Several studies suggest that at least one to two hours are lost in productivity every day because workers are searching for or gathering important documents — many of which are still paper documents. A report specific to the construction industry found that 35% of workers spent time on non-productive activities, including looking for or detailing project information or dealing with related errors.
These statistics directly affect the fastener industry. “Anchor instructions, which come with each box, can often get misplaced or damaged prior to installation,” shares Scott Rutledge, business unit manager – Anchors at Hilti North America, a commercial construction-focused technology, software, and services company.
Granted, experienced contractors are typically well-versed in those installation instructions and may think that they have little reason to keep or reread such papers. However, the documentation of components is becoming more common for construction projects. It’s also mandatory in sectors where precision and safety are critical. The structural integrity of bridges, buildings, or a power plant, for example, means every anchor, screw, and bolt must be accounted for.
This ensures the proper choice and correct installation method of each component. It’s also an important practice for traceability and insurance purposes so that each fastener can be monitored for reliability, maintenance, and replacement data.
Typically, documentation has meant paperwork and recording every fastener detail by hand — a time-consuming process. Digitalization is changing that.
“A portion of our customers document nearly every single aspect of procurement, including an anchors’ installation, longevity, and more,” says Muthu Manohar, senior director of Fastening & Protection at Hilti North America. “Historically, there is no easy way to look at an individual anchor and say: ‘I know everything necessary about that specific anchor.’”
Now, that’s possible and much easier. Thanks to a unique data matrix code or DMC, such fasteners are identifiable with the simple scan of a smartphone.
“It’s similar to a QR code. If you scan the top of one of these fasteners, it will give you a string of numbers that includes the item, batch, and sequence numbers for that product,” explains Rutledge. “So, every single anchor is uniquely identifiable and comes with its own installation instructions.”
Essentially, each 25-digit DMC serves as an identification code that provides all relevant information, including the instructions for use, certifications or approvals, and technical data. The batch number means the fastener can be traced back to its manufacturing origin. Users simply need to download a free app on a smartphone to scan the code and view the details.
The Hilti Connect app significantly decreases the need for paperwork, making the process simpler, more accessible, and far less time-consuming. This can lead to several hours of gained productivity, depending on the job.
What’s more: “We know that better installations, documentation, and traceability of fasteners will ultimately lead to better structures,” says Rutledge.
Time is of value at every job site to meet budgets and project deadlines. However, the ability to digitally scan a fastener and quickly attain data about it has several other important benefits.
Safety. Improper installation is one of the key reasons that fasteners fail prematurely. In safety-critical applications, there’s zero room for such errors.
“If a contractor forgets what torque an anchor is set at or how deep to drill a hole, he or she now has immediate access to that information simply by connecting to the app and scanning the anchor,” says Rutledge. “The app will display the instructions, which lets the installer verify the torque setting to ensure the anchor is not over-torqued, or for that matter, under-torqued.”
The app also indicates if there are specific part requirements associated with the installation method to ensure the proper fit and mount. Another benefit occurs post-production. For example, even months after a project is complete, it’s possible to scan each fastener used in an application to learn when it was installed and last checked.
“The long-term goal is to give users an ability to wave a smartphone with the app over the top of one of the anchors to receive important details, such as: Check once every 18 months to ensure the fastener is still torqued properly,” he says. This provides an additional safety measure with far less effort. It also requires virtually no paperwork to find or sort through.”
Productivity. There are challenges relating to skillset and labor productivity, particularly in construction. Although training certainly exists, and specifically for work with fasteners, there’s little guarantee every contractor at a job site has achieved a high level of skill.
“So, in terms of training, simply scanning a fastener for the proper installation documentation has a big advantage,” says Manohar. It supports workers who want to double-check their installation plans, diminishing the likelihood of errors.
“We want these fasteners to be easier to integrate into our customers’ workflow. So, if they have to check or document components for critical applications, it’s easily available in the app,” says Rutledge. There’s no fumbling with papers, which are subject to the dirt and dust at a job site or getting lost. “We want people to install fasteners right every time. Now that has been made much easier.”
Quality assurance. Quality assurance and control are necessary for any industry where fasteners are is used for construction, manufacturing, or assembly. It helps ensure reliable products and the meeting of industry standards.
“For example, to ensure the structural integrity of a building, there are requirements on how the material and the fasteners that go into the construction are sourced, poured, and whether it was properly mixed and installed,” says Manohar. “Such instructions and records can all be documented and viewed via a smartphone.”
Insight. For contractors or companies routinely documenting fasteners, there’s an inherent advantage of going digital. The accumulation of data can provide months of insight into how certain components or applications are completed.
“With ongoing use, contractors can build an actual dataset,” says Manohar. “This includes data sets on how the anchors were installed, which were installed properly, where there were challenges, and so forth.”
Ultimately, this can provide a form of predictive analytics. “Over time, contractors will begin to monitor the data and understand that certain types of installations will need to be inspected more or less,” he adds. “This is an invaluable insight.”
Advances in manufacturing mean tools are also becoming smarter. Digitalization typically allows for faster, easier, safer, and more accurate toque or installation settings. This reduces the likelihood of errors and provides a record of measurements for audit.
Here are a few examples of how tools are becoming more intelligent.
HYTORC’s LION Gun’s precision bolting system offers built-in data and recording capabilities. This means users can set the desired torque output on the tool’s display, and pull the trigger to get precise, repeatable torque without excessive noise or vibration. They can also track and log completed bolting jobs for later reference.
Norbar’s EvoTorque 2 is an electronic torque tool designed for applying precise torque to threaded fasteners. A unique “intelligent joint sensing” technology continually measures the joint during tightening and, according to the company, employs dynamic braking when necessary to avoid torque over-shoot due to motor inertia.
PROTO’s Smart Torque Wrench offers Bluetooth connectivity to ensure accurate torque settings. For advanced features, users can also download an app for additional product support and to record measurements.