Document Detail

Title: FR-384 - Tracking and Tracing Construction Materials: Guidelines for Upstream and Onsite Implementation
Publication Date: 6/1/2022
Product Type: Final Report
Status: Tool
Pages: 64
RT-384 investigated upstream and onsite materials tracking and tracing. While materials tracking aims at gathering the location and status of an item by means of auto-ID technologies (e.g., barcode, RFID, QR codes, Bluetooth), tracing aims at collecting and sharing the digital thread of information on the item spanning back to its production and inclusive of certifications, test reports, transaction history, or vendor and supplier records. RT-384 developed an Excel-based assessment tool to assess the maturity of the materials tracking and tracing function in a project. This report includes that proof-of-concept Excel-based tool.

NOTE: This publication's accompanying beta software is a proof of concept and is available for informational purposes only.

By downloading or purchasing this publication, you understand and accept that its accompanying software may stop opening or running properly on future platforms and is not supported or maintained by CII.

Both the publication and its software are protected by applicable copyright restrictions as set forth by CII.

Any party interested in adapting this software is invited to contact CII to discuss licensing.
Order Now  


The ability to track and trace upstream materials allows vendors and suppliers to seamlessly share production status and other materials information with key project stakeholders. These updates promise to greatly improve supply chain visibility and construction efficiency, and thereby to positively affect craft labor productivity, cost, and time.

RT-384 arrived at the following key findings:

  1. Tracing the Digital Information Thread Offers a Novel Opportunity – Like two sides of the same coin, tracking and tracing should be regarded as two complementary and fundamental aspects of a digital materials function. However, construction professionals rarely leverage the ability to trace data about a component from its production to its current status and share that information with key project stakeholders. RT-384 found anecdotal evidence that tracing and sharing the digital information thread of a component (e.g., certification, vendor data, configuration, subcomponent details, and maintenance records) can assist receiving, installation, commissioning and startup, and operations and maintenance. Traceability of information becomes especially important for components that belong to the owner’s operation process, such as complex equipment packages or modules.
  2. Perceptions of a Questionable Return on Investment and How to Mitigate Them – The perception of a poor return on investment (ROI) stands as a major barrier to the adoption of tracking and tracing by owner, contractor, vendor, and supplier organizations alike. This negative perception contrasts with the experience of SMEs who, during interviews with RT-384, emphasized that, when properly planned and implemented, the digital information thread often provides an ROI of multiple times the investment costs.
  3. Costs vs. Benefits – Implementation of tracking and tracing requires an upfront investment in information technologies and work process alignment. Thus, stakeholders who explore the use of tracking and tracing often seek to understand the cost-to-benefit in order to justify such an investment. In order to provide clarity, RT-384 documented four construction functions that saw a direct cost-benefit from tracking and tracing:
    • Automated material transactions
    • Onsite material searches
    • Craft labor productivity
    • Construction operations, which benefit from planning reliability when fed upstream and onsite materials updates and information

      The team also found anecdotal evidence that documenting and sharing materials information at vendors and suppliers could discourage legal actions among key stakeholders. Indeed, two construction organizations that contributed to this research mentioned that this legal mitigation aspect had become the main driver for their adoption of upstream tracking.

      Finally, the ability to seamlessly trace and access materials’ data on production, testing, certifications, installation, and design holds the promise to significantly simplify information management and reduce the amount of time devoted to typing and accessing this information.
  1. A Digital Materials Model – A digital materials model emerged from the team’s analysis of SME interviews on project experiences with outstanding materials tracking and tracing functions both upstream and onsite. During the analysis, common themes emerged that enabled the team to define 43 strategies. RT-384 grouped these strategies into 10 functions, which spanned four sequential implementation stages: consultation, requests for proposals, upstream tracking and tracing, and onsite tracking and tracing.
  2. The Relative Importance of Strategies – RT-384 dedicated a workshop to weighting the 43 strategies in the model with input from SMEs. In this system, a higher weight indicates a higher contribution to the maturity of the materials tracking and tracing function, and, consequently, to project performance. The sum of weights gives a model user both maturity scores by function and stage, and the ability to compare them.
  3. Maturity Assessment Tool and Score – The research team developed a computer-based tool that evaluates digital materials’ readiness against the digital materials model. This tool leverages the model and relative weights to compute a unified maturity score for a project. Alternatively, the tool can evaluate the maturity of one or more implementation stages independently. The tool generates a report that identifies leverage areas and corresponding actions to enhance the maturity of tracking and tracing.
  4. Tracking and Tracing Subcomponents – Whenever complex components (e.g., pumps, turbines, compressors), packages, or construction modules are to be digitally tracked, their subcomponents must also be tracked. A logical relationship must be established among tracking devices that replicates the dependency between components and subcomponents, for example, through parent-child or one-to-many relationships. Such dependency is often replicated in the selection of tracking technology devices, for instance, by dedicating more expensive resources to the tracking of the main component(s).
  5. Potential Impact on the Entire Project Life-cycle – RT-384’s analysis of both surveys and interviews highlighted the potential of materials tracking and tracing to improve the entire life-cycle of a project. SMEs indicated the positive effects on commissioning and startup and operations and maintenance when a project shared a digital thread of information for every component. For example, the research team collected anecdotal evidence of projects that substantially reduced commissioning and startup completion times by making such digital information available at the fingertips of the commissioning team through portable electronic devices.