Instead of worrying about whether machines will take our jobs, the construction industry should see technology as an enabler of bigger, bolder and better projects.
The list of technology that’s disrupting the construction industry is long: virtual and augmented reality helping to visualise projects; autonomous machines and wearables transforming how we work; drones providing site inspections and deliveries; and machines being controlled by workers in remote locations through dashboard style monitoring, to name but a few.
When you take these advances into consideration, it’s understandable that once ‘futuristic’ musings of technology and automation taking over the construction industry are now, at varying levels, becoming more of a reality in Australia.
However, despite these changes to the way construction sites are managed, success still hinges on the collection, sharing and best use of data as well as optimal connectivity across a job site.
What’s next? Market incentives for new tools and technologies
With the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) predicting Australia’s population will double to 46 million by the year 2075, there will be an increased demand for improved social, transportation and utility infrastructure alongside affordable housing. This is just one example of the many megatrends shaping the landscape of the construction industry.
As a result of these trends, the construction industry is being put under enormous pressure to transform and evolve, and this includes the technologies used on construction sites. This evolution has put digital technologies and data at the heart of the future job site.
For example, contractors can use big data and analytics to glean insights on project progress from the huge volumes of data created by connected machines on site. In addition, contractors can provide more accurate information across many job sites by using this data and leveraging mobile connectivity to connect people and machines.
Connectivity and its role
New technologies are key to improving productivity and reducing project delays, as well as for enhancing the quality of buildings and improving safety, working conditions and environmental compatibility, according to The Boston Consulting Group.
At the heart of this transition lies connectivity. To be more specific: the notion of the connected site where the application of advanced positioning and information technology plays a pivotal role in improving accuracy and productivity.
The combination of GPS, construction lasers, total stations, wireless data communications and application software leaves construction professionals with a high level of process and workflow integration from the beginning of the design phase all the way through to the finished project.
This in turn creates a single source of information across all relevant systems, which results in significant improvements in productivity, efficiency and precision throughout a project’s life cycle.
Connected sites at work
The backbone of the modern job site is connectivity, used for the management and sharing of information in real-time. Connectivity holds the key to improved data sharing, ensuring all site workers and machines have the most relevant and correct information when they need it, whether this is in the office working on a design or in the field working on a machine.
Not only does this process keep site workers in line with design changes and in sync with their colleagues, but it can also empower management teams by allowing them to manage their crews, devices and sites effectively from the office (saving valuable time driving to and from the job site).
Furthermore, effective connectivity will lead to better use of personnel and equipment assets, thus allowing site managers to have a more cohesive view of equipment usage and be able reduce their needs accordingly.
The future of construction
There’s no escaping it: the nature of the construction industry is changing fast, and Australia needs to accommodate the needs of its booming population by pioneering new construction methods. It’s critical that the construction industry is focused on the widespread adoption of connectivity technologies, which can greatly improve productivity and quality of work, in order to meet the demands being placed on the market.
We can see that connectivity not only contributes to greater productivity, but also to a more effective use of time and reduction in costs. These are all key factors in winning contracts in a competitive market and delivering a more competitive service.
Taking this into account, we know that successful construction sites and projects will come from those who not only upgrade their equipment and adapt their processes, but that also change their attitudes about the role of technology on the construction site.