In terms of technology, the construction business lags behind most industries. It's understandable because workers depend on lower-tech tools. In addition, the data and automation which are available, not to mention the disparate data sources and the outdoor, non-stationary nature of constructing a building.
That is changing. Tech-savvy millennials entering construction bring their technical knowledge with them. They're finding more efficient ways of doing things using construction technology. Additionally, more “Internet connected” or “edge of the cloud” tools have hit the market, some of which bring value to construction businesses.
The advent of the cloud should compel construction businesses to invest in technology. It allows everyone with access to use apps and tools from anywhere and on any device.
Here's a simple example. You might use meeting and appointment scheduling software. This lets clients go in and set up meetings with you based on your availability. Employees can do the same. If something comes up at the last minute, they can cancel from the app and you'd be notified of the change.
Your construction business can jump ahead of the competition by incorporating the right technology. It'll save time and money. A byproduct of that will be happier clients because you'll stay on schedule and decrease cost overruns.
Here are four steps to ensure your construction business makes the most of technology.
What problems do you often encounter that need fixing? Do your projects miss too many deadlines? Do you deal with cost overruns? Could it be something simple like finding a way to quickly and simultaneously communicate with onsite employees? It can come in handy in a situation where a tornado is coming and your employees need to seek shelter. There's a technology that allows you to instantly communicate with them and tell them where to go.
What about safety? Are there incidents that happen too frequently? For example, a tractor runs over an employee because the driver could not see the employee. If this is a problem, it may be worth looking at Caterpillar's Cat Detect for Personnel. You'd put its radio frequency identification (RFID) tag in PPE like hard hats and safety vests. Then, install an antenna in equipment for communicating with the RFID tag. The system alerts the worker when the tractor gets too close to a worker.
Maybe fatigue is a big problem and the cause of many accidents. There's a solution for that. Cat Smartband can detect potential risk for fatigue hours before the worker becomes impaired from exhaustion.
You have many options for construction technology. It's not limited to software like building information modeling (BIM). The technology exists that works with PPE to enhance safety. Another thing to explore is adding GPS to your most expensive equipment. It helps from an inventory standpoint as well as tracking it if it's stolen or misplaced.
Of course, you don't want to look into every possibility. That's why you want to look for opportunities to save time, cut costs, and enhance productivity in your construction business before researching your options. In doing research, check construction trade publications and reports from respected consulting firms like McKinsey and Company, Gartner, and Forrester. Ask colleagues in the industry what they use and how it's working for them.
Here are some technology possibilities to explore.
You may not think of construction materials as technology, but you'll be amazed by what they can do. Some use recycled materials to ease the impact of construction on the environment. These materials can tolerate harsh weather conditions, they are energy-efficient, and they last longer.
Business information modeling (BIM) can model complex work processes from the beginning. It does more than render the building in 3D. It helps architecture, engineering, and construction professionals effectively plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and their infrastructure. It contains more details than 3D CAD, such as quantities, performance, and personnel requirements.
Some BIM applications integrate project management. Its job is to oversee the planning, design, and building of a project from start to finish. Project management software helps keep costs under control to maximize projects and reach deadlines. Management can add project-related documentation in the software for easy finding.
Unexpected geological problems cause many schedule overruns. This is where drones come in. They provide more accurate survey estimates of geological conditions. Drones can scan the site for potential hazards to improve safety. It's possible to conduct site inspections via drones without setting foot on the property.
The Internet of Things (IoT) helps machines and equipment to connect and communicate with each other. Sensors can track readings of temperature, pressure, locations, and other conditions in real-time. Companies can add IoT to machinery, equipment, materials, and structures to keep track of inventory. When supplies are low, IoT can send an alert so management can order supplies.
Although construction technology and innovations increase efficiencies and save millions of dollars, construction security remains a high priority. Video surveillance cameras can deter theft, vandalism, and trespassing, as well as mitigate liability issues. It's a proactive construction security solution that delivers other benefits. The right video surveillance system can increase efficiency and boost productivity.
Avoid trying to implement too many new technologies at once. This puts the technology at risk of not getting used. Rolling out one construction technology at a time improves the chances that people will actually use it.
Start small with something easy. This could be as simple as inventory or calendar software. Create a meeting with stakeholders to discuss the software. Explain the benefits of implementing it.
Come to the meeting with two or three options. List the advantages and disadvantages of each. Involving the stakeholders will increase the buy-in. After selecting the technology, set up a three-month pilot program. Identify milestones and goals for the program. Select a small group to test the technology.
One person needs to monitor it every day. This person is responsible for making sure everyone has the training needed for the software. Send out reminders to use it. Ask for feedback along the way.
At the end of the pilot, hold a meeting to discuss the results. If it's worth implementing, then draft a roll-out plan to implement it. No one will use the technology if they don't know about it or how to use it. Be sure to incorporate training and communications.
During this meeting, talk about any changes to the pilot program to improve it. And then decide on what technology to consider next.
If you find out about technology your competitor uses, it does not mean that you should invest in it too. Your construction business processes are different, and maybe the competitor doesn't need the technology.
Technology can do a lot of things for you. Still, it can be a hindrance if it's not the right one for your construction business. It's possible to overcomplicate things with technology. Technology should suit your business. Not the other way around in that you have to change things to make the technology fit.
A report from McKinsey and Company says the construction business needs to change. The lack of technology notably hurts productivity. McKinsey states large projects take 20 percent longer to finish than the original plan. Additionally, they're 80 percent over budget.
Since the 1990s, the industry's productivity has actually worsened in some markets. At the same time, most industries have seen their productivity levels soar because they've incorporated technology.
McKinsey lists the following five technologies as disrupters in construction:
The report explains these are available today. They're practical and relevant solutions that work together to provide the greatest impact on a construction business.
Want to discover more construction technology? Check out these articles:
Advances in construction technology and automation help employees do their jobs better. It will not replace workers. Rather, it'll enhance collaboration between people and technology. Together, they will revolutionize construction productivity and increase safety. You'll also want to pay attention to construction trends.
Construction businesses face a labor shortage. Technology alleviates that by making the business more efficient with its resources. Yes, change is hard. Investing in the right technology can mean the difference between finishing on time within budget and late with cost overruns.