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How will technology shape the future of construction

Like many industries, engineering and construction is rapidly transforming through technology. Technology is digitising the way we plan, design and build, and making lighter, smarter and more efficient work of construction.
 
Investment in construction technology (or ConTech) is also growing at an unprecedented rate. During the first half of 2018 alone venture capitalists invested $1.05bn into ConTech start-ups globally1, representing a 30% increase on total ConTech investment from the previous year.
 
The growth of technology and innovation is undeniable, but to understand how it will shape this industry we look to where it can make the greatest difference. What role can technology play in meeting the challenges the engineering and construction sectors face?
 
Improving productivity

 
According to KPMG’s 2017 survey2 of senior leaders in construction (Make It Or Break It), only 25% of respondents have faith in the industry’s ability to deliver capital projects on time and on budget. Given the complexity of construction projects, productivity problems are hardly surprising.
 
Technology has immense potential to reduce the complexity, improve productivity, enhance efficiencies and help the industry to work more cohesively. Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a great example of technology helping businesses to achieve all of these things.
 
BIM replaces traditional blueprints with highly accurate and integrated digital 3D building data. Also a collaboration tool, BIM brings together a range of disciplines to model spatial, geometry, thermal and acoustic information.
 
Although BIM is not ‘new’ it continues to innovate. 5D BIM platforms take modelling further incorporating project management data (like construction schedules), and tools for quantity and construction cost estimates. Together this information helps us to understand the impact of design change, reduce waste, enhance interdisciplinary collaboration and simplify project management.
 
Other productivity-enhancing construction technologies include:
 
  • Prefabrication, modular construction, 3D printing and construction robotics – which can cut construction costs, reduce demand on labour and significantly improve construction times.
 
  • The use of drones for high definition survey and geolocation work is improving image quality and survey accuracy in construction. In 2017 the International Data Corporation predicted that the largest global spend on drones in 2018 would come from the utilities and construction sectors3.
 
Safer workplaces
 
Safety will always be a top priority for the construction industry. From preventing fatigue through to managing extreme weather conditions on site, the use of “wearable” technology can dramatically improve safety in this industry.
 
  • Fatigue monitoring clothing like smart caps help users to proactively manage drowsiness. This technology provides users with alerts and offers organisations detailed analytics to improve safety strategy and investment.
 
  • Self-cooling clothing can help to prevent heat related illness (like heat exhaustion and dehydration) in weather-affected Australian workplaces – improving workforce performance and productivity.
 
  • GPS technology like Spot-R Clips provide real time workforce information. This technology can be used for headcounts, location-based accident notifications and site-wide evacuations. Business can also use data from these devices to enhance the utilisation of resources and improve productivity.
 
Better collaboration
 

Communication and collaboration are critical factors in the success of any construction project. Poor collaboration can lead to project inefficiencies – like excessive materials waste and high rework rates. And barriers and breakdowns in communication can ultimately lead to costly litigation.
 
Some examples of technologies that enable communication, encourage collaboration, mobilise workforces and improve project outcomes, include:
 
  • Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) – these technologies have endless opportunities to transform productivity, safety and collaboration in construction.
 
  • Real time digital collaboration software (including cloud and mobile technology) – this technology helps the construction industry to capture and leverage vast amounts of data, often spread across diverse and disconnected platforms. 
 
Harnessing the power of technology
 
According to KPMG’s Make It Or Break It report2, 72% of respondents believe that technology innovation features prominently in their strategic plan or vision, and 95% believe technology will significantly change their business. Yet despite this confidence, less than half of the businesses represented have a technology roadmap or strategy in place.
 
For organisations to harnesses the full potential of technology innovation must be culturally significant, investment should be prioritised and technology must be deeply embedded in strategic plans. We must also continue investing in developing the future skills of our workforce to drive this innovation forward.
 
Which technology have the greatest potential to transform your business or industry? What stands in the way of investing in innovation? Please share your thoughts and comments via LinkedIn.
 
Alternatively, please contact a member of the Coates Hire team on the form below.
 
1 – https://www.constructionglobal.com/equipment-and-it/vc-investment-contech-startups-passes-1bn-h1-2018-jll
2 - https://assets.kpmg.com/content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2017/10/global-construction-survey-make-it-or-break-it.pdf
3 - https://www.idc.com/

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