With an annual market capitalization exceeding $10 trillion, the construction sector is one of the largest industries in the world. Despite its tremendous potential, many firms are struggling due to a shortage of skilled workers, weak productivity growth, and ongoing waste. New data is showing that the construction industry is an outlier in terms of the generated waste in human productivity and physical materials. Today’s proponents of technology have pointed to a lack of automation and adoption of technology as the primary reasons for the industry’s poor performance. While construction has started to adopt technology, it is still one of the least digitized industries worldwide. As a result the sector has failed to significantly increase worker productivity over the past few decades. All while productivity in sectors like retail and agriculture has grown by more than 1500% over the past 50 year. With data showing that it may be time for a change, it is evident that the construction sector as a whole needs to increase technology automation within its operations moving forward.
While innovation in construction vehicles often trail behind road vehicles, autonomous construction equipment could be an intermediate step between automated factory equipment and self-driving cars. Although there is plenty of justified enthusiasm for self-driving cars, there are still many technical and regulatory challenges to overcome before we can move automation from an enclosed industrial setting to the open road. Unlike public roads, construction sites are closed to public traffic and pedestrians. Self-driving excavators are already completing basic projects without human connection. In addition to having the ability to work around the clock, autonomous equipment is also a safer option as it completely removes the possibility of human error. Noah Ready-Campbell, founder of Built Robotics thinks that we will see autonomous equipment on job sites much sooner than on public roads. From site safety to project efficiency, autonomous equipment has the ability to revolutionize the construction sector as we know it.
Improving Safety with Technology
With technology ramping up in the construction sector, the main issue receiving attention is employee safety. Of the 4963 worker deaths in 2016, 991 were related to issues in construction worker safety. This should be the number one priority of every construction company and at the forefront of construction tech solutions. Construction technology has made, and continues to make it easier for companies to train, monitor and prevent work related accidents and reduce the rate of serious injuries and worker deaths.
On Site Productivity
Many studies have shown that construction productivity has generally remained flat in comparison to other industries around them. The traditional method of design-bid-build is disjointed and significantly slows down the efficiency of any given construction project. The main issue with the construction sector is that every site is different with its unique set of challenges and risks. This makes it difficult to create streamlined processes and increase productivity the same way that the manufacturing and retail sectors have been able to do. With recent innovation breakthroughs, technology is presenting promising potential for change in this regard. With software and mobile app solutions, on site employees and office executives are able to manage every aspect of the construction process from their phone or from their personal computer. With most software solutions being cloud-based, this allows for instant changes and updates to documents, schedules, and other management tools. In addition to increasing productivity these software solutions facilitate better communication and collaboration between all stakeholders involved in the construction process.
As automation and digital processes develop to have more and more applications within the building industry, they have great potential to make the sector more efficient, cost-effective and to increase innovation. With the number of new techniques made possible through automated technology, designers and builders will have a whole new set of tools at their disposal to increase efficiency and fuel creativity. Additionally, automation could boost sustainability within construction, an area of great concern in today’s eco-conscious world. All signs are showing that automation may very well revolutionise the industry in the near future. It might be a tough pill to swallow, but we’ve gotten to the point where firms that aren’t investing in new technologies and solutions are no longer staying competitive to those that are strategically adopting and implementing tech solutions. Construction firms that continue to refuse to innovate and adopt new technology processes are stuck in dying industry. If companies want to continue to grow and evolve within today’s market, technology adoption is a must.