AECOM Taps Technology to Take on Time-Wasting Document Search

Over the life of a super-tall building’s construction, more than 50,000 documents are created, with each one typically undergoing numerous revisions. Finding a document relevant to a given spot on a construction site is like trying to find a proverbial needle in a haystack.

On average, project managers spend over an hour downloading, syncing and transcribing documents for each site visit, which adds up to three hours per week, according to a 2018 AECOM-conducted survey of users. One 20-year veteran project manager even went as far as to say that “compartmentalizing information is the biggest challenge” he faces on a jobsite.

Project managers spend over three hours each week downloading, syncing and transcribing documents for site visits

Fortunately, current technologies can solve this problem. Project managers, architects, contractors, engineers and other personnel using cloud-based workflow, such as Autodesk A360, already have a shared document management system in place. What’s needed is a way to prevent users from having to search through a sea of files and folders to find the documents they need.

AECOM is in the process of combining the necessary components of these technologies into a new mobile app called Haystack. The app will push links to users’ relevant material based on their exact location on a construction site, whether that’s three floors below ground or 55 stories above.

Hello Haystack

By connecting digital documents to a physical location onsite and other filterable criteria, such as document type and content, Haystack provides the project team with immediate access to the right information when and where they need it, engaging employees and activating the site to streamline information, decisions and workflows.

Haystack drastically reduces the time spent searching through files for a specific document by automatically filtering and delivering what is needed directly to users’ mobile devices. This is accomplished through the app’s constant scanning and tagging of documents as they aggregate throughout the construction process by using cognitive filtering algorithms coupled with location based mapping.

The app is designed to interface with – rather than replace – existing file structures and management software. Restrictions to what users can do with the related documents can be set by the employer, just as they are when a person logs into the system via the web. Any security protocols the employer has can be mirrored by the app.

Since all project documents are sorted and filtered through the life of construction, the handoff of a comprehensive, dynamic, as-built document package between construction and operation engineers at the conclusion of the building phase is easy. Not only does Haystack expedite this transition, but it is equally valuable through the life of a building, since submittal documents, building information and operations and maintenance manuals are all collected and sorted within the app.

AECOM will be partnering with developers and technology partners to bring the Haystack mobile app to market in the near future.

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