Though it has lagged far behind other industries – such as the automotive and aerospace sectors – the construction industry is rapidly waking up to the potential of digitalization. While traditional mindsets still dominate, the giant leaps in productivity being achieved through the integration of new technologies are becoming harder to deny.
For example, the construction of a 57-story building (known as Mini Sky City) in Changsha, Hunan Province in southern China, gained widespread attention when a video detailing the construction was posted on the Guardian website. Incredibly, the project was completed in only 19 days, thanks in no small part to the implementation of a growing range of digitalized construction machines.
The Changing Face of Onsite Machinery
A wide range of digital solutions and technologies are either already being integrated, or are showing promise even in their developmental stages:
- GPS systems integrated into construction machinery such as excavators, are allowing for precision automatized digging by combining stroke-sensing hydraulics with 3D topographical satellite positioning and imagery.
- Onboard tracking systems on equipment are helping to combat the growing problem of onsite equipment theft, an issue that costs construction companies an estimated $400 million a year in the United States alone.
- Integrated Lidar sensor technology is helping to dramatically cut down on the number of onsite collisions, as well as the number of accidents involving personnel and mobile equipment.
- Advances in the integration and use of radio frequency identification (RFID) are allowing for real-time performance assessments of entire projects. The provision of data for detailed analytic analysis results in impressive increases in efficiency and speed.
Digitalization is transforming the construction industry, and the potential for increased efficiency is staggering. It’s estimated that the average construction worker spends as little as 30 percent of his or her time on a primary trade. The other 70 percent is lost on smaller administrative and organizational tasks – like arranging the site, cleanup, or tracking and transporting materials and equipment.
Technologies such as advanced supply software help to correct this ratio, meaning workers spend less time running errands and dealing with clerical errors, and more time applying their primary expertise. This means both an increase in efficiency and a greater level of worker satisfaction, which makes digitalization a priority for construction companies of any size.
The Challenges of Digitalization
The nature of the construction industry presents significant challenges to the digitalization process, which has resulted in a reluctant acceptance of the new technology. As a fragmented industry where actors remain independent – but reliant on other parties – the development of any new system poses a danger. A company may risk alienating potential partners, who are not familiar with, or simply refuse to work with the new system. There’s also the need to train employees on the new tech. However, as the industry evolves, digitalization is becoming less of a choice and more of a necessity.
For example, a 2014 EU directive made the implementation of BIM or Building Information Modeling one of the main criteria for securing public contracts. Therefore, even if construction companies aren’t convinced by the increased efficiency gained with digital technology such as BIM, the prospect of losing out on government contracts worth millions will likely push them to upgrade at every level of the industry.
However, legislation like the 2014 directive is implemented with reason. For instance, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai – currently ranked as the world’s tallest building – stands as a testament to the capabilities of digitalized construction techniques. The mammoth project required the integration of everything from advanced geotechnical and seismic reading technology, to remotely operating concrete pumps and advanced materials administration software that kept a staggering 330,000 m³ of concrete and 39,000 tons of rebar steel organized. Imagine what these digitalized construction methods can achieve in your business!
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Ducker Worldwide, a premier consulting and research firm, is driven to help its clients achieve their most ambitious growth goals. Custom market intelligence, strategic consulting and transaction advisory services are delivered by fully engaged Ducker principals and a diverse team of global talent. With decades of experience across a wide range of global industries, Ducker leverages strategic data and analytics to accelerate and drive certainty to strategic growth decisions. Ducker Worldwide has extensive experience in industrial B2B markets throughout the automotive & transportation, construction, chemical, energy, healthcare, industrial, and material industries. Ducker is headquartered in Troy, Mich., with offices around the world, including Paris, Berlin, Shanghai, Bangalore, and London. Founded by William H. Ducker in 1961, Ducker celebrates more than 57 years in business.