Technology is expected to deliver productivity gains, improve processes and reduce the burden of paper-shuffling for contractors in Australia, according to recent research undertaken by ACA Research for Procore.
The research also found that leading-edge technologies including prefabrication, 3D printing, artificial intelligence and data analytics are increasingly being adopted by firms wanting to stay ahead of the competition.
One of the key findings is that 69 percent of companies feel prepared for how new technologies are going to impact their business and activities and the majority expect those impacts to be positive ones. 69 percent also expect they will see productivity increases as a result of tech uptake, and 62 percent expect an increase in annual revenue.
More Firms Adopting New Technology
In terms of the broader industry context, there is an air of optimism. Most firms are expecting to see an increase in project value and bottom-line growth. Many are looking to adopt new technologies this year, with just under half reporting they will be using up to six new technologies in 2019.
There is a broad understanding of the value of digitally-enabled tools with 86 percent regarding them as important for improving productivity.
This perception reflects another finding, which is that many firms are still utilising paper-based systems for key activities including compliance, asset registers, subcontractor management, inspections and site management. Approximately one-third of construction activities by medium-sized firms are still occurring using paper.
An important insight is that time spent rectifying issues is a challenge for many firms, with small firms devoting the most significant amount of time to rectification. Across all companies, an average of 12 percent of construction business time is spent rectifying issues.
The key take-out here is that paper-based systems can cost a construction business valuable time – and time is money.
Another major challenge for many firms is managing staff, and here too technology can play a role in improving processes and efficiency.
Companies are finding a wide range of technologies coming into play as the industry shifts to embrace progress. The one respondents believe will most dramatically change the industry is prefabrication. Major gains this technology delivers include time savings, more efficient use of materials and improved quality and safety, as prefab components are manufactured offsite under controlled conditions.
BIM and CAD Adoption On the Rise
Leveraging the potential offered by prefabrication relies on another set of technologies seeing rapid uptake, Building Information Modelling [BIM] and Computer-Aided Design [CAD].
BIM and CAD are the most commonly adopted technology at this point, followed by prefabricated parts, digital project management tools and integrated management platforms.
Some of the firms at the leading edge are also utilising data analytics, robotics, augmented reality, drones, 3D printing and Artificial Intelligence or machine learning.
Shift in Training and Recruiting
While the majority of firms feel ready for the digital construction age, training and skills development was highlighted as an area for greater activity. Formal, institution-based learning was not proposed as the dominant mode for upskilling and training, instead intergenerational training, workplace-based learning and the use of specialist training consultants for company-specific skills development were among the strategies companies expect to implement.
With the shift in how we build, firms also identified a shift in how they recruit new talent. For smaller firms, there is greater emphasis on “soft skills” including interpersonal communication, and for larger firms, recruitment will increasingly be looking for applicants with expertise in data analytics and technology skills.
Overall, the research painted a positive picture for the industry and the potential for new digital technologies and tech-enhanced methodologies and processes to ensure our construction sector continues to thrive.
The researchers interviewed 170 construction companies across every mainland Australian State ranging from small firms to large, heavyweight companies. The respondents were undertaking projects across the entire spectrum of commercial, residential, civil and infrastructure projects, including energy and utilities infrastructure.
Get your free copy of the full report here.