Currently it feels like every week there’s a new bit of tech out in the market – autonomous vehicles, augmented reality, drones and smart devices. It seems like only yesterday that the first smartphones came out, and well, we’re still trying to convince the boss that we could really do with that 3D printer.
While traditionally slow on the uptake, the construction industry is starting to utilise some of these emerging technologies, and realising that they increase efficiencies, reduce costs and improve the health and safety of its workers.
Building projects can be completed in record time, and overall costs are decreasing with the increasing use of technology. According to the World Economic Forum, “Wherever the new technologies have properly permeated this fragmented industry, the outlook is an almost 20 percent reduction in total life cycle costs of a project, as well as substantial improvements in completion time, quality and safety.” So what are some of the ways that new technology is disrupting the construction industry, and making life easier for those working in it?
Integrated mobile technology
A big part of a well-run construction site is ensuring that processes are followed and documented. Traditionally this meant pen and paper and duplication back at the office of lost or damaged forms. Using integrated mobile tech and specialised software you can streamline the whole process, reducing time spent duplicating forms, and providing instantaneous access to the documents and data for you and your teammates – wherever you may be. No more rushing between office and site as you’re managing multiple projects.
Integrated technology isn’t just useful for keeping construction documentation up to date. It also lets you connect to other tech and devices you have on the construction site allowing you to monitor that data wherever you are. Drone data and images can be automatically sent to your phone or computer, and you can keep track of how much fuel your autonomous vehicle is using. One of the most compelling use cases of integrated data in the construction industry is BIM (Building Information Modelling). This system allows you to build virtual models of what you’re constructing in a digital environment and manage all information about the construction project across its lifecycle. BIM takes into account all elements of the build including scheduling and cost considerations. And unlike modelling programmes such as CAD, BIM models are built using real construction elements, so architects can design buildings in much the same was as they’re built. All data is stored in a central model, and any design changes are automatically updated across individual drawings created from this model. Again, this information can then be accessed remotely, with multiple team members able to access it simultaneously.
From drones to autonomous vehicles, advancing technology is allowing work to be monitored and completed without needing the physical presence of the person to do the job. They can be tucked up warm and dry with a cup of tea and a biscuit while the autonomous truck or drone is out there doing its thing. Beyond providing a hard worker with a well deserved break, there’s a huge benefit to autonomous machinery in increasing, efficiency with energy output able to be closely monitored and optimised, as well as safety on the job site as workers are nowhere near the heavy equipment.
For example Rio Tinto in Australia currently has 69 dump trucks as part of its mining fleet, which leverage GPS to move without a driver. Not only are these vehicles more efficient, minimising delays and fuel use, they also increase the safety of the workers by having them completely out of harms way. Drones (also known as Unmaned Arial Vehicles) are another great technology contributing to the efficiency and safety on the job site. They’re able to capture images and information on locations that would be hard, or unsafe, for people to access, and provide data and imaging to help plan the next stage of the project, or provide feedback on how it’s coming along. As a bonus, a drone can take beautiful aerial shots to take your marketing to the next level.
Signs of things to come
The construction industry is still in the early stages of tech disruption, and despite the new technologies already available, you can only expect these to continue to increase in number, and advance in capability. Technology will continue to make building processes faster, simpler and safer as machines get smarter and more proficient at processing data and taking action. To compete in this fast changing world, now is the time to start embracing these technologies within you company, and on your construction projects.