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How Construction Technology Saves Time and Money

Learn how construction technology like BIM and smart devices save time and money. Improve project delivery, efficiency, and risk management.


Published: 05/06/2024

Country: United Kingdom

Technology continues to move faster and faster. Finding time to vet new tools takes up valuable time. Implementing these new tools and getting everyone up-to-speed takes up more time. When project budgets are already tight, and timelines are short, teams are unable to dedicate enough time to technologies that can help them in the short-term.

Despite all of the technological advancements over the years, construction site workers still have to make many big decisions based on manual processes. With lots of room for human error, these decisions often rely on trailer runs to get the most updated information. These same teams are regularly relying on physical, paper-based documentation, continually needing to reprint, redistribute, and so on. Needless to say, these traditional processes are neither efficient nor effective. Companies need to understand the entire scope of advantages (and possible disadvantages) that comes with the adaptation of new technologies - from elevated efficiency, sustainability, and so on.

Replacing paper with emails is better, but not enough. Email is just a small part of the information transfer workflow that happens throughout the project lifecycle. The timeliness of the transfers and the accuracy of the information being passed along can dramatically impact the project's profit margins. The construction industry has had a general aversion to implementing modern technologies, which has held the entire industry back for quite some time. Luckily, these times are changing.

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Part 1. The Adoption Process

Everything did not change overnight. In 2014 many companies, though few and far between, began leveraging simple cloud-based services and mobile devices throughout their projects. During this time, many changes were happening on the broader company level. New software and processes gained wide-scale adoption, from Building Information Modeling (BIM), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and field data collection, and more.

Additionally, around the world, the construction industry began to see international guidelines and regulations. In 2016, the United Kingdom implemented requirements for contractors to use BIM Level 2 for all larger government projects, accelerating the adoption of technology. The expertise gained by contractors on government contracts eventually led to an increase in BIM adoption among private-market owners. It's safe to say that the UK mandate started the adoption process, making BIM a normal part of project delivery in a relatively short time frame.

Unfortunately, there's still a significant number of companies (and industry leaders) that are not leveraging technologies to their full potential. While many might be leveraging new technology, they often fail to address the updated approaches. Take BIM, for example. A company might be using the correct software but does not address the new document management abilities that can replace traditional processes (Word Documents, email chains, Excel spreadsheets) and maximize the value of BIM. This might be the biggest challenge for new technology adoption in the construction industry, especially since collaboration platforms for documents or drawings are widespread and not yet an industry standard.

A lot of companies still rely heavily on emails as their primary communication tool, while simple cloud-based solutions like Dropbox are used for file sharing. Both audit-trail management and versioning with these communication methods are far more complicated than they need to be.

Part 2. Trust for Efficiency

The second major factor that led to the late adoption of technology in the construction industry is the willingness to invest in smart devices for employees, across teams and locations. Smart devices are large investments, and companies must put an immense amount of trust in their employees while giving them a tablet or a smartphone. Training employees on how to properly use the device and the software attached to them can take time and a lot of manpower. However, more and more companies are seeing huge returns and not just trusting their employees with expensive hardware but continuously teaching them new skills and techniques to maximize the tools they have been given.

Not too long ago, such devices were saved for superintendents or higher-ups, but that time has passed. The overall spread of smart gadgets in the industry has brought more interest to application development and introduced new tools to help employees with a range of tasks, from accessing necessary up-to-date information on a moment's notice to tracking issues.

Businesses quickly realized that there are endless advantages that offset the additional costs of purchasing smart devices – from better communication, workflow streamlining, reduction or elimination of design mistakes, etc.

The over-competitive nature of the market has pushed the majority of the companies onto the path of BIM, driving adoption and helping the businesses stay relevant and efficient. By leveraging modern technology in construction projects, companies can keep their timelines on track, teams in sync, and projects under budget.

Part 3. Risk Management

New technologies allow teams to better understand the daily and hourly tasks of their team members. This allows teams to drive accountability and better allot time and leads to more successful risk management. Various mobile tech tools are capable of easing the review process by unifying plans and models, eliminating time traditionally spent on matching physical plans or models and trying to pinpoint a location.

Another example of a new technology that supports the entire construction process is machine learning. Modern machine learning systems can analyze the job-site video/stream and identify safety or efficiency problems, even in the pre-construction phase.

When trying to leverage new technology, it is essential to identify the challenges you have and then vet tools that directly solve these problems. It is also a good idea to look into the customer support offered and look for testimonials that back the organization. When a new technology has been decided upon, make it a way of life within your organization. While new technology adoption can have its hurdles, it often leads to dramatic improvements in manual processes that save your team time and money.

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