Digital transformation in the construction industry

30 Dec 2019

Whilst it is one of the most lucrative and sizeable industries in the world, with construction output in the UK alone totalling more than £110 billion and the industry contributing 7% of GDP, it could be argued that the construction industry has got something of a productivity problem. 

Growth appears to have plateaued in recent years, particularly in the UK thanks to lingering Brexit uncertainty. Globally, however, it’s perhaps more likely due to a dramatic annual shortfall as major building projects continue to come in wildly over budget.

In such a climate, the adoption of digital technology is one of the most obvious and cost-effective ways that the industry could save itself. There has been a definite move towards this transformation, with £18 million in Government funding from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund devoted to forward-thinking tech projects, but there is more the industry could be doing to meet changing demands head-on.

Here, we’ll put the spotlight on just a few of these trends.

Communication

In construction, better communications can be achieved through digital means. But without a reliable platform, patchy connections can result in miscommunications that can, in a construction environment, prove devastating. That’s why  there is such a great case to be made for app-based construction tech that workers can use to communicate with one another, given the fact that most workers will have their own smartphones on them at all times anyway. However, in a loud and busy construction environment, it might not be realistic (or safe) to expect workers to be constantly checking their phones. That’s where digital displays come in.

The actual display methods used to pass vital information between workers and supervisors are just as important as the information itself. Lost time accident signs are perhaps the most affordable way to promote workplace safety, with digital LTA displays particularly handy for not only reminding people to be safe on the job but to communicate relevant information immediately.

Offsite manufacturing

This refers to the practice of assembling most of the construction in an offsite location and then shipping it to the building site. Not only does this significantly reduce actual labour (so there’s less risk), but it’s also a way of building properties more quickly and conveniently and is perfect for less complicated projects. 

There have been many recent success stories when it comes to offsite manufacturing. London’s Heathrow, for example, saved literally millions of working hours and cut the required workforce by a whole third by using offsite practices. It’s a way of breaking down the construction process and making it cleaner, safer, easier, and more modern. From a digital perspective, it also means the ability to control the supply chain via a digital platform that keeps track of every stage of the process.

Sustainability 

There has been a major growth in green building in the UK in the last few years, sparked by the Committee on Climate Change’s mission to eliminate the country’s emission of greenhouse gases by 2050. The construction sector contributes around half of all carbon emissions, so this is a tall order indeed, but going digital is certainly a good start. It means less waste (paper files going the way of the dodo) and the ability to adapt to the latest developments in environmental sustainability quickly and effectively. 

It’s also been predicted that going digital could save the average construction company upwards of £35,000 per job. So, it’s not just the environment that will be benefiting, but the company’s bottom line too.

Of course, there will always be challenges to face in any major change. However, if the UK construction industry continues to make communication clearer, improve manufacturing techniques, and make the whole enterprise more sustainable, then it could be in for a second wind!


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