Jon Chesser, SVP, Strategic Services, Robert Fuqua, Founder & CEO, Bobby Ball, COO and Pamela Fetterolf, SVP, Corporate Services & General Counsel
Located just off Australia’s central Queensland coast, Curtis Island is home to uninhabited beaches, secret fishing spots and mangroves. Not far from this unexplored wilderness lies a bustling hub of coal seam gas export facilities including natural gas liquefaction plants. It is here where Bechtel, a global engineering and construction company met with a unique supply chain challenge. Bechtel’s three liquefied natural gas (LNG) project construction sites—owned by separate entities— were accessible only by water, and they had no room in the island to store materials for a long time. Given the challenges presented, Bechtel deployed innovative RFID technology to automate work processes typically performed manually to improve efficiencies. The company procured and deployed active RFID tags, tracking and tracing millions of material movements as the construction materials moved from the mainland port to Curtis Island, eliminating the need for manual recording in the project databases.
The brainpower behind this amazing feat was Jovix, a powerful application from Atlas RFID Solutions that tracked and delivered materials from multiple locations to Bechtel’s LNG project construction sites. Given the capaciousness of the construction sites, Jovix, a material readiness application demonstrated how RFID can be a real game-changer in materials management, addressing information latency by automating paper-based work processes.
Ending the Paper Chase
At the core of Atlas RFID’s ascension to success lies the much-illustrious word—paperless. “It is not a cake walk to understand the underlying issues impacting a construction schedule from a 300 page report from a construction contractor,” says Robert Fuqua, Founder and CEO, Atlas RFID Solutions. However, more than a decade into the 21st century, the construction industry’s approach towards a ‘paperless society’ still appears to be a distant dream. According to a report from COAA, 63 percent of the average craft laborer’s time is not productive, and waiting for equipment and materials is a major contributor—thanks to the traditional field materials management processes in construction projects that continue to dwell under piles of paper, impeding the decision making process. Atlas RFID Solutions wants to eliminate this bane of paper-based field materials management for the capital asset market through Jovix. The ingenious application bridges the gap between web-based server software with mobile and auto-ID technologies, offering information regarding construction materials to decision makers in the field, removing the manual, paper-based data collection. The Holy Grail in construction projects is an ability to take advantage of the information to provide more insights and analytics in the construction environment to drive better decisions.
Considering the downswing impact that paper-based field materials management processes have on construction, “We have pioneered the concept of Material Readiness that leverages technology to digitize field work processes to resolve underlying issues that delay construction, while presenting actionable information in a graphical format to project team members in real-time,” says Jon Chesser, SVP, Strategic Services, Atlas RFID Solutions. Explicating the same thought, Bobby Ball, COO, Atlas RFID Solutions, adds, “Jovix uses auto-identification such as passive and active RFID, coupled with mobile devices to capture the real-time material status and location information at every touchpoint—from material fabrication to installation.”
Evidently, as a catalyst of change in the industry, Atlas RFID Solutions—one of the fastest-growing companies in America— is proudly stationed today as a leading provider for site-level materials management technology for large-scale industrial construction projects. The firm’s leap to the diversiform accomplishments, including a recipient of the illustrious honor of President’s “E” Award for exports, underpins Atlas RFID Solutions’ ability to enhance productivity in the industrial construction market.
"The solution plants RFID tags on the materials providing access to real-time information about the materials’ location, status, time of arrival, and more"
Reshaping Materials Readiness
Jovix, an abbreviation for Jobsite Visibility Extension, is built on consistent, intuitive, and rich graphical user interface design that assists complex projects across oil, gas, power, chemical, and mining comprising of numerous players like owners, EPC contractors, fabricators, and suppliers dealing with materials and equipment for global construction projects. According to Chesser, 50 percent or more of the mega projects in the industry do not meet project schedule and budget, and the management of construction materials control 80 percent of a project’s schedule. Construction crews cannot complete their work without materials. Construction crews cannot plan their work without visibility into the availability of material required to complete their work. Addressing this problem, Jovix enables material readiness by utilizing sensor technologies to collect data from disparate physical construction assets. The congregated data is then tied to specific work packages and the construction schedule to provide analysis for timely completion of construction schedule. At the core, the firm’s material readiness application integrates design, fabrication, schedule, and on-site work package data to provide work package forecasting, predictive analytics and exception reports. These functionalities equip the users with future material readiness by comparing supply and demand data from work packages. With Jovix, users have accurate information in real time, which proactively resolves problems and saves time.
Jovix facilitates high level of visibility that is markedly advantageous to project managers, construction planners and supply chain managers. Prior to using Jovix, the manual process of collecting data, and updating legacy systems, with information about material location and status used to take 30 days for some of Atlas’ clients; This is just for keying in material information into the systems from paper records. “The solution plants RFID tags on the materials and the transfer units providing access to real-time information about the materials’ location, time of arrival, and more,” says Chesser. Treading on the heels of Collect-Process- Analyze-Act schema, material readiness is the next breakthrough in project performance of capital projects, granting the ability to drive better decisions through unprecedented visibility into materials with respect to construction schedule.
Challenging the orthodoxies in the industry, Jovix keeps pace with the latest technologies in fabrication and modularization to provision material readiness information that drives necessary actions and accelerates availability of the right material at the right time and in the right condition. Jovix extends features such as personalized Materials Readiness dashboard for owners, contractors and fabricators, which utilize automation to highlight issues on an exception basis in easy-to-consume format that facilitates investigation.
In a nutshell, right from the process of fabrication and receiving to planning and installation, Jovix assists the users to control every aspect of material lifecycle by quickly turning vast amounts of data into actionable information, and providing access to this information to mobile users in the field as well as corporate and project executives in the office.
Testimony to Efficiency
Amid the numerous accolades and accomplishments in Atlas’ journey, one that stands out is their engagement with Bantrel, an engineering, procurement and construction firm. Bantrel knew that future material availability is a critical input into the construction sequence planning process and a lack of visibility into existing or future inventory can cause construction delays and negatively impact the construction schedule. With Jovix, Bantrel integrated multiple data systems to provide one source of information regarding the status of materials, visibility into the location and status of critical construction materials. By implementing Jovix, the project greatly reduced unnecessary man-hours and labor costs, and avoided other potential costs that directly impact the project budget. The implementation of field mobility and auto-ID on this project resulted in staggering savings of $10,642,500 in time spent for searching material, $942,808 in receivables process, and $190,300 in having integrated data systems. Altogether, the client saved $11 Million in 24 months using RFID-enabled material control solution.
With success stories like this, there is a clear rationale as to why owner/operators, EPC Firms, contractors, fabricators and suppliers from more than 200 sites across the globe count on Jovix to potentially reduce direct and indirect labor and curb material spending. “We have deployments in 23 countries around the globe, compliant to diverse needs of the industry,” says Pamela Fetterolf, SVP, Corporate Services & General Counsel, Atlas RFID Solutions.
At the Vanguard of Innovation
In the vicinity of progress as well as challenges, Atlas RFID continues to focus on its primary aim: equipping construction companies with true material readiness and providing owners with better oversight capabilities. The company is at the vanguard of innovation, commencing pilot projects to develop applications for monitoring materials and equipment onsite through drones. Besides, the team at Atlas RFID Solutions is really gung-ho to script more success stories by working towards incorporating machine learning and new sensor technologies such as Bluetooth Low Energy in a bid to improve data gathering, followed by implementing predictive analytics to drive better decisions on the jobsite. Amidst these advancements, the company’s close partnership with Oracle to develop a connector that ties the existing material and schedule data to a construction work plan is en route to yield impressive results.
With developments like this, Atlas’s vested interest in material readiness is already creating waves in the industry, and sure enough, they are constantly raising the bar for industry peers.