30th January 2020
2020 – The year construction embraces digitisation?

A new report from Causeway, a firm specialising in software for the construction and contracting sectors, appears to show that the majority of key decision-makers in the construction sector are intending to embrace technology this year. Of those surveyed, 81% stated that they would be taking greater steps to improve digitisation within their business over the next 12 months.

All well and good, you might say, but it’s an open secret that the construction industry has historically been slow to accept change. The ever-growing skills gap, combined with low productivity and squeezed profit margins, has led to inflexible business models that are struggling to take on change. So, why are industry experts seemingly convinced across the board that a new decade means a new attitude towards technological progress?

Tech companies entering the construction sphere

More and more ‘constructech’ (construction technology) start-ups are shaking up the sector, applying cutting-edge technological solutions to construction industry problems. No longer on the margins, these companies are taking the sector by storm, offering solutions such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), augmented reality and machine learning technology to slowly but surely revolutionise the way construction projects are managed and executed. They’re not quite mainstream yet, but industry sentiment seems to indicate that they soon will be.

Skills gap is widening

The industry is seeing a gulf growing between an ageing workforce trained in traditional building methods and younger, tech-savvy generations with the skills needed to take construction forward into the digital age. Unless drastic action is taken to improve education and training in new digital techniques and ways of working, young people with a passion for modern technology will continue to migrate to other sectors, leaving construction lagging even further behind.

Huge potential to increase productivity and profit

Tight profit margins and low productivity are issues that have long plagued construction, but new technology has real potential to resolve them. Building Information Modelling (BIM), artificial intelligence (AI) and even 3D printing are all touted as having the potential to increase efficiency, quality and safety.

For example, BIM allows contractors to construct a 3D digitised model of the proposed building project, enabling them to understand and improve projects, as well as to plan them in the most efficient way possible. What’s more, BIM can be integrated with smart technology, for example drones that take aerial images of the work in progress and compare them with the 3D BIM model, helping project managers to effectively spot and reduce the impact of errors. Fewer mistakes not only means a higher quality build – it also leads to greater efficiency, which has a positive impact on profit margins.

The future is bright…

After the difficulties of 2019, industry experts seem to be looking to 2020 as the year for positive change. And, with digitisation now rapping hard on the industry’s door, it’s up to construction firms to open up to technological progress once and for all, before they get left behind for good. Education and training will be key, as well as investing in new digital solutions to enable firms to compete in this constantly evolving environment.