Building projects of the future will require the construction industry to embrace the latest digital tools and technology. Still, a new national survey indicates that many firms across Canada still have a way to go.
Only the leading and larger construction companies are adopting new technologies, according to the report called Construction in a digital world, released by the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) and KPMG. Meanwhile, small and medium-sized firms do not appear to be capitalizing on the benefits that technology can bring.
Seventy-five per cent of construction firms who participated in the survey gave themselves low marks for digital readiness and rated their digital maturity as fairly low relative to their competitors. While almost three in five admit their organization needs to moderately or considerably adapt their digital strategy, most remain unsure which technologies and applications would actually offer them a competitive advantage.
“The industry is on the cusp of digital transformation with leading firms already adopting technology—from analytics to drones, robotics, 3D printing, and augmented reality—to yield improved productivity, safety and decision-making,” explained CCA president Mary Van Buren.
“Our survey reveals, however, that smaller and medium-sized firms are not yet capitalizing on the benefits technology can bring. For many contractors, the low-bid model simply does not allow for innovation or to invest in new technologies.”
Some firms have already invested in digitizing their front- and back-office operations to reduce redundancy, cost and improve the employee and customer experience. However, the survey suggests there is an even greater opportunity to be gained from embracing technologies like predictive analytics, building information modelling (BIM), digital twins, wireless monitoring, autonomous equipment, and augmented reality.
The report suggests that construction companies that embrace digital transformation will achieve greater efficiency and productivity gains, improve onsite safety for workers, and reduce the cost of goods sold.
A recent survey of more than 4,700 Procore customers from around the globe found 71 per cent of respondents believe Procore helps them meet and exceed their profit goals on projects. The same per cent of respondents agreed the software helps reduce the amount of rework, while 84 per cent said the platform provides better visibility into the overall health of their projects.
Procore’s Construction Project Management Software, for example, connects teams and project information so contractors make better decisions, faster. Mobile collaboration tools enable everyone on a team to understand what needs to be done to keep a project on track. Information is kept in a central location and in an easy-to-understand format.
Still, investing in technology is only half the battle. Having the right digital team in place to manage the tools is just as critical.
The ideal way to effect a transformation is to build a new, separate digital team to lead it. This way, the team doesn’t see it as extra work for which existing employees have to find time, the CCA survey suggests.
The digital team should challenge traditional thinking and offer competitive solutions in planning, bidding and executing projects.
Building a separate digital transformation group can also help to attract younger, more digitally savvy team members. This, in itself, will benefit companies in the long run as the current workforce continues to age.
Without adopting technology, companies will find that hiring younger workers will only get tougher, the survey says. After all, people who grew up in the digital age will be reluctant to work for firms that don’t make use of technology.
Upskilling current employees is critical too, as technical innovation brings change to existing roles.
“It’s important that as this happens, current employees continue to feel secure and buy into their new role within the changed organization,” the survey states.