Technology adoption in the construction industry is a popular topic. Although the industry has traditionally been slow to adopt technology solutions, construction companies of all sizes are increasingly being challenged to “digitally transform.” This includes adopting new automated tools to increase communication and collaboration, minimize the impact of the ongoing labor shortage, and last but not least, increase efficiency and productivity.
If construction-sector productivity caught up with the productivity of the total economy, it would boost the sector’s value added by an estimated $1.6 trillion.
— McKinsey & Company
But a lack of investment in technology is one of the main reasons why construction productivity lags in the first place. Because of the sheer number of people and processes involved in a construction project, the potential for disorganization, miscommunication, and bad data is unavoidable. These barriers to accuracy, collaboration, and efficiency can seriously hurt your productivity and your competitiveness. And yet, there are countless technology tools that have been developed to address these very issues.
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More than just implementing a piece of software here or a robotic tool there, construction technology is exceptionally effective when it’s integrated in a way that improves communication and data sharing, and connects workflows among the many teams and stakeholders involved in a project. You can use construction technology to help eliminate team silos and ensure everyone has access to the same, most up-to-date information about your construction projects.
To experience the benefits that technology can provide, though, you can’t just buy the latest gizmo; you must actually use it consistently. When your team is used to their own tools, processes, and workarounds—even if many are slow, require manual effort, and introduce unnecessary risk to the budget or schedule—they may not be convinced that technology is the answer. Understandably, you may be hesitant to invest in technology because you fear that your users won’t be willing to actually use it.
Increasing Technology Adoption in Construction
Concerns about technology adoption aren’t limited to construction alone. It can pose challenges for any company and tends to follow similar patterns, regardless of the industry. For example, the technology adoption curve, sometimes called the innovation curve, breaks people up into five segments. Innovators and early adopters are the first to try technology solutions, braving the kinks and quirks as improvements are made to the solution. The early majority and late majority follow suit, but only after they feel confident the technology will be helpful. Laggards, the last group to try technology, are skeptical of it and could resist using it at all.
You can see this with any technology, from smartphones to drones. Some people are the first to rush out and buy the latest tech gadget. Others may wait until the second generation of the product is introduced. And then there are those who dig their heels in and refuse to even consider it.
Understanding what segments your people fall into is key to choosing the right technology tools and ensuring their adoption. Even if many fall into the laggard category, you can slowly convince them of the benefits using some clever psychology. And, more importantly, you need to if you want to stay competitive and relevant in a changing world.
Avoiding technology altogether is no longer an option as more construction firms—possibly even your own competitors—successfully integrate technology into their teams and workflows and experience the benefits firsthand. To keep up, you’ll want to consider how technology can specifically benefit your firm.
Venture capitalists invested $1.05 billion in global construction technology (ConTech) startups
in the first half of 2018, a record high.
— 2018 State of Construction Technology Report, JLL
How Adopting Construction Technology Can Make an Impact Now
There are certain problems that the construction industry can’t seem to shake, including the labor shortage, stagnant productivity, and a lack of collaboration between teams. Chances are good you’ve experienced some or all of these and have struggled to address them effectively. Here’s how adopting a technology solution can help you overcome these problems.
Mitigate the Effects of the Labor Shortage
After the 2008 economic crash, the construction industry lost many of its skilled workers and hasn’t yet made up for those losses. Construction companies still struggle to find capable workers and adequately staff projects, which creates its own set of challenges to staying on schedule and budget. As you look for ways to complete the work as efficiently as possible, new technology solutions using robotics and automation enable you to do more in the field with the teams you currently have. With the right technology tools, you can reduce labor requirements and their associated costs, along with the time typically needed to complete a task.
Enhance your current teams and processes with technology.
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Make Improvements to Productivity
Disjointed processes and outdated manual methods keep construction teams from working as quickly and efficiently as possible. Software applications, mobile devices, and robotic technology tools can streamline and automate many common construction processes—back in the office and out on the construction site. These solutions allow you to accurately collect, share, and update information in real time, right in the field, so you can speed up and improve decision making, get more done in less time, and significantly reduce tedious paperwork and manual effort.
Break Down Barriers to Collaboration
The various trades and workers on a construction site often end up working in siloed teams that aren’t communicating. It’s easy for everyone to get overly focused on their own workflows and schedules instead of thinking about how their work integrates with others and the project as a whole. Adding to the issues, access to accurate and complete information can be limited, which increases the risk of errors and rework. Today’s technology tools make it possible to give everyone access to the same accurate site information so they can more easily and effectively coordinate their work efforts—and reduce costly rework.
Give Your Business a Boost with Technology
While the benefits of construction technology are hard to argue, there are still practical considerations that can get in the way of moving forward. Technology adoption doesn’t just happen with the wave of a magic wand. Concerns about the enthusiasm of your users and the particular culture of your company are valid and should be discussed. But they don’t need to prevent your firm from taking the next step.
Nearly everyone agrees that technology can improve how construction firms work. The most time-consuming and critical processes on a construction project will almost always benefit from new technology solutions. Layout is arguably one of them, accounting for as much as 25% of a project’s cost.
Using robotic layout technology can shave hours, if not days, off the process and ensure more precise results. With a robotic layout station that is operated by a single person, you can even eliminate the need for two-person crews and significantly increase productivity.
To learn more about the many business advantages you can gain from robotic layout technology, get The Small & Specialty Contractor’s Essential Guide to Layout Technology.