As major industries go, construction is both very hands-on and facetime heavy. So, when the pandemic hit and remote and socially distanced workplaces became the norm, C&E firms had to move quickly. This meant adapting both the jobsite and the office. It was required not just to ensure the health and safety of workers but for work to actually continue with minimal interruption.
To achieve this, firms of all sizes had to lean heavily on technological solutions that allow many operations and management tasks to be performed remotely. This includes technology that’s already widespread like phones, tablets and the cloud, as well as the adoption of more up-and-coming technologies like AI and machine learning.
Remote Construction Market to Quadruple by 2030
The rapid shift to remote construction has kicked off something of a renaissance for the sector. A new analysis conducted by Future Market Analysis (FMI) estimates annual growth of the market to be over 14% per year, and it’s expected to quadruple its value by 2030.
If COVID-19 taught the construction industry anything, it’s that even near-total disruption of all projects and processes is a possibility. As a result, more companies have increased their use of technologies like AI and machine learning to anticipate potential project disruptions better. This can include everything: taking a deeper dive into project data like schedules and materials stock levels to look for red flags or using AI to monitor weather patterns.
Annual growth of the market to be over 14% per year, and it’s expected to quadruple its value by 2030.
According to FMI’s analysis, demand for remote construction tools and software will continue to spike, further feeding the need for more AI and machine learning technology to improve analytics capabilities.
“The pace of implementation of remote construction technologies is expected to surge considerably in the coming years. Several construction companies have already started using Building Information Modelling (BIM) tools for the representation of physical and functional characteristics of a project for help in decision-making,” a lead FMI analyst wrote.
The COVID Effect on Remote Construction
The pandemic changed many everyday job site realities, but it’s also had a catalyzing effect on technology adoption in construction, mostly out of necessity. Most of the technologies that have been seeing a renewed interest of late have been around for years, some for over a decade. While the near-total ubiquity of smartphones and tablets laid the groundwork for broader tech adoption in the industry, other technologies have recently noted an uptick in adoption. Experts think this trend is set to continue.
“Even prior to the current pandemic, we were beginning to see wider adoption of digital tools on job sites, including those that enable remote work, like photo documentation,” Jeevan Kalanithi, CEO of OpenSpace told ZDNet. “It’s likely that the situation we’re in now will lead to an acceleration in the adoption of these types of technologies, but this is the direction that the industry was heading in regardless.”
“It’s likely that the situation we’re in now will lead to an acceleration in the adoption of these types of technologies, but this is the direction that the industry was heading in regardless.”– Jeevan Kalanithi, CEO of OpenSpace
Suddenly, with no more big meetings or groups huddled around a drafting table to look at plans, digitization and remote collaboration became the solution of choice. Cloud-based remote construction solutions make it easy (and socially distant) to pass key messages and changes across the organization.
One advantage of these platforms is they can be accessed by smartphones and tablets, allowing everyone involved to view the same information no matter where they are. The technology itself isn’t new, but it’s a natural fit when keeping distance from coworkers and working remotely have become the norm.
Challenges of Sudden Shift to Remote Construction
Since COVID-19 mitigation best practices swept the industry, the job site has vastly changed. Schedules have become more carefully managed to avoid overcrowding, workers line up every morning for temperature screenings, and most unannounced site drop-ins have become a thing of the past.
Even before the pandemic, construction’s distaste for rapid process changes was a serious sticking point slowing tech adoption. However, the difference now is that many companies are faced with a very real choice between closing up shop or embracing new ways of working, new technologies included. In most cases, the desire to stay in business trumps the reluctance to change.
Typically, large companies take the most time to alter their course dramatically. However, in an environment like this, it’s predominantly the big names that have robust enough IT budgets to make the necessary capital investment. While smaller firms usually hold a nimbleness advantage over their larger competitors, they may have fewer options when it comes to an unexpected cash outlay.
During the pandemic, we’ve seen many companies alter policies permanently, although they often intended the solutions to be temporary, such as working from home. With construction firms now looking to remote technologies as a lifeline, the industry’s relationship with technology could be very different going forward.