E-Construction and Partnering Peer Exchange

State DOTs presented on e-construction initiatives.

On June 11 and 12th, NJDOT hosted a Peer Exchange on e-Construction and Partnering with the support of FHWA’s designated subject matter expert and support team.  During the two-day event, representatives of five state DOTs and the FHWA NJ division office convened to highlight and share current practices, policies and procedures, funding sources, and implementation challenges (see Agenda).

In welcoming participants, NJDOT laid out several topics of interest for the peer exchange.  NJDOT explained that it had recently completed a pilot project using mobile devices in the field.  For that pilot effort, inspectors were able to input inspection data and create reports. The pilot study demonstrated that field data should be captured as quickly as possible, rather than wait until the inspector returns to the office.  NJDOT also sought more insights on using digital signatures securely to further its objective of implementing digital processes and advancing, eventually, toward a paperless system.  The department’s e-Builder process is just getting started with a rollout for construction in the next 3-4 months. NJDOT is also currently collecting data and information about e-ticketing.  With all of this, NJDOT made clear its interest in looking to share and understand lessons learned from other state DOTs to eliminate redundancies and missteps.

NJDOT also gave an overview of its vision for e-construction and how it seeks to use its Project Management Reporting System (PMRS) with e-Builder for final plans and specifications and AASHTOware Project for bid, award, and construction.  Similarly, the participating DOT attendees — Georgia, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky — described their agency’s experience with various e-construction systems, covering such topics as:  digital signatures; electronic approvals and signatures; cost sharing and partnering; mobile devices; and e-ticketing.

The event provided an opportunity to delve deeply into the technologies with peer agencies, exploring the major benefits, key challenges and lessons learned in implementing select systems. For NJDOT, the event led to several takeaways in relationship to implementation of e-Builder for construction; e-ticketing and data requirements; and building effective collaborative relationships with various bureaus and contractors, among other topics.

Purchase and Evaluate the Use of Tablets for Construction and Work Zone Inspection

In FY2017, the NJ STIC recommended that a STIC Incentive Funding grant be used for the purchase and the piloting of the use of the tablets for construction and work zone inspections.

Once acquired, the use of tablets were found to expedite as-built review reporting. For example, comments between team members were easier to share and compile and As-Built review reports, checklists and other supporting documents were no longer printed prior to the review. The reports and checklists could be completed electronically at the field office during the review as the information was collected.  A list of findings could be created during the review and shared electronically with the resident engineer (RE) and the review team.  Guides and manuals could also be shared with the RE on the tablets during the As-Built review to answer any questions.

Several benefits were evident from the use of the tablets in construction and work zone inspections:

  • Improved communications within a team in sharing or demonstrating a design idea such as sketches, field changes, request for information, etc.
  • Improved efficiency in keeping field records, particularly through the use of the camera’s function for capturing field videos and pictures.
  • More productive meetings as participants had the ability to quickly reference contract documents, plans or emails (Ex. progress construction meetings with contractor, Project Manager/Designer, and utilities.)

Some other lessons were noted in piloting the use of the tablets:

  • It is important to keep the battery fully charged; the battery life was found to last up to two hours with extensive use.
  • For practical use on site, the use of a stylus pen makes it much easier to use.
  • The tablet keyboard will be easier to use if a mouse device is available.
  • It is essential to have and maintain the remote internet access connection to enjoy the benefits of the field use of tablets.

Advancing Use of Mobile Devices in Administration and Oversight of Local Public Agencies Program

By adopting a paperless process for delivering construction administration documents, practitioners can save time and resources while improving the process of managing construction documents. New Jersey’s State Innovative Council recommended that a STIC Incentive Funding Grant be awarded to NJDOT to advance the use of mobile devices in the administration and oversight of its Local Aid Program.  The NJDOT received a STIC Incentive Funding Grant of $21,464 in FY2015.

The STIC grant funded the acquisition of tablets for use in two areas: application ratings and construction inspection.  The primary benefits of the transition to tablets were expected to come from improved staff efficiency through a reduction in the preparation time prior to field visits and an elimination of the need to manually transfer data collected on paper in the field.

NJDOT’S Division of Local Aid was able to use the funding to acquire 14 tablets and Mi-fi “hotspot” cards to ensure field network connectivity.  NJDOT’s IT department was engaged to coordinate the procurement process to the purchase the tablets for Local Aid staff and install cellular connection, VPN Access, security software, licensing. Electronic Field Inspection reports were designed, developed and tested in accordance with the Division’s Policy and Procedure for Construction Inspection.  District training was delivered for the use of tablets for construction inspections of federal projects. The tablets were distributed to the 4 Local Aid districts and are in use.