Statistically speaking, productivity gains in construction have lagged behind other industries. Globally, construction labor-productivity growth has averaged only 1 percent a year over the past two decades, according to research from McKinsey, compared with growth of 2.8 percent for the total world economy and 3.6 percent in the case of manufacturing.
The firm’s research across a sample of countries showed that less than one-quarter of construction firms have matched the productivity growth achieved in the overall economies over the past ten years. So, how can the industry give itself a much-needed productivity boost? It starts with reaping the benefits of connected construction. A number of companies that are doing this are seeing increases upwards of 30 percent.
Productivity is the lifeblood of successful construction projects. And it’s seen meaningful boosts, thanks to the continuing evolution of industry tools. We’ve moved from drawings and blueprints to CAD — and more recently, construction managers and general contractors have reaped the benefits of building information modeling (BIM). Today though, construction pros need to go beyond BIM and increase efficiencies throughout every stage of the building process.
Various BIM tools certainly add value to their respective users, but when they’re connected via a common data environment, they can power a highly collaborative process, giving multiple entities visibility and insight into the planning, design, and construction of a building within a single 3D model. This type of transparency is crucial if construction managers and general contractors hope to improve productivity industry-wide.
But builders must understand that BIM and other tools cannot singlehandedly move the industry forward. The Constructible Process is proving to be key in propelling construction to new heights where productivity is concerned. In order for these methods to succeed, however, BIM data must be accessible, shareable, and useful to crews working in the field.
What is Connected Construction?
Fragmentation of the various trades involved in a project too often creates bottlenecks that inhibit steady productivity gains. While it’s common for different phases and trades of a project to be insular, connected construction aims to remove those silos that exist to integrate these moving parts where possible and ensure that projects don’t stall out because of a bottleneck that results from a lack of shared information.
Connected construction gives all stakeholders the visibility they need to collaborate more efficiently. Keeping the different stakeholders connected throughout all phases of a project contributes to increased productivity across the supply chain by streamlining operations, preventing delays, and therefore resulting in the best possible outcome and the fastest project completion.
How to get connected on site
The best way to ensure a connected process is to maintain a common data environment that supports real-time collaboration and eliminates inconsistencies in progress reporting among subcontractors, contractors, and building/project managers. Shared and open data improves real-time collaboration by increasing the transfer of accurate knowledge from stakeholder to stakeholder. This results in a better understanding of the project and increased productivity based on reduced delays, change orders and coordination problems or conflicts in the field.
Connectivity also supports the automation that is driving productivity forward through advancements like digital fabrication. By eliminating the need to recreate project and building data, work can instead be driven by shared and approved models throughout a project.
Where the rubber meets the road
Companies that are implementing a connected construction methodology will lead the way with major productivity gains. Here are just a few examples:
- Termotex in Panama has boosted productivity significantly, resulting in a 2000-percent revenue boost, from $5 million $100 million in the past year.
- Megans Installations in the Netherlands saw layout productivity skyrocket by incorporating a rapid positioning tool that’s connected via cloud-based modeling and layout software through a handheld tablet in the field.
- Brown & Read Engineering quadrupled productivity around the estimation process using a connected, BIM-powered software solution.
Being connected will offer the construction industry the best protection against inefficiencies to boost productivity in the long term. Armed with the right tools, the construction industry can stay connected and is well-positioned to increase productivity and put the industry on par with other connected, automated trades.
Read more about how Constructability is the key to transforming global construction.
**This article was originally created for constructible.trimble.com