As the second quarter comes to a close, the construction industry has much to be optimistic about. Construction is in the midst of a boom that shows no signs of slowing down. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), construction accounts for roughly 11 percent of global GDP today and is expected to grow to 13.2 percent by 2020, with an estimated $14.5 trillion spent in the United States alone. In addition, as the latest USG + U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index (CCI) shows, construction backlog remains high, and contractors are confident in the market’s ability to provide new business opportunities and grow revenue.
With growing demand, however, comes added pressure and the need to address underlying industry challenges. Modern contractors must contend with increasingly complex projects, rising costs, resource scarcity, and persistently thin margins. The skilled labor shortage continues to dominate headlines with 47 percent of contractors expecting the lack of available labor to worsen over the next 6 months.
Due to these pressures and technological advances, the construction industry continues to embrace innovation more than ever. As the Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming ubiquitous in all areas of our lives, construction is no exception. The adoption of IoT-enabled solutions at the jobsite—most notably wearables, sensors, and drones—enables the collection of valuable physical and visual data more efficiently and affordably than was previously possible. And this data, when combined with intelligent software and analytics, is unlocking new insights that is being used by construction firms to identify issues earlier, manage costs, and remove uncertainties around project performance and outcomes.
The proliferation of technology at the jobsite continues to shape industry conversations and initiatives. So how can construction apply lessons learned during the first half of 2018 to drive a smarter, safer, and more profitable industry in the second half of the year? And, in particular, what developments or best practices can be applied to accelerate construction’s digital transformation? Let’s focus on three here.
PEOPLE + PROCESSES + TECH
Contractors could be getting more out of construction technology, and it starts with prioritizing the processes and people that are responsible for using the technology—from management through to the trades at the jobsite.
This starts with bringing various stakeholders to the table to define the problems that need to be solved and fitting them within a company’s longer-term plan and vision. How can a solution not only tackle the problem that has been identified, such as improving safety incident notification on site, but also help support other large priorities, such as lean construction, risk management, and quality initiatives? Heading into the second half of 2018, there will be greater emphasis on having fewer, but more integrated solutions that can continually address the needs of a business as it grows. Accomplishing this means bringing different departments and roles together to determine how the system needs to communicate internally and externally—how it integrates with larger systems and the value it delivers across an organization.
In addition, as more solutions enter—and exit—the market, power will continue to shift to end- users who are responsible for using and administering solutions on a daily basis. If it doesn’t work, it won’t be used, and how a solution performs at the site-level will determine its staying power. Contractors will increasingly depend on “boots on the ground” to evaluate a solution, as they set and track tangible milestones, scope out implementation practices, and work alongside technology providers to improve solutions.
TODAY’S CONNECTED JOBSITE
The concept of a “connected jobsite,” or being able to track equipment, tools, materials, and more, has been around for some time. Ironically, the historical connected jobsite has relied on disconnected, non-collaborative systems that track one specific asset or function (i.e., estimating or accounting). Contractors may have been connected to one aspect of a project—equipment, for example—but there was no way to determine which resources—workers, equipment, and tools—were active, where they were located, and how they were interacting across jobsites. At the beginning of this year, the power—and potential—of the connected jobsite reemerged, this time enabled by the growing Internet of Things. This new connected jobsite enables a smarter jobsite by aggregating data from a variety of devices or platforms to provide increased transparency into site operations, resource utilization, and safety. As 2018 progresses, the need for hardware and software integrations will increase, and contractors and solutions providers alike will continue to push for leading-edge integrations and partnerships that move beyond proof-of-concept to add real value.
Further, as growth-stage companies increasingly disrupt the built world, it will not be uncommon to see established industry leaders teaming up with emerging players to deliver a truly connected jobsite. Established and emerging solutions providers alike will continue to focus on building out their APIs (application programming interface) and developer portals/partner programs to support different integrations.
Digital is already making a difference at the jobsite, and contractors and industry partners need to speak openly about their experiences and champion early successes to drive further tech adoption and investment. As more use cases and applications materialize through the second half of this year, there will be an uptick in contractors sharing their approaches towards construction technology. Shedding construction’s reputation as the second least digitized industry once and for all will require collaboration and communication across the industry, and regardless of company size or role, individuals will—and must—make a point to hunt innovation, share strategies for success, and reward continuous improvement. With growing demand and limited resources, the very future of the industry depends on it.
This article originally appeared in Modern Contractor Solutions.
This post was written by Chad Hollingsworth.