What does digital transformation in construction look like?
Construction companies are looking for new ways to do more with less as the industry continues to contend with the ongoing effects of project delays, budget creep, labor shortages, and more. These obstacles necessitate digitization faster than anyone ever expected, and digital transformation is the industry’s best answer.
Four key obstacles prevent many construction companies from effective digital transformation:
Fragmentation: Processes and technologies are not uniform across the construction operations lifecycle.
Lack of replication: Construction processes are reinvented with each project to accommodate the needs of the client, rather than relying on repeatable processes.
Transience: Successes are fleeting, and the nature of the business makes it difficult to carry momentum from project to project.
Decentralization: A lack of overall vision needed to unite the goals and expectations of each construction phase.
These challenges are unique to the construction industry and could potentially stunt the overall potential of the trade that is already lagging in terms of digitization. One study evaluated industries in terms of digital adaptability and the construction industry’s composite score ranked second lowest in terms of digitization — receiving the lowest possible score in 5 out of 8 ranking factors including digital spending, business processes, and overall digitization.
According to a McKinsey report, construction processes have been saddled with institutional inefficiencies for decades, which makes the industry less adaptable to change and less prone to evolve from analog to digital.
“The [digital transformation] process has already begun,” according to McKinsey. “The industry leaders who responded to our survey largely agree that the shifts outlined in this report are likely to occur at scale within the next five to ten years. The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to accelerate the impending changes.”
Disruptions many expected to occur in the next 20 years are happening today. According to the report, 75% of respondents expect digital transformation to materialize in the next five years.
Is your construction company set up for success as digital transformation becomes the norm not the exception?
As the construction industry embraces new efficiencies to enable online collaboration, automation, and connected construction, it’s important to embrace digital transformation construction today so you don’t fall behind tomorrow.
How AEC and contracting companies can keep up with digital transformation
Digital transformation might seem like an insurmountable task as you might think it requires a complete upending of the processes that have been in place for decades. You might worry that if you upset one system the whole house of cards will fall.
In reality, digital transformation is best implemented incrementally, not all at once. Once you establish a few foundational processes that can sustain the stress of day-to-day operation, it’s easy for the rest to fall into place.
As digital construction becomes the expectation, not the exception, companies that exhibit the following characteristics will be best prepared to succeed:
Accurate, robust project data: Data so accurate that teams can estimate, procure, fabricate, plan, install, and commission directly from the model.
Specific and up-to-date material quantities: Specific construction quantities with data that will help make ordering repeatable, such as bill-of-material specificity and location information.
Reusable content: Set up frameworks that support the re-use of data. Let content drive intelligence and optimization while leaving no room for misinterpretation.
Predictable plans: Establish repeatable processes based on more accurate scopes, schedules, and budgets.
Real-time collaboration: Enable real-time, cross-discipline collaboration through accessible data applicable across the entire construction workflow.
Take, for example, these three construction leaders who are using digital transformation in very different ways to gain a leg up on the competition.
North Mechanical Contracting and Service
North Mechanical Contracting and Service is a full-service mechanical systems solution based in Indiana. North Mechanical embraced digital transformation with the goal of better meeting the demands of the customer, and they have seen significant improvements in timeline and repeatability:
A 25% reduction in time needed for quantity take-offs
Greater predictability in delivery demonstrated through zero change orders
90% of piping components are fabricated off site, which requires 50% less labor and generates savings of over $1 million
“Our new workflow helped improve collaboration with fabricators tremendously. They now ask more meaningful questions which leads to better coordination,” said North Mechanical Project Manager Dustin Allen.
Barton Malow is a full-service general contracting firm with clients across the U.S. Building off of their strategic initiative to double efficiency by 2024, Barton Malow’s self-perform division implemented a constructible process which resulted in increased productivity and accuracy:
A 15% increase in concrete rebar productivity
Improved accuracy and enhanced knowledge transfer between stakeholders
Better analysis of BIM models to uncover clashes, streamline workflows, and bring greater transparency to all building projects
“Leveraging a constructible process was instrumental in helping us achieve our efficiency goals,” said Barton Malow Manager of Self-Perform Matt Hedke.
M Moser Associates
M Moser Associates is a leading design partner focused on design and delivery of advanced workspaces. M Moser Associates moved beyond design intent to constructible-level models, resulting in:
All trades, contractors, suppliers, and the client working together in 3D, from concept to completion
Elimination of wasted resources and materials
Unprecedented accuracy before ever reaching the jobsite
“The whole workflow is compressed and more evident to everybody at a glance. We can see where buildability is correct and where it is failing, and we can catch it early,” said M Moser Associates Director of Organizational Development Jason Li.
How M Moser Associates has incorporated a constructible 3D process into their workflow.
Digital transformation is not some far-off reality or some abstract futurism. It’s happening today in the form of constructible models — models so accurate with project data that they can inform all construction phases from design to build.