A new dawn for an old industry
Big data, 3D printing, unmanned aerial vehicles, embedded sensors and building information modelling all make a move towards the inevitable digitisation of the construction industry. Modern technology replaces age-old practices, revealing the early stages of a construction industry transforming itself.
>See also: Digital transformation for the UK economy
And changes couldn’t come soon enough. Inappropriate handling of the time and cost associated with a project is viewed as part and parcel of the industry as it stands. Large projects typically take 20% longer to complete than scheduled and are up to 80% above budget, as reported by McKinsey & Company. What the industry needs is an answer that both impacts efficiencies and ensures accountability.
Getting everyone on board
Building information modelling (BIM) connects and structures a 3D representation of an asset’s design and data set, and is capable of becoming 5D by linking costs and scheduling. Together, BIM and project management software facilitate real-time collaboration over cloud-based networks. The benefits include mobile anytime access, fewer mistakes, better quality, and greater transparency.
>See also: The digital transformation of things
The UK Government appears to be for the construction industry’s digital transformation. BIM Level 2 compliance recently became obligatory for companies to bid on centrally procured public projects. With so much invested in the outcomes of large projects, the government cast its vote for accountability and cost controls.
Digitisation points to significant savings not only in an asset’s design and build costs, but also throughout the asset’s life cycle. It’s natural for large projects to keep evolving, which makes it essential to adhere to a digital best practice of enabling engineers to capture operations and maintenance (O&M) documentation during an asset’s construction. O&M team members can later approach an asset with a tablet, select the tag associated with it, and gain access to its information, even if it’s changed.
The need for change becomes all the more apparent with upcoming shortages in labour and a growing demand for environmentally-friendly structures. As of 2015, 22% of construction workers were above the age of 50. For an industry that depends on the free movement of people, the future of construction labour looks uncertain to say the least.
Some of the demand to place more people in the field is somewhat eased thanks to off-site manufacturing and unmanned machinery. More efficient planning, visualisation, and collaboration brightens the future even further.
It is a promising thought to imagine that construction’s digital transformation could excite a younger, computer-literate and home-grown workforce. Experts predict an industry that by its very nature is built on connected systems of sensors, intelligent machines, mobile devices, and new software applications – all managed by an active workforce.
Using digital technologies to secure a more promising future will disrupt the industry in more ways than one. But it must to be done: the expression ‘sink or swim’ comes to mind.
Sourced by Steve Cooper, general manager, UK & Ireland, Aconex
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