[Part 2] Technology In Construction: What Do Industry Leaders Recommend?

August 23, 2019

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It's an age-old adage: "a tradesperson is only as good as the tools in their toolbox”, and it equally applies to professionals in the built environment sector, which has traditionally been slow to adopt new tools and methods.

However early adopters obtain significant competitive advantage, and, in a sector where your reputation is only as good as your most recent commission, businesses need to keep up with technology that underpins exceptional service delivery and quality project outcomes, every time.


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What Is Digital Construction And Why Is It Important?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is expected to bring about greater change than ever before, ushering in a fully digital era. Recent innovations in digital construction have enabled construction firms to streamline business communications; deliver complex and innovative projects; integrate expertise across multiple professions; take part in collaborations spanning geographical barriers; and produce winning construction bids more often.

But if you’re not riding the crest of the digital wave, you risk being left behind.

digital construction

What Are The New Trends In Construction Technology?

World-leading Dutch construction company VolkerWessels, recently launched a digital construction centre, which is focused on cutting-edge innovation such as reality capturing, geographic information systems and the internet of things.

The practical applications of these tools may still be years away - so how can firms adopt new types of construction technology and reap the benefits today? According to Nick Nieder – a former ICT implementation manager at VolkerWessels UK, and current product director at Deltek – the most effective way to empower people with technology is using a tool we are all familiar with.

Mobile working is about empowering your site teams to deliver projects,” Nieder says. “Having the ability to put the right information in the hands of the right people so that they can make a decision while on site or on the move is very powerful."

“They can then record their findings so the information is instantly available for the rest of the team."

So what’s Nick Nieder’s key takeaway?

"This kind of real-time working is key to keeping up with your competitors in this digital age."


"Having the ability to put the right information in the hands of the right people so that they can make a decision while on site or on the move is very powerful."


What About Construction Technology And Project Management?

Emma Curry, a management systems developer at Morris & Spottiswood, a UK-based fit-out and maintenance business, says that visual dashboard software has been a game-changer for her firm. Information Management Software that replaces multiple Excel spreadsheets, provides at-a-glance information about projects, making it easier for her colleagues to see outstanding compliance requirements that may require attention.

And the take-up of digital technologies has not been limited to the company’s main office either, Curry says. “I was very surprised to see that all our site guys were using mobile devices to take photographs and send them back to the office,” she explains, adding that there is constant demand from her colleagues for new tools.

So what’s Emma Curry’s prediction?

“Companies not pursuing digital transformation will very quickly fall behind,” she says. “If you pause for a very short period, you will drop to the bottom of the industry as your competitors work to win clients.”

winning construction bids

How Can We Integrate New Technology In Construction?

According to Nick Conway, Managing Director at ITC, a fit-out and refurbishment specialist in the UK, that adoption of new technology – which provided access to unprecedented data and insights – was akin to unlocking a new superpower.

“Take pricing: the efficiencies you can gain using technology are amazing,” Conway says. He explains that, just five years ago, ITC used to post 10,000 envelopes each year to obtain three prices from its supply chain. But online tendering has changed all that.

“Now we can break a project into packages and, with one click, email a link to all the relevant traders on our database,” Conway says. “We can use the module to see if the documents have been opened, and we can see how many times we’ve sent a request to a certain subcontractor and so on – we get so much data.”

So what’s ITC’s new superpower?

Technology enables us to work more collaboratively,” Nick Conway explains. “We can tell a subcontractor that we’ve sent X enquiries, we’ve won Y, and you’ve had Z orders. We can use data to convince them to work for us over competitors, and to manage their workload.”


"adoption of new technology – which provided access to unprecedented data and insights – was akin to unlocking a new superpower."


What Other Examples Of Construction Technology Do I Need To Be Aware Of?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is commonly perceived as a threat – rather than an opportunity – in knowledge-based industries, such as Architecture and Engineering, where human resource represents a firm’s most valuable asset. Dispelling the fear that AI will replace human labour, firms are slowly implementing AI technologies. Routine scans of the worksite – carried out by drones – have the capacity to improve worker safety, monitor productivity, and ensure accuracy across projects, from inception to delivery.

Augmented Reality is also making headway in the built environment sector, especially in high-risk environments. With almost a quarter of workplace fatalities occurring in the construction industry, AR provides training opportunities in simulated work environments, and can reduce risk and potential injuries and fatalities on the job.

These technologies are already improving safety outcomes in other fields – such as the air force, the military and medicine.

In AEC, expect to see integrated safety checklists, wearable technologies, and on-site sensors to monitor the environment becoming commonplace on construction sites soon.

latest technologies in the construction industry

Why Do I Need To Keep Pace With The Latest Technologies In The Construction Industry?

As the digital revolution takes hold, clients are going to demand – and prioritise – those contractors that have implemented advanced digital construction tools on their worksites; and consulting firms that have them embedded in business processes. In short, the companies that embrace future trends in technology will be best placed to tender winning construction bids.

Malcolm Clarke, managing director at Baxall Construction in the UK, warns that if the industry doesn’t step up and make the necessary shifts, it leaves itself open to external disruption.

“We are in danger of seeing businesses such as Google or Amazon coming into construction and cleaning up, because we are so inefficient,” Clarke says. “Contractors will soon be competing with these radical tech companies. The business model must change if it wants to survive.”

So whether you are seeking real-time working efficiencies to keep up with competitors; or digital technologies that can establish and foster new collaborative relationships; or you need to improve your firm’s chances of producing winning construction bids; or you intend to stave off disruptive advances from external tech companies; your firm needs to embrace technology, or risk being left behind.

Digital Construction Series:

🚧  [Part 1] How To Use Digital Construction Tools To Avoid Extinction

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