Contributed by Eric Weisbrot
Construction as an industry has noticeably lagged in moving operations toward a more digital realm compared to other business verticals. A report published by McKinsey in 2017 highlighted this truth, citing a near stagnant rate of productivity growth among construction businesses. Comparing that to the 1,500 percent growth of industries like manufacturing and agriculture, it is clear construction is ripe for disruption. But those who have earned a living from the construction business, including licensed and bonded contractors and project managers, have been slow to adopt new technology over the years.
Now, however, the industry is in dire need of change. Many statistics show a labor shortage in construction, high occurrences of waste and inefficiencies on job sites, as well as skyrocketing budgets and capital spending for substantial projects. In order to combat these growing concerns and bring technology into the fold, the construction environment is starting to grasp the power of the following revolutionary changes fueled by technological tools and resources. Here are seven ways technology is influencing construction today.
Countless technology firms are focusing their energy on developing autonomous construction machinery, some led by former tech company engineers and designers. Self-operating machines, including bulldozers, excavators, and cranes, are already operating on sites around the world. Their mainstream entrance into the market is imminent in the next several years. Machines that do not require a human touch can be used to tackle repetitive, simple tasks that take skilled workers significant time and effort to complete. The inclusion of robotics in construction has the potential to reduce waste and inefficiencies across the board.
Drones and 3D Printing
In addition to self-operating machinery, the technology behind drones and 3D printing is also making its debut in the construction field. Drones have been used to help monitor job site progress, as well as lend a hand in the inspection process for projects both small and large. 3D printing offers a new way of designing projects and creating some structures that would otherwise require ample time and effort by individual construction professionals. These technologies have other far-reaching implications in construction as they become more developed and more widely used.
Software Solutions for Business Management
One of the most relatable ways technology is being used in the construction industry is through software solutions for business management. Construction project managers specifically are tapping into the power of digital tools to help run all aspects of the business. This includes accounting and personnel management, reporting for regulatory purposes, and budget monitoring and adjusting as the project moves forward. Having a technology boost in the business management department of construction saves both time and money for project managers, and it creates a clearer picture of the business from financial and regulatory perspectives.
Job Site Safety
Technology in construction is also helping with overall job site safety for all parties involved in a project. Enhancements to safety gear, including eye and hand protection, has the capability of alerting construction workers about potential hazards and risks on the job. Drones are also being used in this capacity to highlight concerns that may otherwise go unseen. Technology like virtual reality is also making an entrance into construction, assisting with contractor training and job site simulation to improve safety. Each of these components have the ability to create a safer environment for construction workers, which ultimately leads to a more cost-effective business model for job owners. With fewer hazards on the job, contractors and construction project managers may be able to reduce the cost of their required surety bonds and improve their success rate of job completion.
Wearables are also making waves in the construction industry, above and beyond safety implications. Worker productivity can be tracked through certain devices, giving construction project managers a sound strategy to ensure tasks are progressing each day. Data compiled from wearable tech can be sent to specific monitoring platforms that generate reports and analytics on productivity on a daily basis. This empowers job site managers with a greater level of control over project completion, deadlines, and budget constraints.
Technology enhancements are also being used in construction in the realm of materials used for builds. Using alternative materials that are less expensive than traditional lumber or steel is beneficial in keeping costs down, and this is made possible with the help of technology. Recycling old material is also a promising endeavor with digital assistance.
Finally, construction project management involves discussions with many stakeholders, including engineers and architects, subcontractors, suppliers, vendors, and project owners. Without technology, project managers may find it difficult to keep up with monitoring all facets of the businesses and reporting to essential parties in an accurate and timely way. Digital solutions have been developed to help with stakeholder management, taking some of the pressure off project managers and freeing up time for other critical tasks.
Technology in construction has taken some time to come to fruition, but its addition to the industry is making positive waves throughout the business.
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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