Although there’s been progress in recent years, construction remains behind when it comes to wide scale adoption of new technologies, and the cost has been years of stagnant productivity gains.
But this isn’t a time for the industry to remain mired in the past. An ongoing shortage of skilled labor, the trend line of which continues to worsen, has brought the need for technological assistance to the forefront. Construction operates often with thin margins, and every inefficiency, delay or cost overrun can have a direct impact on the bottom line. The existing system is riddled with inefficiencies, from siloed platforms and non-standard processes to lack of effective collaboration and the industry’s lukewarm ability to attract the digitally native generation.
A 2016 report put out by UK law firm Pinsent Masons says construction requires a “fundamental culture shift” to put the industry on the path to the cost savings and efficiency gains potentially realized by implementing new technologies, according to Out-Law.com. The report’s authors told Out-Law.com the problem lies in existing cultural mores in the industry that currently don’t prioritize teamwork or collaboration, recommending increased use of building information modeling (BIM), changes to standard form contracts and key performance indicators (KPIs) to incentivize collaboration and improved performance.
"The BIM journey is about future-proofing the sector via centralisation of people, processes and technology," says Pete Watson, CEO of Atlas Cloud.
“As the demand for construction and infrastructure services increases, procurers and suppliers are looking at delivery structures which will provide not only sustainable, long-term value to the procurers, but also more consistent, better margins for contractors, supply chain members and professional teams,” construction law expert and report author Martin Roberts told Out-Law.com.
“As BIM and data management technology drives new approaches to the design and construction process, the need to replace traditional competitive procurement and tendering processes with more collaborative structures and arrangements becomes ever more acute,” he said.
In fact, the UK recently mandated that all construction projects funded by the government must utilize BIM, part of the country’s push for increased collaboration and broader efforts to modernize its construction industry to stay ahead of the curve in the growing and changing market.
“The sector needs to embrace a culture shift in the way they work. The BIM journey is about future-proofing the sector via centralisation of people, processes and technology," says Pete Watson, CEO of Atlas Cloud told Construction Global.
“Traditionally, BIM data resides on users’ workstations, making it difficult to secure and share with other collaborators in real time. Accessing BIM in the field to make a simple edit or analyse a change in real time is therefore impossible,” he said.
“This presents a challenge in a sector where 90% of the building and construction workforce is project-based and out on site. BIM files shared across design centres are not efficient, nor do they support real-time collaboration. Not only does this erode efficiency and push up costs, but it can also increase the risk of litigation challenges to a project.”
A recent report put out by the Global Industry Council, “Five Keys to Unlocking Digital Transformation in Engineering & Construction,” identified workforce apprehension as a result of cultural and technical challenges as one of the barriers to digitizing the industry.
With Construction poised to grow to $17.5 trillion by 2030, according to ForConstructionPros, adopting digital technologies are quickly becoming necessary just to keep pace as demand continues to outstrip available resources.
Adopting digital technologies are quickly becoming necessary just to keep pace as demand continues to outstrip available resources.
"Digital tools have become a part of our personal daily lives. And in the E&C industry, each stakeholder is feeling the pressure to utilize these tools on their projects — whether to streamline processes by going paperless, or expanding the reach of BIM,” Dr. Ahmet Citipitioglu, Director of Engineering and Design at TAV Construction told ForConstructionPros.
Big changes in big industries often only come about in times of necessity. As the world has changed, construction companies are looking inward for ways to inculcate a tech-first mindset within its workforce.