Although the construction sector is known for having been slow in adopting and adapting to new technologies when compared to other sectors, it is digitalizing and innovating more rapidly than we all think. Changes are gradual but noticeable. The development and utilization of digital technologies along construction’s value chain have created innovations and altered processes that have enabled new functionalities and applications in the construction sector.
- Digital technologies in the construction space
- Link your construction site to the office
- No other way than going digital
Digital technologies in the construction space
By using mobile devices and connectivity to good advantage, construction companies have started engaging in real-time communication and collaboration by providing both office and site workers real-time on-site information. This use of big data and analytics is generating valuable insights straight from the construction site, and the operations and facilities management of existing buildings. Early adopters are benefitting from using collected data for simulation, virtual reality, and 3D scanning to detect clashes in the early design phase. Some companies are improving their project monitoring by making use of drones on site to track people, machines, equipment, and the construction process progress.
These digital technologies are also facilitating the use of related innovations such as advanced building materials, modularized and prefabricated components, and are improving various construction processes resulting in boosts in total costs and productivity. Semi-automated construction equipment has reduced construction costs, shortened delivery time, and increased productivity while advancing quality, accuracy, and safety. While advanced project planning tools use complex modeling to optimise human resource allocation and individual roll-outs for infrastructure projects.
One major digital tool gaining traction as a platform for modeling, collaboration, planning, and integrated design is Building Information Modeling (BIM). BIM is allowing stakeholders to collaborate early on from design to planning to operations and maintenance to decommissioning and the entire lifecycle of a project. BIM promises huge efficiency gains, offers great benefits to project owners, and enables new business models especially in asset management.
Link your construction site to the office
The digitalization of the construction site offers tremendous opportunities just by linking it to the office. Not only will it improve productivity and reduce delays, but digitalization will also improve the quality, safety, working conditions, and environmental compatibility of your building project.
1. Identify your problems on site
Before you can deploy any kind of digitization and digitalization, the first thing you need to do is to identify the major problems you have on site that are costing you time and money. Here are some of the major pains of the construction industry that could be relatable to you:
- Poor coordination between the office and the construction site because of delays in information sharing
- Complicated project planning
- Piles and piles of paperwork that demand so much time
- Difficulty in data analysis thanks to manual documentation
- Limited risk management
Identifying your problems enables you to start at the end of your desired goal and work your way backwards. You will need to design the future state you are seeking to solve for a particular process.
2. Digitize your systems and processes
Whatever your problem may be, a pretty straightforward answer to get you started is to focus your attention on converting your paper documentation into digital assets. The best way to move your business forward is to digitize your paperwork. Digitizing your paperwork allows you to reinvent your processes and systems by cutting down the paperwork and number of steps involved, automating existing processes, and developing automated decision-making steps.
By replacing your manual processes and paperwork with software, you can automatically collect data that can be mined and analyzed for better performance and better risk management. Real-time dashboards and reports can also help you to fix issues before they can cause any serious outcomes. A digitalized system allows easy syncing of information between the construction site and the support office.
You can also digitize your human resources functions to make your hiring and employment processes more efficient. The right HR software will provide you with real-time metrics of turnover issues, benefits costs, performance and more, which translates into more time to focus on money-generating projects and more productive employees to take on those projects.
3. Standardize the way you design, communicate and build
Although projects are never identical, any lesson taken away from one project can be very useful when applied to another. Standardizing the way you design, communicate, and build allows you to establish a common framework for your project management, bridging the gap between the office and the worksite.
By using a company-wide software tool, you enable the easy sharing of information to simplify design, communication, building, and project management across different projects. Standards in your communication protocols, software use, employee GPS tracking, etc will facilitate the easy collaboration between the office and the construction site team players.
4. Replicate in future projects
By standardizing your methods and processes, you can also standardize the identification of your best practices and develop your portfolio of best-practice processes that can be applied to different and future projects. Making sure that your best-practice standards are applied at the project level allows an established and agreed-upon system that is understood well by the office and the construction site.
5. Always take good care of your data
For you to be able to utilize your data properly, you have to know what kind of data to collect and how to take good care and preserve your data. In a digitally transitioning industry wherein data-drivenness is what’s leading the change, data is a commodity. Your data is for you to mine and to take complete advantage of. Analyze, report and learn from your high-quality data to derive great value—make better decisions, increase productivity, predict outcomes, improve jobsite safety, and reduce risks. To effectively use your collected data, you need to have the correct software solutions and data management systems in place.
No other way than going digital
There is no escaping the digital transformation of the construction industry. With over US$6 billion of investment in construction tech start-ups by the end of last year, innovation in the construction sector will continue to increase. Being one of the last industries to embrace digitalization, we are only witnessing the start of a speedy and intense digital transition.
Of what we are seeing now, the construction industry has already transformed its labor productivity, reduced construction costs, improved the efficient use of scarce materials, reduced the negative impact of buildings, narrowed the global infrastructure gap and boosted the economic development. We are yet to see the full potential unravel.
The growing data that construction is generating and collecting are becoming the most important tool for a construction company. Learning what to capture and translate will help you make better decisions and add valuable insight to your construction processes.
About the author: Anastasios Koutsogiannis is Content Marketing Manager at LetsBuild.