Case Study One: Programming in Field Engineering Quantity Collection

TitleCase Study One: Programming in Field Engineering Quantity Collection
Publication TypeWorking Paper
AuthorsPeterson, F., and M. Fischer
Year of Publication2009
Date Published04/2009

The question guiding this study is can field engineers on large infrastructure and industrial projects automate repetitive tasks through the use of programmed functions. Field engineers have repetitive tasks, some of these are endogenous tasks and others are exogenous tasks. Endogenous tasks are those consisting of calculating values through recipe-formulas and exogenous tasks being collecting outside measurements. There has been research in the past few years on open source software and programming language aimed at nonprofessional or semi-professional programmers. This paper is intended to target below that scope and address the non-programmer. Macros are a programming interface which repeats a predetermined sequence of operations and are well suited for often repeated tasks. This topic is important because many construction engineers are not aware what macros are and do not write them for their repetitive tasks. This study adds to science knowledge in that recipe-formulas are shown to be a tool available to field engineers that possibly could be standardized and automated.
The study is to learn how to use macros. Write a macro to complete several field engineer tasks and find if it is a net benefit to the engineer. A field engineer task is to verify haul truck invoices are correctly calculated using the fuel surcharge for a given week. Two macro tools are used to accomplish this task, one provided as part of Microsoft Office and the other a free tool available online. A function is coded to pull the weekly average fuel rate from a US government website, apply a recipe formula to calculate the percent surcharge the check the invoice total cost.

The macros were able to pull the needed information from the government website and calculate the percent surcharge. Individually neither macro tool could accomplish the field engineers task. Combined and applied to those functions they could perform they were able to accomplish the task.

The purpose of the study is achieved. Macros are able to perform an exogenous field engineer task and several endogenous tasks. The difficulty in performing these tasks with macros was unexpected. Using two vendors software tools provided results that indicate the difficulty is not the macros themselves but functionality issues with each specific tool. This study is limited in the number of macro tools tested and the field engineer tasks automated.

In practice the implication is that field engineers are likely performing tasks that could be automated with a macro. The results indicate that adding macros to construction engineering courses as part of lab assignment solutions would provide a benefit in their employment. More research is needed to explore how macros could be introduced into existing course lab assignments. Additional research is needed to define criteria to identify tasks most likely to benefit from automation. Exploring the establishment of a lunch box or shared library of common recipe formulas encoded as macros.

KeywordsConstruction, Field Engineer, Programming, Project Control, Quantities, VDC, Virtual Design and Construction
WP113.pdf240 KB

Last modified Wed, 4 May, 2011 at 9:50