Can technology be the construction industry’s saviour?

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Can technology be the construction industry’s saviour?

Jessica Jones
April 3 2019 · 3 min read

Ask almost anyone involved in construction and they’ll tell you that our biggest issue is productivity. No matter how qualified the team on site is, projects seem to have this mystical ability to end up behind schedule and/or over budget.

Because of this, it’s probably unsurprising to you that a 2017 study by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) revealed that although the World Economy has had an average productivity increase of 2.8% annually, and the Manufacturing industry has grown steadily by 3.6% a year, construction has fallen behind with our average productivity growth being just one percent each year over the past two decades.

Hope is not lost, however, as they also outlined seven strategies which we can implement in order to raise productivity by fifty to sixty percent and increase the value we add by $1.6 trillion per year. While all seven facets are important, the integration of technology has been identified as a “critical enabler for all dimensions” so that’s logically where we should start.

Across the past decade, we have experienced a push for systems that will support an increase in productivity as well as improved sustainability.

Moving forward, technology will be able to assist us with both of these issues. One of the main productivity drawbacks on site is people working from old revisions or not having seen an important notice in the site shed. This can cripple effective workflow, not to mention the paper wastage from continual catch-up printing.

By shifting the management of things like this to a digital ecosystem, we can greatly improve communication, boost collaboration and help protect our planet and all those trees that will no longer be cut down for arbitrary notes or mark-ups that are often obsolete by the time they are seen. As we shift to digital management channels, it is safe to say that the Internet of Things will have a considerable impact on the industry.

Bringing our physical networks and organisational structures online to support operations is key and being able to flow that through from concept to completion will be greatly advantageous. The easiest way to break this down is to look at it through the overarching categories of man and machine but it is important to remember that both intertwine and assist each other in learning, working and growing.

The machinery facet of our imminent digital integration is centred around advances in the technology within our smart devices and plant. While we’ve had the cloud, proximity sensors and general warning systems for a while now, newer equipment commonly arrives on site with the ability to run its own internal operation assessments, and our handheld devices are further embedding themselves in our workflow every day. Specialist drawing tablets, machinery that interacts with and analyses its environment, and connectivity across the entire design and build process are becoming the norm and construction safety and productivity are benefiting greatly.

These advances still need an independent guardian to oversee them, however, and that is where the human element shines. While our new toys are far more intelligent than previous offerings, they can’t control themselves or manage a site so it’s up to us to ensure maximum results. Apps, online platforms and other software are popping up more often on sites and many projects have taken their planning and management entirely digital. Not only does this reduce communication issues and raise productivity and profitability, but it also helps minimise environmental impact and facilitates higher levels of problem solving and better organisation.

One solution that’s breaking new ground is SiteSupervisor. Built by the industry, for the industry, the platform allows you to bring your physical network online and open up a world of new possibilities across planning, management and engagement.

Traditional ways of doing things may have gotten us this far, but they’ve become inefficient and outdated. Technology will keep advancing whether we use it or not and if we don’t jump on board, getting left in the mud is a very real risk.

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