Digital technologies are gradually taking over the construction industry.
But there's still a long way to go before we can claim with confidence that construction is a fact-driven sector. The reason is simple and inextricably linked to data collection and analysis.
When it comes to data storage, construction is one of the least digitized sectors. There is no doubt that stakeholders in construction need to take better care of their data. For that to happen, though, the entire industry should change its habits and embrace a new way of working.
Otherwise, construction will continue down a very dangerous path with low productivity, high rework rates and costly project delays.
Digital adoption in the construction industry
Of course, this substantial paradigm shift goes through digital adoption. Getting people both on-site and in the office to use a new construction software might not be as easy as it may sound. However, it is believed to be the only way forward.
The transition from a hammer to a tablet isn’t a linear process and it can’t be “CEO-dictated”. It’s not an one-time project either. Every organization needs to find its own culture drivers in order to establish a proactive data culture and serve its vision.
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A good way to start this digital journey is by creating a strong link between the field teams and the people who work in the boardroom. This can be achieved by bringing together the data analysts and the people who are at the helm of ground operations.
At first sight, this might look like a strange mix, but the truth is that this is how an organization can gain good insight into the actual problems on-site and translate them to data. That’s the first step toward a successful digital culture.
Through this process, it will also become easier for the data people of the company to show the value that a new digital solution can bring to the day-to-day working routine on the field. Only then people on the ground will be able to understand why a digital shift is required and how it can make their life on site easier.
Digitalization opportunity in construction
Productivity in construction has stagnated for more than two decades resulting in construction projects that are delivered with a 20-month delay and 80% budget overruns.
There are multiple factors behind these shocking numbers and they mainly revolve around poor onsite follow up, lack of accuracy in construction scheduling, and ineffective working processes.
Digital adoption could be the catalyst for a groundbreaking change given that it will enable people on the field to report progress and share crucial project information in real time just by using their tablet or mobile device. But such a dramatic shift takes time and requires several reiteration circles.
“We need to find a way to get adoption from the people on site. And so what we need to explain to our customers is, this is really worth it. And it’s a couple of changes in a couple of things, but 45%, that’s important. This is a 45% reduction on overall project costs.”
This is the key for a more digital construction. As previously mentioned, helping people in the industry to understand how their life could become easier through digital technologies is the force that will push the digital wave forward.
Only then can we pave the way for a more standardized industry where every project and decision is relied on data and a well-defined framework of action.
Standardization plus digital adoption equals success
Digitization goes hand in hand with standardization and seems to be one of the safest ways towards a construction industry with positive margins, fewer mistakes and better collaboration. It goes without saying that streamlining and eventually standardizing the different systems and processes in construction is no child’s play.
Data is the catalyst for this long and demanding journey as they can detect common mistakes and problematic patterns that need to be avoided in future projects. In the same sense, it can add more predictability to the building process by detecting optimal practices and examples.
Like that, the creation of a common digital language across an entire organization and ideally across an entire industry is possible. In some cases, standardization should even come before digitization as it can help the project team identify its needs and put together an effective and data-driven plan.
Thomas Goubau also explains:
"There is one thing that construction companies absolutely need to do. They have to start standardising even before using technology. Otherwise, they just throw whatever technology they have out the window!"
As we operate in a global environment, it is also clear that agreeing on a universal code of communication can make a big difference in aligning user adoption and digital maturity and overcoming any cultural, state or geographical differences that may exist.
BIM is entering the scene
Building information modeling is seen as a unique vehicle of data for the construction industry but its success is vastly depended on digital adoption. You may have the fanciest 3D BIM model but it doesn’t really matter if the information added to it is imprecise or insufficient.
That being said, it is easily understandable that data and user adoption matters more than the 3D representation of a project. Simply put, it is the basis on which the 3D BIM models will be constructed.
Taking that into consideration, the leading players in construction technology need to invest time and resources in creating easy-to-use BIM software solutions which could make on-site follow up easier and will help people on the site to report progress from their mobile or tablet device with the click of a button. Some of these BIM tools are even free to use.
In that way, the gap between the construction site and the office can be bridged and BIM managers will have all the data they need in order to connect activities on site to the project’s model.
Of course such a substantial change doesn’t happen overnight. The generation of a standardized protocol for on-site follow up is an iterative process. New elements are expected to be added from project to project. But for that to happen, digital adoption on the site is of paramount importance.
Change is on the way
The construction industry is on a transformational journey as the supply chain becomes more and more familiar with the use of digital solutions both on the field and the boardroom.
The power of habit and the initial implementation cost seem to be two of the main obstacles that the sector needs to overcome in order to embrace a fact-driven future. This is an area where standardization can have a very positive impact as it will gradually lock confusion and mistakes out of the construction process.
Without a doubt, building information modeling is one of the biggest hopes for bringing transparency and accountability back to construction. To achieve that, organizations need all the data they can collect and use.
After all, the way for a more efficient construction industry with higher productivity rates, less rework and better project monitoring goes through digital adoption.
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