedure considerably reduces the risk of preventable damage due to pipes being drilled by mistake. The provided GIS data allows installation companies to precisely trace the location of pipes, even years after installation.
The precise tracking of pipelines ensures that the amount of damage due to drilled pipes is significantly reduced. Experts estimate that per 1,000 km of pipes, approximately 50 to 60 incidents, with an average damage cost of around one million Euros, occur each year. Around half of these incidents are caused by pipes being drilled.
High degree of automation for welding
Welding that is not carried out properly poses a major risk in piping system construction. Incorrect fusion parameters entered into the fusion device during time-critical installation work inevitably lead to faulty welding seams. These always carry the risk of leaks and ruptures in the pipe, which then have to be repaired at great cost or cause expensive damage to the building.
Today, app-based systems are capable of relieving welders of the need to enter the fusion parameters into the device. The idea behind this is simple, yet innovative: in addition to other relevant information, the correct parameters for the fusion process are stored in the data record for each piping component. The welder can then retrieve this information by scanning the QR code and forwarding it directly to the fusion device via Bluetooth. The actual fusion process is largely automated by this procedure and the error rate caused by improperly executed welding work is significantly reduced.
Efficient real-time interaction
The real-time data acquisition not only takes the pressure off site managers and pipe layers on location. Office staff members also benefit from more efficient interaction with project partners. In addition to purely recording the components and their position, construction site staff members also have the option of documenting progress with photos or short messages. In this way, site and office staff can maintain a constant connection via the cloud, exchange ideas and make important decisions together based on sound information.
Proven in practice – the Track & Trace system from GF Piping Systems
The site managers of Mennicke Rohrbau GmbH have been using the Track & Trace system from GF Piping Systems in their work for Infra Fürth GmbH for some time. Track & Trace is an app-based system that enables the seamless digital recording of the construction progress and considerably simplifies fusion processes. The introduction of this user-friendly system was a complete success: the site managers now leave the majority of the tedious documentation work to the Track & Trace service, which frees them up for coordination activities at the construction site, customer meetings and quality inspections. The progress of construction is recorded in real time in the system and allows the project partners to collaborate efficiently and constructively without long response times.