Archive for Monday, April 28, 2008

Building a better worker

KU researchers study efficiency of road project

A group of professors and students at Kansas University is conducting research at this Kansas Turnpike construction project in northern Lawrence. Once they've completed their research, the KU group hopes to determine how construction can be done more efficiently and with "minimal disruption to the traveling public," said assistant professor Yong Bai.

A group of professors and students at Kansas University is conducting research at this Kansas Turnpike construction project in northern Lawrence. Once they've completed their research, the KU group hopes to determine how construction can be done more efficiently and with "minimal disruption to the traveling public," said assistant professor Yong Bai.

April 28, 2008

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Grad students monitor bridge progress

KU researchers are evaluating the construction of a new bridge on N. Iowa Street as part of a larger, high-tech effort to monitor construction site progress and efficiency. 6News reporter Jonathan Kealing has more. Enlarge video

Kansas University graduate student Seong Hoon Kim uses computers to capture and log data on the movements of construction workers at the Kansas Turnpike construction site in northern Lawrence.

Kansas University graduate student Seong Hoon Kim uses computers to capture and log data on the movements of construction workers at the Kansas Turnpike construction site in northern Lawrence.

Once a Kansas University research team has completed its work, no longer will you have to wonder how much faster a construction project could be done if workers didn't take so many darn coffee breaks.

You'll know exactly how much faster.

Assistant professors Yong Bai and Luke Huan and graduate students Seong Hoon Kim, Yue Li and Abhinav Peddi are nearing the completion of a two-year study to record and evaluate construction project efficiency. They're using the reconstruction of the Iowa Street bridge over the Kansas Turnpike to develop and test their system.

"The results of this project can provide many benefits to a bridge owner, like the Kansas Turnpike Authority, because they know with this knowledge, their project will be completed quickly, save them money and also mitigate the inconvenience to the traveling public," said Bai, a civil engineering professor.

Several days each week, Kim and Li head out to the construction site for 12-hour stints recording and logging the movements of workers. Not only do they record how the workers do their jobs, but they also note whether a shortage of materials or inefficient processes may be slowing down the job.

Eventually, their video and data will be converted into models that show how employees work and how construction projects come together. In addition to recording the more mundane worker efficiencies, the research team hopes the cameras will be able to show when a worker is doing the job in a way that could cause injury.

A $100,000 grant from KU's Transportation Research Institute, the Kansas Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and the National Science Foundation is helping fund the research.

"The manager can monitor the sites remotely and also see what knowledge he can gain from our analyses," Huan said.

Indeed, because the cameras can be tied easily to the Internet, it would be possible for one manager to monitor workers at multiple job sites without ever leaving his office. Users also would be able to use the program to instantly find out individual worker productivity as well as overall project productivity.

That's just one of the clear commercial applications for this technology once it is thoroughly developed by the researchers.

"Every year we have bridges damaged that need to be repaired or replaced quickly," Bai said. "Sometimes the problem is man-made. Sometimes it's a natural disaster."

Either way, the researchers hope to reduce the amount of time drivers spend dodging orange construction barrels or following detour signs.

Comments

stuckinthemiddle 6 years, 11 months ago

wonderful...turn them workers into robots...and monitor their every move...absolutely wonderful...

bd 6 years, 11 months ago

Who would you trust to get the job done on time??Three students with no history or background in construction or a salty old Construction Supt. with a tight schedule(deadline), liquidated damages ,and everyone looking over his shoulder?What a joke!

cowboy 6 years, 11 months ago

The day that accountants and engineers got involved with production management is when the country started going to hell in a handbasket. Most seasoned production managers know that you cannot run your workforce at max speed all the time. You have to have the savvy to look the other way at times or you will burn out your workforce.

acg 6 years, 11 months ago

My husband works construction and they're allotted one fifteen minute break 2 1/2 hours after start time. One half hour lunch 4 hours after start time and one fifteen minute break 6 hours after start time. And that's it. Who are these people that are standing around coffee breaking all day? Oh, yeah, that's right. It's not construction workers, it's office management workers and CEO's. :)

OnlyTheOne 6 years, 11 months ago

You want it done faster and less expensive - do what the smart boys do - work at night!

fu7il3 6 years, 11 months ago

Calm down, people. This is just another study. These things go on all the time in practically every discipline because someone got a grant for it. Chances are, nothing will come of it. It's all well and good to say "maximize efficiency, now!" but it is still the workers who do the work, and a lot of them have unions.

Tony Kisner 6 years, 11 months ago

KU's school of Economics needs to do a study on how much money would be saved if the turnpike fees were lower and the DOT had less to spend on boondoggles.

salad 6 years, 11 months ago

"The day that accountants and engineers got involved with production management is when the country started going to hell in a handbasket."Completely untrue....well, I can't speak for accountants, but if you want something done WRONG let the crew take a whack at it unsupervised. The number of times I've been on site and found henious errors from "the working man"...unbelievable. Pumps installed backwards, cubic meters of concrete that had to be removed because they mixed it wrong, days wasted because no one can think for themselves and get the clients work done, jeez....and then there are the safety violations....just scary. Lets not forget that the Hyatt disaster was caused by a "seasoned" construction supervisor (who was not an engineer) "fixing" the design for the skyway hangers on-site.

acg 6 years, 11 months ago

lol, bowhunter, spouting off about what he doesn't understand yet once again.

supercowbellninja 6 years, 11 months ago

I think we all just need to take a deep breath, calm down, and think about where we should put the next roundabout.

Ragingbear 6 years, 11 months ago

Next study will include "How fast can a job be done if there wasn't 1 guy working ,and 8 guys watching them work?".

MaryKatesPillStash 6 years, 11 months ago

b3, these students are PhD candidates and have plenty of experience amongst them, including construction experience.Easy_Does_It, FYI, that portion of I-70 is owned by KTA, which profits from your tolls, not KDOT. This part of I-70 was constructed and operated by KTA prior to Eisenhower's Federal Highway Act, allowing KTA to profit off of (semi) public roadway.

justthefacts 6 years, 11 months ago

The industrial engineering field, pioneered in part by Lillian and Frank Gilbreth (think cheaper by the dozen - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lillian_... and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Bu... ), has long sought to increase the productivity of the workers by determining if there are more effiencient ways to do things. This type of engineer has been around since the late 1800's and such individuals are already working for most larger corporations. They attempt to determine what steps could be skipped or consolidated to increase efficiencies, what order of work would make take less time, etc., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industri... The work they do is not viewed favorably by employees and never has been, because one of the things they look at is how to cut back on over-head (i.e. extra laborers). But this type of idea and study is nothing new.

BigPrune 6 years, 11 months ago

They should be comparing government workers and private industry workers. THAT would be telling.

stuckinthemiddle 6 years, 11 months ago

BigPrune certainly would... especially if they compare the wages...you get what you pay for...

davidnta 6 years, 11 months ago

Wow. What hateful comments you people make.

Topside 6 years, 11 months ago

What a joke. Biased as well. What kind of study can really be done on 1 bridge study not viewing 10 bridges being constructed or 50 but 1. It's crap. I used to work construction alongside the company that has been doing the bridges and they work and are moving all the time. They don't get paid by the hour like a city pot hole crew. Its apples and oranges time is money on a bidded job no room for sitting around. Every minute that cement truck is late getting cement there is painfull. You can see the anxiety and anger and frustration building in the forman's face. Waste of 100,000 dollars and time for the two foreign exchange students doing it. I appreciate the effort and thinking outside the box buy do it on a city/county work crew instead.

Ragingbear 6 years, 11 months ago

It's a conspiracy brought on by the Concrete people IE.

igby 6 years, 11 months ago

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igby 6 years, 11 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

gccs14r 6 years, 11 months ago

I have found that direct supervisors will run their guys into the ground if they think they'll get a fatter paycheck, even if that means that quality suffers.

budwhysir 6 years, 11 months ago

Im such a good worker, no one realy knows what I do, when I arrive at work they say hey bud, whats new today I explain my nightly workings in the beverage industry and they are amazed at my outstanding ability to arrive on time and be ready for work. Taking all those liquid lunches can take thier tool but I am ready for the challenge

notajayhawk 6 years, 11 months ago

Thanks, justthefacts. At least someone understands what the story is talking about.I have a degree in industrial management, and I can tell you that the pioneering work of the Gilbreths isn't about squeezing more effort out of the people doing the job, but to get more production from the same number of workers, and/or to complete the same job more efficiently. Studying the design of the workplace and the workflow can actually make the employees' job easier. It could be something as simple, for instance, as the consultants questioning why a certain truck is parked 100 yards away, when the employees make 3 dozen trips to it to get tools or materials.

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