It’s surprising that with technology being such a vital part of our lives, the construction industry is one of the slowest to embrace it. Statistics show that 90% of construction executives say they still use outdated tech and processes (like Excel spreadsheets, email, and paper) for 25-100% of their business processes. This may be hard to believe, but the truth is these legacy processes work and many (50%) are satisfied with the way they’re currently doing things.
If they’re satisfied with things and there’s no incentive to adopt technology, why would construction companies update? The truth is there are incentives for digitization in the industry. According to McKinsey, digitizing processes could improve productivity by 14-15% and reduce costs by 4-6%. With many companies running on tight profit margins, these gains could be significant.
Before we look at how companies can digitize their businesses, let’s see what’s been holding the industry back.
Roadblocks to digitization in construction
Why has the construction industry waited so long to adopt new technologies? It turns out the nature of the industry plays a large role in preventing widespread technology adoption.
Diversity of projects
Each construction project is different from the one before. No two sites or buildings are exactly the same. This can make standardizing processes difficult for contractors.
Some projects take place in out of the way areas where connectivity can be an issue. When tech requires input from the field, it can be difficult to get with spotty internet reception and a lack of infrastructure.
Large, varied teams
Each project involves a large group of people and companies. This mix of owners, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers is constantly changing, making it difficult for whole teams to adopt the same tool. In addition, these teams are only together for a relatively short time, providing no incentive for members to buy into tech solutions.
We all know that data security and protection from cyber-attacks is a crucial concern for all companies in all industries. The advantage with older processes is that they aren’t as vulnerable to these risks.
Lack of IT talent
Only the largest construction companies can afford to have full-time IT workers. Smaller companies often don’t have the talent to help them roll out new tech and ensure that it remains in service.
How to start digitizing your construction business
Despite these challenges, there are ways that construction businesses can begin the process of digitization. The key is to start small and ramp up as your team becomes more comfortable with the new ways of doing things. Taking on too much at one time can lead to employee confusion and frustration, which can hamper your efforts.
The pandemic certainly changed how we looked at site inspections and visits. With limitations on travel and the desire to keep on site numbers small, many looked to cameras to help them view work from a distance. Smart cameras can help teams with safety, monitor work progress, and document site conditions.
AR and VR
Both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have been successfully used in the construction industry. They have been used to provide customers with a walk-through of their project before ground is broken, as well as providing installers with instructional data as they work.
Digital twins are a virtual copy of a physical item, like a building. They help teams model and predict real life scenarios during the design process and help with operations and maintenance post-occupancy.
Doing material take-offs manually can lead to errors due to the number of manual calculations involved. Even a small mistake can cost you. Digital take-offs allow you to get an accurate count and measurement without the expense of printing drawings. PlanHub’s Measuring Tools help you create more accurate estimates, leading to more winning bids.
While the rest of the world has hopped on the electronic payment train, construction still relies almost exclusively on paper checks. It takes additional time to process payments, and there can be delays in receiving them. Electronic payments help make payments streamlined and fast, while maintaining full control over who gets paid when.
Contractors looking to digital solutions to help improve their production and profitability are finding it. While it is always good to “look before you leap,” waiting too long could mean your company gets left behind.