Over the past year, construction technology has shifted from a “nice-to-have” capability to a business necessity. With increased construction activity and competition, contractors face mounting pressure to deliver quality projects despite significant time and resource constraints. As a result, more firms are turning to technology to gain operational efficiencies.
In the coming year, forward-thinking construction organizations will place a greater emphasis on establishing the frameworks, technologies, and processes—as well as the cultural mindset to get them there—that they need to thrive in construction’s new digital age.
USING DATA TO UNLOCK BUSINESS VALUE
To improve productivity and safety, stakeholders across the project chain, including owners/developers, contractors and subcontractors, are increasingly turning to technology and data to gain remote, objective visibility into what is happening on site. How many workers are on site by trade and sub? How many safety incidents have occurred on site, where, and who was nearby when it happened? Internet of Things (IoT) technology and analytics are replacing assumptions with real-time data, helping to answer these questions and more.
In order to leverage data, firms will need to implement the right processes and analytical frameworks. Over the next 12-18 months, firms of all sizes will be challenged as they try to determine how data should be collected, stored, protected, analyzed, and acted upon. For some firms, this may mean additional investments in IT, including training; change to internal processes; and the establishment of basic security policies. Hiring people outside the industry with high-tech experience, for example, or developing data-specific roles is another way that companies can take measurable steps towards their digital goals.
IOT: THE CORNERSTONE OF DATA COLLECTION
From equipment and tool utilization to site safety and security to environmental conditions that can aid building/facility management, in 2019, IoT will become more embedded on the construction site, providing real-time visibility and collecting data that can drive better decision-making and project management, ultimately resulting in efficiency gains. By using advanced, sensor-based solutions in the field, project participants can capture and harness the wealth of untapped information and potential insights involved in managing and executing construction projects.
As IoT solutions—such as wearable devices and environmental and equipment sensors—become more widespread, existing solutions will evolve to include additional hardware and sensors. Expanding these existing systems will enrich the quantity and types of data available for analysis, and with even greater visibility into what’s happening on site, builders will be able to unlock better insights and realize better returns, helping to drive further digital adoption.
As the market matures and solutions advance, there must be continued emphasis on ensuring that technology addresses the technical and logistical challenges inherent in the physically challenging construction environment. Successful construction technology solutions must be rugged, easy to deploy, and take into account the scarcity of power and data connections that occur as new floors or structures are added. These considerations—form factor, battery life, privacy—are essential for getting buy-in from workers in the field.
Additionally, the growing construction technology ecosystem—as well as the increasing volume and types of data available—will drive integrations between solutions providers (e.g., hardware and software companies), as well as providers and customers. Tech-savvy customers will be less willing to use multiple platforms on the job, and with data coming from more and more sources, project stakeholders and solutions providers will need to work together to integrate various data sets. This is key to making sense of this groundswell of information and unlocking actionable insights, and will spur firms to prioritize putting the right people and processes in place to enable timely analysis and action. While tangible progress has been made, the construction industry is at the beginning of a far-reaching digital journey where firms will embrace technology at every stage of their organization and every aspect of a project—from hiring and retaining workers to improving jobsite safety and insurance risk.
CREATING THE RIGHT CULTURE, INFRASTRUCTURE
Becoming a tech-enabled, data-driven organization takes much more than a one-off willingness to try new products or spend on innovation, and construction companies must be prepared for the cultural and process overhaul that accompanies the implementation of new solutions and changing a deeply-entrenched way of doing things. This starts at the top, and in 2019, executives and managers must encourage and empower their workers to take data insights and act upon them in smart and timely ways.
Business transformation requires the right mindset, the right toolset, and the right skill set, and executives must be proactive and unwavering in their provision of all three. By building the internal infrastructure—investing in technology and workforce development and establishing a culture that supports changing the status quo—construction firms can begin to harness the groundswell of data and reap the benefits. Firms that make these investments will be well positioned to benefit from data-driven decision-making, and the key competitive advantage that it brings. While 2018 may have been the start of the cultural shift required for the construction industry to leverage technology, 2019 will be the year that the industry moves from testing and trying technologies to integrating those solutions and insights across the project lifecycle, enabling true business change—and digital transformation—to occur.
About the author:
Pete Schermerhorn is president and chief executive officer of Triax Technologies, a leading provider of technology for the connected jobsite. Pete has presented at numerous construction tech and risk management-focused events and has contributed to or appeared in leading industry publications. He can be reached on LinkedIn. For more information about Triax Technologies, visit www.triaxtec.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, January 2019
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