Top Technology Trends Impacting the Future of AEC Firms

Posted by Liam McDermott on October 30, 2018

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According to a recent survey by ReportLinker, 46% of smartphone users check their phones before they even get out of bed in the morning! In today’s world, we are constantly surrounded by technology. From the first moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep, you are inundated with some form of technology and connectivity. 

With so much of our personal and professional lives tied to technology, it’s time for AEC  firms to embrace technology today and prepare for the technology trends of the future. With millennials making up a large percentage of today’s workforce, and competition becoming fiercer, it’s time to put any technology reservations aside and proactively adopt new technologies and a modern approach to business operations. 

Successful project delivery is critical to a firm’s success, and with so many firms competing for the same projects, those that embrace technology that helps them become more agile and efficient will position themselves miles ahead of the competition. According to the Construction Intelligence Center, the global construction industry is projected to grow from $7.4 trillion in 2010 to $10.3 trillion in 2020! Yet even with all this growth, in 2004 the National Institutes of Standards and Technology found that around $15.8 billion a year was lost in the US construction industry due to poor paper-based processes and software interchangeability. Even 15 years later, many firms haven’t overcome this problem and are standing in the way of their own success.

So what’s the solution? A few months ago, we took a look at how others are Keeping Up With Technology Trends in the AEC Industry, but at the recent AEC IT Leader’s Conference and PSMJ Thrive Conference we felt it was worth revisiting the technology trends that firms are slowly starting to adopt that will be crucial to building a successful future. Let’s take a look.

The Technology Trends Shifting the Way We Operate Today

These should be familiar to most firms at this point, but the real question is to what extent firms are actually adopting and embracing these impactful technologies.

  • Building Information Modeling, or BIM, is about bringing life to 2D drawings in a way that wasn’t possible in the past. BIM allows your drawings to tell a story and provide a multi-dimensional experience for your clients that will surely wow them.

  • Drones are changing the way we manage construction sites! According to the 2018 Commercial Drone Industry Trends Report, the fastest growing commercial adopter of drone technology is the construction industry. With drones, firms are able to access hazardous construction areas, perform health and safety inspections, and provide project progress reports more efficiently than in the past.
  • 3D Modeling and Printing is the next evolution of design, helping owners visualize projects, gain better insight and collaboration e faster than ever.
  • Virtual Reality is often thought of as a gamer accessory, but it has become so much more than that! With VR, firms can now offer remote viewing of a construction site, virtual walk-throughs and progress reports, and even use it as an opportunity for new employee training.
  • Mobile Technology has been around for decades, but is still continuing to transform the way firms do business. Project teams can now stay connected on-site, not missing a beat when it comes to collaborating with their team. Drawings can be viewed and edited on tablets, punch lists completed, and site inspections recorded after only a few fast clicks or swipes.
  • Remote Team and Project Management is now becoming a necessity with teams working on project sites, from home, or from various remote locations. Plus, teams are constantly changing both internally and externally,  so it’s essential to have the technology in place to support collaboration and efficiency among teams – wherever they may be working.
 

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How Are You Preparing for Tomorrow’s Technology Changes?

As you start looking towards the future, there are a few additional technology trends to start thinking about.  Staying ahead of your competition requires a solid understanding of new technologies and the potential impact to your firm’s success.

  • Adaptive Learning refers to tools that collect specific information about individual students’ behavior by tracking how they answer questions. The tool then responds to each student by modifying the learning experience to better suit that person’s needs. How can this be used to help your business? When hiring new employees or transitioning staff to new positions, tailoring the learning experience to the individual enables them to learn faster and more effectively. For tips on how to address this and other pressing human capital management strategies, read my colleague’s blog, Tackle Human Capital Management Challenges with Deltek Clarity.
  • Connected BIM is a combination of BIM, cCloud and IoT (Internet of Things). It allows mobile technology to manage drawings and track the entire project lifecycle in the cloud. This powerful technology allows you to better manage risk and execute more quality projects by capturing data, analyzing it and optimizing the progress of future projects.
  • Internet of Things improves nearly every aspect of construction by enabling you to track tools and items, analyze how workers spend their time, track machine use to identify inefficiencies, and more. This not only reduces paperwork and potential legal claims, but helps inform maintenance decisions, future designs and process improvements.
  • Project Information Management, or document management, means that piles of drawings are a thing of the past! With the amount of project information growing exponentially, sharing in a digital format has become more critical than ever when collaborating with team members. Plus, to be effective, project teams require the tools and resources to access project information from wherever the project takes them.  Read our blog for more information about what can happen with poor information management.   
  • Wearable Technology like smart glasses and hard hats, smart watches and trackers, and technology-enhanced safety vests are already starting to find their way onto construction sites around the world. Leveraging wearable technology with augmented reality capabilities at a job site helps teams visualize a space as complete and identify layout discrepancies before they cause an issue.
  • Cloudier than Ever – This has been an ongoing discussion, but the scalability, flexibility, accessibility and collaboration that come from being in the Cloud make it a necessity for today’s AEC firms. Security and privacy are no longer a concern as most SaaS solutions now surpass on-premise solutions in this regard.  Learn why SaaS solutions are the key to rapid deployment, low cost and high ROI.

As many firms prepare for an evolution of the project lifecycle into the world of technology, embracing technology trends will be a key differentiator that can open up monumental opportunities and efficiencies. Firms must take the time to learn about these trends, understand how they can uniquely impact the AEC industry, and identify how to best take advantage of them as they prepare for the future of design and construction.

For more information about project management trends for A&E firms, read The 4-1-1 On Today’s Project Management Trends for A&E Firms