The current proliferation of new technologies in the construction industry is happening at an unprecedented rate. In an industry that has traditionally been slow to embrace change, it is becoming apparent that companies that continue to drag their feet will be left behind.
EPC contractors are starting to implement technologies designed to make projects easier, and more efficient to manage. In doing so, they are increasing their ability to keep projects on time, on budget, while improving quality and accountability. The impacts to productivity will be profound.
According to MGI’s digitization index (December 2015), construction ranked among the least digitized industries in the world. In the United States, it placed second from the bottom. In Europe, it was dead last.
While the industry as a whole has been relatively cautious in implementing new technologies (perhaps due to its risk averse nature), it is poised to play catch-up in a big way.
Here are five areas where change is having the greatest impact on construction management:
1. Construction Management Software that Connects Worksites.
One of the greatest challenges facing the construction industry has been how to establish clearer and more efficient lines of communication between the front office and field. Two technologies are rapidly changing this: cloud-based software and app-based collaboration tools for mobile devices.
A siloed approach where everyone uses their own preferred management and reporting tools may have worked in the past. However, cloud-based platforms have transformed the ability to connect with the worksite (or a large number of worksites) seamlessly – and in real time. These technologies ensure all key team members and stakeholders are on the same page – and working from a single, shared platform. Budgeting, construction inventory, reporting, design details. It’s all in one place. By making it all accessible by smart phone, distant worksites are closer than ever.
These platforms are already making paperwork and field tickets obsolete: eliminating manual processes that slow down the project, and create a chasm between the worksite and the office. The added efficiency provides great potential to reduce inefficiencies and make projects more productive and profitable.
2. Wearable Technologies
These days, it is standard practice for professional athletes to be fitted with smart transmitters that track their workouts, measure their on-field performance and to show how the athlete can make small improvements to enhance their success. Why not the construction industry?
The applications are endless: from keeping workers safe on the job site to determining new strategies for improving efficiency. For example, companies will have data they can use to reconfigure a job site or improve processes so employees can do the same work with less time and effort.
3. Advanced design and presentation tools.
Emerging technologies have led to new design tools that will impact the planning and management of construction projects. Three examples include: Augmented Reality, 3D Printing and Drone Technology.
Drones are proving to be a valuable tool for surveying the site and planning the project design. Three-dimensional printing will allow engineers and designers to create accurate, tactile models of the worksite – which will be particularly useful in design presentations.
Augmented reality may seem like something out of a sci-fi movie, but it is poised to fundamentally change the planning and management of construction projects by creating a richly interactive experience in a real-world environment. Customers and engineers can walk through the site at various stages of development, or the completed design. It has the potential of identifying problems and improving collaboration. While it will likely be cost prohibitive for all but the largest players at first, augmented reality has the potential to be the biggest leap forward in design since the introduction of CAD technology.
4. Sustainable Construction
As consumers and regulators are demanding a more environmentally responsible approach to construction and design, the proliferation of sustainable materials and solutions has skyrocketed. Whether it is solar paneling, heat recovery systems, smart lighting and heating, or recycled building materials – increased demand has led to lower costs. Innovation and acceptance of these technologies is driving meaningful change.
5. GPS Tracking
GPS tracking technology has significantly improved our ability to manage and track the delivery of procurement items – from the manufacturing plant to the warehouse to the job site. It has enabled just-in-time delivery and is bringing greater predictability and planning to projects of all sizes. This is a technology that has room to expand in its current use and application.
Get on the right side of the technology curve.
Integrating new technologies into your current operations is easier than ever. It simply requires an openness and willingness to do things differently.
In many cases, the transition is aided by the fact that many of these technologies are being tailored to the construction industry by those who have worked in field at the highest levels – and have a first-hand understanding of the challenges and opportunities you face.
As they say, the future is now. Embrace it.