Ready for the Future?
Gearing Up Your Construction Tech
July 11, 2023
Construction is on a solid trajectory toward automation, consolidation, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). You might say this period of digital transformation is proving to be a rather long one, especially compared to other industries’ progress. That’s because when it comes to adopting construction technology, much of the industry is still catching up to the present, let alone gearing up for the future.
Having said that though, for as much as construction tech has been advancing, construction companies will have to prepare for an even more technology-reliant future. This applies whether they’ve been adapting slowly due to dipping-a-toe-in-the-water hesitancy, just doing it more methodically or embracing the undeniable evolution, proactively implementing construction technology to help them take advantage of all it can do.
This is a good thing. The more efficient contractors and their teams are with those technologies, the better-equipped they are to plan and manage the increasing complexities of today’s capital projects, the more on-target their project outcomes can be and the more value they can deliver to owners at turnover.
Regardless of where you are on the tech adoption continuum, how do you ensure you’re geared up for where the industry is heading?
Embrace the ongoing transition — mentally and technologically
First things first: Gear up mentally.
As you and your team prepare to take your company through digital transformation, anticipate and acknowledge the changes and challenges it will bring. There will be some initial hesitancy and skepticism, high learning curves and necessary disruption to current processes as new efficient ones replace them.
You could call this a part of the buy-in process. Buy-in is about more than being open to implementing the technology itself. It’s about understanding how specific technologies will improve data access, automate time-consuming manual tasks, integrate workflows, reduce frustration levels or promote safety, for example.
To expand this idea more broadly, it’s accepting that construction tech will continue to evolve over time as new functionalities and improvements to existing ones are developed. That may mean continually assessing your company’s need for and ability to incorporate newer technologies.
View construction tech as an extension of human capabilities, not a replacement
As an extension of the mental gearing-up process, it’s imperative that everyone’s mindset shifts toward understanding that despite the no-turning-back shift toward digitalization, there’s no “tech takeover” at play. Humans, software and machines work in tandem, not as arch-nemeses.
Think of how your smartphone has become a daily tool (some may argue it’s become another limb, but that’s a separate issue). It hasn’t replaced you. You have more control over different parts of your life than ever before — how you shop, what route you take driving from point A to point B, or how to choose a vacation spot, for example — allowing you to make decisions and accomplish everything more efficiently.
In the same way, construction technology facilitates decision-making and improves efficiency so everyone can do more in less time. For example, there are plenty of options that streamline specific functions — estimating, scheduling, timesheets, risk management, and commissioning, to name a few. Each is designed to streamline its specific workflow by digitizing manual or paper-based processes, reduce the need for copious data entry, better monitor and manage the details associated with each function, simplify reporting and help ensure client requirements are being met.
And what about out in the field — are you working with substantial infrastructure projects with a large footprint? Look to advanced field technologies to amp-up your site crew’s productivity and protect them against injury and hazards. There are robotic machines meant to perform physically grueling, repetitive tasks such as laying bricks more efficiently or painting wide swaths of surfaces. Workers operate the machines and do the finer detail work requiring human dexterity. Drones can do aerial surveying of broad, sometimes treacherous, areas in a fraction of the time, but they also need humans to control them and analyze the data they gather.
Plan with an eye toward construction tech consolidation and integration
Are you noticing your capital projects incorporating more sophisticated systems? Generating and requiring more data? Are there more discerning, watchful eyes on how you meet project outcomes?
Everything requires more — more coordination, tracking, analysis, proactive forecasting and planning. And to stay ahead, or at least keep up, many companies have grown their construction technology stack over the years.
However, you may have already found that legacy systems and even many point solutions (especially from several vendors) can’t handle or share the volume or types of data necessary to manage these projects from start to finish and still have a fighting chance of achieving project outcomes.
Those hodgepodge tech stacks? They’ve created challenges that negate any gained short-term efficiencies, including no single source of truth, no standardized data structure, duplicated data entry into multiple systems, and lack of real-time data and insights into performance and risks (perhaps not so ironically, a multi-vendor tech stack can be a risk).
If this resembles your setup, consider consolidation. This is about transitioning from multiple vendors to, ideally, one. The goal is to wind up with solutions that can play well together, where data integrity isn’t lost or compromised, and where past and current data can be pulled and combined for more accurate insight into project performance.
However, to truly future-proof your construction business, go for a cloud-based, single-vendor integrated platform. When all functions are connected, there’s one accessible database for all project information; one hub for communication and collaboration; a more streamlined workflow; more visibility into scope, costs and schedules; and one place to input, access and track data for real-time performance monitoring.
Get comfortable with field data
What does getting comfortable with data have to do with gearing up your construction tech? Think of it as another tool in your toolbox arsenal. There’s an immense amount of data that capital projects produce; your technology stores, processes and delivers it all. And much of that data you need to successfully manage your project is sourced in real time from out in the field.
We’ve mentioned some of the functions that internet-connected mobile devices can perform with the right software or integrated platform, with the resulting incoming data helping you optimize resource allocation, cost and schedule efficiency, risk mitigation and contingency planning, and progress against required outcomes.
But handheld mobile devices are just one of the ways to get valuable data. Field-based construction technology is a vital area to look into if you want to prioritize environmental and physical safety. With wearables, site sensors and drones, a project can amass critical data that helps prevent injuries, identify and monitor dangerous working conditions or hazards, and can be used to inform safety-first contingency planning.
Embrace all this data; it’s project gold. The industry is becoming solidly data driven. The more you have, the more objective and informed decisions are, and the better your chances of hitting those project outcomes.
Examine key requirements
Where are your current construction tech needs? Where is your company headed? What are clients expecting?
Even if your company explored these questions as part of a vetting process at one time, circumstances can and do change. You may be beginning to take on different projects. Project owners may have specific tech requirements they want you to meet or certain data to keep them in the loop. Or, you now need particular functionalities that weren’t advanced enough or nonexistent when you began incorporating construction technology.
Whatever the scenario, how can you accommodate these kinds of changes? Look for technology that can grow with you. It should also be able to adjust to the increasing sophistication and complexity of capital projects that require updated technology capable of helping you effectively plan, manage and build them while meeting more exacting project outcomes.
Construction is headed toward a new normal. And there’s still so much potential to tap into. Talking with a company that understands how to help yours succeed with your project and business goals can make the construction tech adoption/upgrade process less daunting and more feasible. Let’s get on each other’s calendars to chat about making this happen for you.
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