A guide to collecting high integrity time-on-site data on construction sites

Leigh Roberts

Customer advocate & business process specialist

Site managers have a hectic and demanding role, with many moving parts, people and activities. Being responsible for the day-to-day activities on construction sites includes everything from daily toolbox talks to directing the build and accepting material deliveries.

Collecting time-on-site data is essential to managing risk and protecting already slim construction margins. And this falls to site and project managers too.

So, what are the common ways to collect time-on-site data, and how do they compare?

Manual data collection

Manually collecting time-on-site data usually involves paper record books or spreadsheets.

Many small to mid-sized construction methods have a history of using basic time and attendance systems to record who is on-site. Often owner-managers keep a close eye on time-on-site data for payroll purposes when the business is small and do so by manually registering who is on site. As a business grows, Site Managers sometimes continue to use the same systems despite the company being much larger.

These systems usually have a couple of things in common – they are quick and easy to set up. Yet, they also have several disadvantages, including:

  • Time-consuming to run
  • Prone to human error
  • Generate poor data quality
  • Data double-handling.

Manually recording time-on-site data is a risky and time-consuming task compared to other options.

Mobile-based data collection

A recent survey of Construction leaders in Asia Pacific reported that “53% say Covid-19 has accelerated their adoption of digital technologies.”** The expected benefits include improved resource efficiency through fewer errors and less rework, reduced human input, and boosted capacity to manage more projects.

With these benefits in mind, how do automated time-on-site processes achieve these?

1. Mobile phone-based solutions based on scan-in and out functionality.
Contractors start their shift by scanning a QR code, checking in at a kiosk at the gate, or using a mobile app to record that they’re on site. At the end ofthe day, the contractor checks out using the same method as earlier.

The advantage of this is that the data is collected by the worker and Site Managers need to put in significantly less management time to manage this.

However, there are also downsides to this. It relies on the contractors to change their behaviour (that is to remember to sign in and out each day). And there can be issues with data quality, such as typos, for example.

2. Mobile phones with geofence (virtual perimeter)sign-in.
Geofenced sites have a tracked boundary which is always monitored. The presence on-site of contractors is picked up automatically once the contractor has installed the app and agreed to location sharing. When the contractor arrives and leaves the site (or zones within a site), their time-on-site data is recorded. As it is automated, the contractor does not need to remember to sign in or out, which improves compliance.

Geofenced sign-ins result in higher accuracy attendance information. But be aware, geofences have a minimum 100m radius. This is because location information on phones is often only accurate to 50m or more, especially if there is no Wi-Fi on site.

Sometimes the adoption of geofence sign-ins is hampered as some contractors are unwilling to share their location data, viewing it as “Big Brother”. However, this objection is anecdotally declining as we get used to sharing our location data with social media platforms and other apps.

Using the geofence app is also subject to perhaps more ‘hidden’ interference, such as someone changing their location tracking in their settings without realising the impact on the app or something as simple as the phone battery running out.

Geofenced sign-ins give the best value for money when considering its ability to deliver high data integrity and completeness without requiring someone to be stationed at each entrance. However, they also are potentially harder to maintain a consistent experience with given that there are more variables outside of the construction company’s control.

3. Turnstiles enabled with contractor sign-in software.
Protecting high risk or high stakes construction sites with locked turnstile set-ups enabled with a check-in tablet keeps unauthorised visitors out of a construction site (alongside a high actual fence).  

These expensive solutions are not for every project. Examples of projects where the benefits outweigh the costs are high risk projects like tunneling, building data centres and other high security government sites.

Like the options above, this sign-in method also has downsides. They can cause congestion and queues if all contractors arrive and leave at the same time. And whilst they are great for capturing people-based movements on and off site, you’ll also need to invest in a different sign-in method deliveries as they’ll need to go through a delivery gate.

What to look for in a solution to improve the quality of time on-site data

With any solution, changing established practices and behaviours can be a barrier to success. However, there are several things to look for in any solution to improve data quality on your construction site.

1. Digitise the process. Paper and spreadsheet-based solutions have too many failure points.

2. Look for apps designed with the contractor or repeat visitor in mind. For example, no one likes to re-enter their details visit to visit, especially when on-site frequently. When the app remembers details from visit to visit, there is less frustration.

3. Apps that include hazard logging functionality are useful. For some contractors installing two apps to work on a construction site can seem like an intrusion. When the app combines hazard reporting and sign-in functionality, it is easy to be proactive.

4. If you use different pools of contractors on different project types, choose software that offers several check-in methods. Less tech-savvy contractors may prefer a QR code, whereas those working on a very long project may prefer a geofence sign-in.

5. Integrations with the construction software used on site, like Procore. This will reduce any double handling of data between systems.

Sometimes there is nothing better than road testing software yourself. Start your free 14-day trial of EVA Check-in today. It’s easy to set up your first site and start testing different check-in options – and see how the quality of your record keeping improves.

** Source "How we Build Now 2022" Asia Pacific by Procore

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