In the Internet of Things (IoT) world in which we live, data is collected, analyzed, and utilized to help us make decisions on just about everything we do — how we stay healthy, our buying preferences, and even how we operate buildings. Why should commissioning and turnover of mission critical facilities be any different?
Through digital technology, efficiencies can easily be gained by utilizing enhanced documentation management and data transfer protocols within the construction industry. This is especially true in the commissioning sector.
Commissioning is a series of design and construction documentation and testing activities that helps ensure that a facility and its systems meet the design intent and owner’s operational needs. The best commissioning experts today know how to set up successful documentation and data collection strategies during the commissioning process so that the commissioning records can provide the knowledge base needed for operations to maintain the facility as they move into full occupancy.
Before starting any project, consider the following five tips for data collection during commissioning.
FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GATHERING COMMISSIONING DATA
Good record keeping and data gathering can mitigate risk. Online commissioning tools will track timestamps of when every action took place, as it is documented in the system. When something goes wrong after a project is turned over, the ability to show that it was tested or addressed in advance and operated as planned can be very helpful.
Revealing when the sequence was tested, if there were issues reported, who knew about them, when the information was disseminated, and if any stakeholders commented or reviewed the findings are invaluable results of effective commissioning data collection. This can help protect reputations, minimize time loss digging into the past, and help maintain the ability to continue working with the client.
Get input from stakeholders. Success is measured by how well the commissioning team executes against what the client expected. The best way to do this is to ensure that the commissioning data gathering process is aligned with enduser objectives. Spend time seeking to understand what the client stakeholders want to have visibility to, plan what systems are needed to capture that data, and look at what the client will use for their preventative maintenance (PM) planning or computerized maintenance management system (CMMS).
What to consider in record keeping/context. During the commissioning process, it is important to remember that any documentation created will ultimately become the deliverable provided to the client. They will use that documentation for baseline and benchmarking comparisons in the future. They may also use it to help understand if systemic problems were identified in the past. The documentation produced speaks to the value the commissioning team provides.
The commissioning team should be trained to ensure that responses and comments provided on issues, checklists, and tests display professionalism. The team should review common past issues to have an understanding of how they may have been resolved, or how they can even be prevented going forward. In all record keeping cases, assume the reader has no context with the issue. This greatly enhances the importance of framing what was happening in the facility when an issue was identified so that a path to resolution can be more easily determined.
The power of well thought-out data capture. The expectation of having the ability to access the most current information from anywhere, whenever it is needed — by the construction team and by the client — has never been greater. Advances in cloud-based technology allow commissioning service providers to make the commissioning process more transparent and collaborative than ever before using online commissioning tools. Properly and strategically positioning an online commissioning tool can significantly differentiate a commissioning service provider from its competition, saving time and money and adding value.
Utilizing online commissioning tools allow the entire construction team to have visibility to a live project dashboard, field observation reports, review comments, checklists, tests, issues tracking and resolution, additional pre-functional testing reports, functional performance tests, and an online storage space for additional commissioning materials. This window gives stakeholders the ability to easily see project status, review graphical representation of project progress, utilize tools to identify hold-ups, access to digital reporting and communication formats as well as ways to see what the future of the project holds. This enhanced visibility gives the stakeholders more connection to the project which helps drive accountability, more timely responses, and faster resolution and completion.
Tools to help do it all. Construction operations building information exchange (COBie), the use of Microsoft Excel® Imports/Exports, or application programming interface (API) are all available options that can help streamline data transfer throughout a commissioning project. Each of these systems focuses on maintaining data from design, through construction and into operations.
COBie requires specific organization. Space and equipment names must be unique, and the assets must be tied to a building. COBie is the standard utilized for the import/export functionality of almost all software products available that are designed to assist with commissioning or construction management. In many situations, COBie is a poor choice for project teams due to lack of understanding of how the program works. It requires the project team to spend significant time trying to understand the program (and more often they still get it wrong). However, the underlying goal of COBie (data retention and transfer) is very much achievable by the average commissioning/construction team with the right products and guidance.
A less rigid approach is often sufficient in the form of Excel Imports/Exports. Capturing and “forwarding” data can be achieved this way as well and requires less proficiency. However, due diligence is still essential and testing the ability of exporting and importing between the intended systems that will be utilized is paramount. The way software will behave isn’t always obvious, and sometimes there are multiple places to record information. The different approaches may seem pretty similar to the user, but they may create very different results in terms of getting the data out based on how the system was populated. This is why it is so important to test the abilities and what the output will look like before building the entire spreadsheet.
API is mainly used by programmers. It allows for two software products equipped with API to transfer information without requiring manual export and import or any other user intervention. In practice, API is the only viable option in one of two situations: One, the application itself has built specific integrations on top of the APIs (for example, if CxAlloy TQ offered an “Import from BIM360” button that connected directly to BIM360), or the project pays for software programmers to write code to connect the APIs.
With all of these options, naming conventions need to be established at the beginning of the project to capitalize on these systems. For example, these systems can allow for an equipment model number specified in design to get all the way to the CMMS without ever retyping it.
- There will be challenges to implementation. While the solutions are out there, achieving a seamless data transfer goal may be harder than it seems. The commissioning team will need to understand the software capabilities and limitations and be aware of that at the beginning. Guidelines will have to be established early (requiring unique equipment names, for example) to ensure a smooth process. People will have to be trained on what to expect. After the decision has been made, the team will need to create tactics to raise awareness, educate, and drive adoption. This starts with educating the stakeholders and instilling accountability across the team. Communicating early and often with the client on the benefits of the approach will also help and can increase the value proposition of the commissioning provider.
For example, on one project, the commissioning provider failed to set up project checklists in the required way that would carry over the data to the equipment. While the data was entered, it was in the notes of the checklist instead of the required field. Unfortunately, the only solution was to either forget about that data or manually go through each checklist and copy the data over to the equipment. If the checklists had been set up correctly from day one, the commissioning provider would have the result they wanted, with almost no change in effort. However, because the setup was wrong, the commissioning provider lost a significant amount of value that they thought they’d captured. Prevent this by conducting a trial run (from start to finish), reviewing the approach with experienced users of the software or by getting training or advice directly from the vendor.
THE FUTURE IS NOW
The use of online commissioning tools is on the rise as the technology becomes cheaper, more accessible, and more advanced. Commissioning management will eventually move almost entirely online. Seamless data transfer is moving slower, but it is also coming as owners are starting to recognize its value. API-based data transfer will increase, and we will also likely start seeing web-based operation and maintenance manuals. This will also allow for maintenance schedules to be developed during construction and easily transferred into CMMS.