The construction industry has many challenges. Society and governments are focused on getting value for money, improving efficiency, and optimizing costs. However, many practices result in uncertainty around what is needed, and changes are often made as requirements are clarified.
Most digital transformations fail (up to 84%, according to Forbes). The issues are mostly related to people – typically hinging on a failure to communicate the vision or empower individuals to transform the organization from the inside.
These numbers aren’t very encouraging. However, the good news is that the potential for positive change is enormous. Indeed, the digitalization of the construction industry could result in a 14-15% increase in productivity and a 4-6% decrease in costs year over year.
Here’s how we envision construction companies getting up to speed.
Before we look at possible solutions, we need to understand the problems. Why have the construction industry and digital transformation proven to be such uneasy neighbors so far?
The answer lies in the fragmented nature of the industry itself.
Construction projects are made up of many moving parts owned by different companies, most of which work together on one individual project and then disperse on their own.
With multiple contractors and subcontractors, competing suppliers, and a general lack of repetitive, long-term problems to solve, creating a business case for digitalizing the construction industry on a project-by-project basis can be challenging.
The general answer to this dilemma is for individual companies to modernize their collaboration efforts more effectively with other companies.
We suggest here the main approaches to help make this happen:
Focusing on problem-solving, not technology for technology’s sake
Remember when social media first exploded and companies rushed to create pages and write attention-grabbing posts – before they understood why that was a good thing or what their customers would get out of it?
As a result, expensive creative departments produced unfocused content that made no sense or strategy. They may have gained a lot of subscribers and likes, but most companies had very little real, helpful return on investment to show for their efforts.
Enhancing employee skills to adapt to new technology
Once you’ve thought through and substantiated the positive impact of digital transformation on construction, empowering your employees to leverage the latest technology makes sense.
One good example is the widespread use of computer-based design tools. Their use requires constant training to help designers stay up-to-date on the human side. On the technical side, getting the most out of these tools means investing in cloud-based databases that allow construction crews to store designs for future use and access them anywhere, from any device.
The latter is especially relevant to construction site managers and office staff, who in a post-pandemic world may be at home one day, on a construction site the next, and in the corporate office a week later.
Incorporating new digital tools into project planning
One of the reasons the digitalization of the construction industry has not been as profitable as it could be is that when construction companies invest in new digital tools, they often don’t plan to use them effectively.
When used correctly, digital tools can help construction managers reduce unnecessary resources, manage their employees’ time more efficiently, and speed up workflows. In theory, they can reduce costs, unify individual teams and save time and money.
Digital transformation at the company level
When it comes to digital transformation in the construction industry, some companies take innovative technology tools from one project and apply them to many. In doing so, they change the way the entire company operates.
For example, building materials buyers can use machine-learning-based digital tools to conduct an in-depth inventory of existing inventory. This will allow them better to understand the differences between similar products from different suppliers and make the right decision about purchasing specific designs for each project they are working on.
The implication is that having the suitable materials meet the same standards means that workers on each project will have to spend less time adapting and modifying materials to meet project specifications.
Is your construction business ready for the transformation?
This industry may be one of the slowest to adapt to modern technology, but as we said initially, the impact of digital transformation on construction can be huge. So, the big question is, can your construction business afford not to go digital?