Across many sectors, companies large and small are ditching manual systems and investing in technology to streamline processes and create competitive advantage. The construction industry should be no exception. In a sector where manual systems still rule, construction CEOs have the opportunity to gain an edge by embracing the advantages of tech innovation.
Although the local and international economy isn’t as buoyant as construction sector business leaders would like it to be, the reality is that the need for investment in new and innovative digital technologies in the building industry continues to rise.
This is according to GIBB Power and Energy Sector business unit head, Paul Fitzsimons. He says the global construction sector could make an estimated USD10.5 trillion in turnover by 2023, forecasted to grow at 4.2% from 2018 to 2023.
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“This pace of growth is quickly antiquating pen, paper and spreadsheets,” Fitzsimons notes.
Joanna Furlong, senior correspondent at Business.com, explains that with the right technology, business leaders can better control construction projects. “But, the construction industry has, historically, not been one to rapidly adopt new technologies. Shifts in employee demographics, combined with an increasingly competitive market means the is poised for disruption,” she notes.
Is there no way forward without technology?
Christian Burger, owner of Burger Consulting Group, specialises in IT infrastructure and integration for large construction firms. He believes that as more (younger) people enter the construction game, they will come to expect heightened technology on-site and in the office.
“Estimating, project managing, and scheduling using state-of-the-art tools will be a requirement. Remember, younger workers are growing up with technology alongside them. Working with technology assistance is all they’ve ever known. There’s pressure within companies to automate and adopt new technologies. You can't compete otherwise,” Burger says.
A local perspective on technology in construction
Matthew Kibby, vice president of enterprise solutions: Africa and Middle East, at Sage explains that smart use of mobile technology could help South African construction companies boost productivity and efficiencies.
“Contractors and project managers in the field are already using their smartphones to take pictures, text message, and send and receive emails.” he says. However, he adds that construction companies are not taking advantage of the full potential of mobile technology for two reasons:
- Many mobile tools don’t integrate with the back-office systems contractors use to run their businesses
- The industry takes a conservative view on the adoption of new technologies
He says with mobile solutions becoming easier to integrate and use, the first concern is starting to fall away. “On the second point, the construction industry is under pressure to improve productivity of people and assets in the face of rising costs. It also needs to optimise business processes following a growth slump and the fall-out of an investigation by the Competition Commission into industry collusion,” he notes.
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Technologies construction firms can’t do without
Kibby and his construction sector associates say that increasing back-office integration to cater for mobile solutions can give construction businesses more options to choose from – to best fit a project’s needs.
But what other technologies can you consider today to run a better business tomorrow?
1. Address your Cloud and mobile capabilities
It’s argued that if you rewind 10 years, you’d find it difficult to describe what a Cloud-based operating system was. But, today, virtually all digital devices are capable of leveraging Cloud technology.
The ability to use and operate Cloud-based software from anywhere, and at any time, can help you unlock limitless amounts of data that can be stored and shared instantly across your team and with you clients. Think of the transparency, trust, and rapport you will gain, at about the tenth of the cost of old sharing technologies.
According to the experts at ConstructionWorld.org, Cloud technologies are no longer ‘preferred’ in the construction industry – it’s becoming mandatory if businesses expect to remain competitive.
2. Re-invigorate your construction management software
Construction management software isn’t new, but today it has become smarter, thanks to the digitally-interconnected nature of the world. An outdated management system won’t be able to give you the insights, connectivity and flexibility needed to operate in a world where more of your team rely on digital.
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If you currently use individual programmes or apps to manage business operations, why not consider an integrated software package that can cover the construction itself, as well as job costing, service management, project management, scheduling, budgeting, and payments?
Another key software package to consider is BIM (Building Information Modelling). Industry experts say latest-generation BIM software enables you to create 3D projects in virtual reality to save on cost and highlight any safety challenges that could creep into the project. It is essentially an intelligent, model-based technology that takes a project from conception to completion. ConstructionWorld.org expects to see this trend gain momentum over the coming years.
With construction industry stakeholders expecting increased activity in the coming years, it’s an important time for businesses to consider their technological capabilities. The right technology can help you grow your business by refining processes, saving time and money and improving profitability.