By Role

Digital Network Construction: The future of fiber network deployment

Nov 11, 2018

Our collective appetite for data and bandwidth is seemingly insatiable, and according to Cisco, the trend is set to continue with data consumption and broadband speeds globally set to double by 2021. Such demands have already validated the business case for 5G networks, which will itself accelerate data consumption rates and unleash unprecedented potential to build digital ecosystems and further connect the way we live, work, and communicate.

This soon-to-be reality and the demands of a 5G enabled world necessitate unprecedented investment in faster fiber networks and supporting infrastructure, and create a genuine need to build networks more efficiently than ever before. 

Network construction is ripe for innovation
Traditional construction management uses longstanding methodologies that do not keep pace with today’s large-scale network deployments that are increasingly more complex and geographically distributed by nature. Despite the large volume of tasks required, traditional methods rely heavily on manual processes, are disconnected between the office and field, and involve labor-intensive handoffs with little to no automation.

In most cases, expected productivities are not achieved, financial returns are low and volatile, and the build simply takes longer than it should. 

Almost counterintuitively, with increased scale network projects have become less efficient.

The case for challenging the status quo
In addition to the challenge of delivering complex projects to time and budget, fiber network engineering and construction firms are facing:

  • Data integrity issues; in the absence of a unified, geospatial view of project progress
  • Lack of effective coordination and communication between the field and office
  • Asset and contractor management difficulties
  • Manual, inefficient task scheduling, forecasting and allocation
  • Tools and processes that still involve paper-based construction packs, and are plagued with varying levels of data capture capability and limited field information.

Today’s significant investments in fiber infrastructure should be the ideal incentive to embrace innovation and new technologies to improve data quality, maximize productivity and deliver networks faster and better, however, time and cost-constrained firms have focused on incremental improvements rather than embracing the broad process and technology adoption required to achieve step-improvements in productivity.

How can network construction scale at the rate needed to keep pace with consumer demands?
When you look at each of these challenges, you quickly realise that digital practices, automation and technology are what’s needed to evolve traditional approaches. 

At Render, we know that with a proven Digital Network Construction strategy, networks can be designed and deployed faster than ever before, dramatically lifting in-field productivity and reducing administration effort, whilst increasing data quality and progress visibility.

Render’s unique, patented approach to solving this problem is guided by three core principles

  1. Turn the design into work, and simply build the design using today’s technology.
  2. Construction workflow digitalization, automation and optimization (removing the need for physical construction documentation).
  3. Real-time, geospatial visibility for all stakeholders.

1. Turn the design into work, and simply build the design using today’s technology
The demand for fast deployment times requires a robust network design solution to ensure superior delivery at the lowest possible cost.

If construction work is not clearly defined during the design process, productivity is materially impacted. Network design regularly risks delaying construction, and as a result sub-standard designs are often pushed to build in order to hit deadlines. This shifts resolution to contractors in the field, resulting in greater network time and cost.

  • Render’s Digital “Blueprint”: Sequenced and task-level
    “Blueprinting” is unique to Render and combines rich, geospatial detail collected in the field with complex network design and construction management requirements.

    This proprietary process is performed on a geospatial design and the output is thousands of digital labour and material scopes, all sequenced and delivered as manageable pieces of work. These tasks are overlaid on a Google Maps layout of the design so teams and project leaders know precisely what needs to be done, where and when.

  • Cloud-based GIS software with a mobile, connected workforce
    Field teams are assigned specific tasks through a cloud-based mobile platform which not only specifies exactly what the field crew need to do, but captures accurate and timely data in a consistent and structured way, optimizing quality and minimizing rework

2. Project workflow digitalization, automation and optimization
Process digitalization means shifting from paper to online, real-time sharing of information which enables greater visibility and control, and improves collaboration and overall project outcomes.

  • Daily, dependency-driven resource optimization
    Render delivers greater utilization of resources by releasing and managing work based on allocated, sequenced, task-level work scope at the individual and team level. With blueprinted construction dependencies, stakeholders can dynamically reschedule remaining works each day in real-time using Render’s unique scheduling engine which considers progress across geographies. Optimisation includes identifying which contractors are the most efficient, and filling their pipeline with manageable work.
  • Replace manual, paper-based processes
    Eliminate the need for thousands of construction prints and the associated manual handoffs by effectively providing robust data sets and a new level of visibility and asset-based insights on geospatial maps. By describing and visualizing work in detail without the need for paper print, stakeholders can view the entire network layout for construction across thousands of square kilometres on an iPad or via a web browser.
  • Capture accurate, as-built data as work is completed 
    Fully configurable forms provided for each task type in a workflow, allowing for the capture of specific completion or “as-built” information including work, material, jeopardy and digital red line data with seamless photos and attachments capabilities. Ensure the right data is captured the first time, every time.
"Productivity is off the charts, data integrity is high, and construction costs are down, all without ever touching a piece of paper. Now I can’t imagine trying to implement a large-scale utilities construction project without Render.”
Jeremiah Sloan, Manager of Fiber Assets  | Craighead Electric Cooperative

3. Real-time geospatial visibility for all stakeholders
Due to the reliance on manual, paper-based process, information sharing is delayed and non-unified often creating friction between owners, primes and sub-contractors, particularly when it comes to payment. All stakeholders should be able to monitor progress in real-time and interrogate project insights with a certainty and confidence that the data is accurate.

The breakthrough needed to deal with the scale and complexities of these projects involves cloud-based data and integrated systems, not paper or emails.

  • Make better decisions with unified data
    Render’s unique scope methodology means all project stakeholders can leverage a common platform to predict, plan, optimize and report progress. Identify where assets are, task completeness and where to allocate more resources. Detailed information is available to stakeholders to flag project risks and efficiencies. Field automation logs completed vs upcoming tasks to accurately forecast and track all delivery metrics -  in a single, integrated view.
  • Unlock unequalled productivity from the field to the office
    By utilizing real-time data in the field, management in the office knows exactly what work has been done in real-time, enabling them to dynamically monitor throughput and proactively keep teams moving. The data consistency also negates the need for manual invoicing at end-of-day, which is demonstrated to reduce contractor invoicing times from 3 hours a day to under 15 minutes, freeing up resources to focus on value-adding activities.
  • Maximize investment and integration of existing project systems
    Render improves data quality and seamlessly integrates with existing master scheduling, work order, and finance systems, removing the need for error-prone end-user spreadsheets and delivers simple and configurable insights and dashboards for all stakeholders. 

What’s the cost of change..or not changing?
Technology has come a long way and the willingness to embrace digital tools to realise efficiencies and deliver more effective user experiences is high.

To shake the status quo, project leaders in network deployment can effect change by communicating why innovation is important and how the adoption of Digital Network Construction practices can dramatically reduce project cost and completion timelines.

In order to move at pace towards 5G and bring forward the economic advantages afforded by unconstrained levels of data connectivity, the prohibitive costs of large-scale fiber deployments need to be eliminated. It’s time to harness the power of today’s technology to eliminate waste from network design and construction so future rollouts are no longer constrained by cost

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We realize that every business case is unique. That’s why in addition to the value calculator featured here, we also provide a complimentary Network ROI Assessment with Render’s leadership team to review the specific details of your project.
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