Your drive to digital transformation can help you overcome construction business challenges.
The construction industry is rapidly adopting technology, needing to meet compressed schedules, lower costs, and increase profits. The evolution of tech is accelerating, from drafting tables to CAD to Revit software and new cloud-based platforms, 3D printing, drones, reality capture, and wearable tech, and that’s scraping the service. Every day, more industry leaders look to digital technology to improve productivity and reduce costs.
Construction digital transformation goes beyond augmenting specific functions with software, mobile devices, or robots. Embracing digital construction technology results in a fundamental shift in how businesses operate and helps them stay competitive when their competition is transforming from pen and paper. Time is money on the jobsite. As the construction industry grapples with supply chain delays, labor shortages, inflation, or a potential recession, leveraging integrated tech to streamline expenses and drive efficiencies is now more important than ever. Waiting another year to formulate an adoption strategy puts you behind your competitors that have embraced the digital transformation.
Despite the clear benefits and extraordinary success stories, there are still challenges when transforming the construction sector. Many decision-makers and employees are still apprehensive about shiny new digital tools that can create a perceived data silo. The key to driving increased adoption is methodically selecting the right tools that provide both immediate value to those who are apprehensive and long term value when your company inevitably grows.
Common Contractor Business Challenges
- Risk aversion and fragmentation, and difficulties in attracting digital talent slow down innovation.
- Hesitancy committing to digital transformation due to limited resources available for training and onboarding.
- Technology rollout is perceived to be too disruptive and impacts productivity and profitability.
- Potential cultural change effects
- Breaking traditional workflows and changing attitudes
The common thread of these challenges is fear of change and disruption, but what are the costs to the construction firm if you don’t change or delay? For example, suppose a trade contractor has been using the same tools and process for his entire career, and someone offers a different, newer tool. In that case, that contractor is probably averse to change, regardless of if the device is better. It can be challenging to explain the value a new tool will have that will break employees’ typical processes. Many digital solutions need widespread or complete adoption before they can deliver their total value. Resistance to change is a serious obstacle that can be addressed by ensuring proper training before realizing efficiencies gained.
To combat these challenges, construction firms must present a clear plan and value proposition for introducing new technology to address business and employee needs. Ensuring the technology is user-friendly, and well-run training is essential. Finally, once these contractor challenges have been addressed, digital tool adoption and enhancing processes become academic. Many successful firms start small on a specific project or pilot program before rolling the tech out to the rest of the company, allowing the new tech to have a Proof of Concept.
Overcoming Challenges with Efficiency
Digital technology can streamline collaboration, which is perfect for one of the most collaborative industries worldwide. For example, the construction industry requires multiple stakeholders on every project. For contractors to remain competitive, they need to improve collaboration workflows. A McKinsey report showed that owners are demanding simplified and digital interactions with construction teams, fundamentally changing the ecosystem’s characteristics.
There are many ways digital technology can help, but let’s use building codes and standards as an example. Digitizing codes and standards allow contractors to facilitate BIM models with multiple contractors accurately and efficiently. Many firms are driving federated models with each contractor providing their BIM model. If you’re not using BIM, the designs may seem perfect on paper but as construction on the jobsite starts, issues start to appear in the piping, wiring, etc., then change orders and modifications began to the nightmare ripple effects for all the trades. The last thing a Project Manager wants is major delays and costs skyrocketing. An example of where trades clash would be if an electrician already installed hanging lights before a fire protection contractor arrived onsite to install the sprinkler head which is too close to the light fixture to comply with code regulations. This leads to the dreaded downfall in construction: rework.
By embracing digital transformation these instances, trade contractors can bring up sections of code on mobile devices to review in person or send instant messages when the as-built conditions are different from than the planned condition. From there, they can confirm they’re looking at the same code section and determine a plan to ensure safety and compliance in the building. This coordination can also occur with during inspections or when multiple parties need to sit down and flesh out their interpretations of specific codes and standards. Again, digitizing this process helps reduce miscommunication and resolve disagreements faster, leading to quicker completion of projects while ensuring all building and safety aspects are accurate and compliant.
Addressing the Gap in Technology Training
You can teach old dogs new tricks. When introducing digital tools, onboarding can be challenging, but it’s crucial to get it right. Digital technology can provide massive value in upskilling and training construction workers in the long run. This is especially important given the aging construction workforce. More than one in five construction workers is over 55, and the average retirement age in the industry is 61.
With the Baby Boomers continuing to retire, it’s crucial to enable industry veterans to pass knowledge down to younger employees, especially given the fact that 40% of construction workforce growth over the past decade is comprised of low-skilled construction workers. Without technology, greenhorns might gather wisdom from veterans through in-person interactions or company training sessions. However, with digital tools, seasoned employees can easily create a sharable knowledge base to share industry expertise with new employees. In addition, creating a future-proofed digital repository ensures that expertise remains in the organization when its employees do.
Sharing institutional knowledge within the organization is important. Technology can provide contractors the ability to off interactive, accessible online training for employees. For example, when learning about codes and standards today, trainees can leverage videos, interactive modules, industry-specific content, situational content, and more anywhere at any time. This can make training more engaging. Plus, off-the-page learning is excellent for younger, more tech-savvy generations.
According to McKinsey, a changing market environment, technological progress, and disruptive new entrants will trigger an industry overhaul.
Digital transformation across the construction industry has its challenges. However, when leadership decides to innovate, eliminate data silos, and integrate technology into the organization, digital tools can provide significant near and long-term value in efficiency. The key is finding the right tools with clear returns on your investment. To drive widespread adoption, construction leaders must ensure new digital tools have clear value and are easier to implement and use for the business and the employees using them daily.