Increasing productivity within the Construction industry through IT and digitalisation
11th January 2019
The UK is currently facing a productivity crisis. Last year, the Office for Budget Responsibility downgraded its growth forecast for the medium term as a result of persistently weak productivity growth.
One of the key initiatives introduced by the government to address this issue is their new Industrial Strategy. It’s primary objective is to help solve the productivity slump by boosting the economy and embracing the opportunities brought by technology – and it highlights the importance of the construction industry in this.
Currently, the sector contributes nearly £90bn to the UK economy and provides 2.9 million jobs, but productivity within construction has been in decline since the 1990s. Cost and schedule over-runs are the norm, while labour productivity has not kept pace with economic productivity.
One of the least digitised industries but ready for change
The construction industry has been slow to adopt process and technology innovations – in 2015, according to report by McKinsey Global Institute, the sector was one of the least digitised industries, with only Farming and Agriculture falling below it.
However, it is now having a resurgence. The UK is now a market leader in the take-up of Business Information Modelling (BIM) technology, and companies are beginning to leverage the power of the Cloud and mobility.
Technology is being used to streamline processes, increase cross-team collaboration, transform business models and significantly reduce the costs and lead times across all developments.
Through the Industrial Strategy, the government has committed to investing £170m to transform the industry – with a big focus on technology and digital.
This will enable organisations within the sector to capitalise on significant opportunities and, if they invest in the right technology for their businesses, see productivity gains of up to 15%.
So, what are the current digital trends that can help this sector?
Digital Collaboration through the Cloud
Real-time collaboration across all stakeholders remains one of the biggest challenges for this industry. Introducing an integrated approach to sharing information, data and processes via the cloud can have a massive impact on project outcomes – it enables the collaborative workflows and good communication needed to improve productivity and margins.
Cloud technology provides an efficient and robust platform for key participants such as Architects, Structural, Mechanical and Electrical Engineers, Contractors and Site Managers to collaborate, process, and share plans and requirements with all the information at their fingertips in an instant.
As a business, digital collaboration software allows you to communicate critical project data with the client and other companies via secure Cloud applications.
Furthermore, an additional benefit of introducing IT solutions to your business through a Cloud based model is that the set up and infrastructure undertaken by a third-party provider, which not only drastically reduces the cost of the initial upfront IT investment, but it also negates the need for an in-house IT department.
Mobile Usage & it’s risks
Mobile technology is now widely used by builders, contractors, engineers and architects to access and deliver project critical data onsite through online applications and file sharing – this is highly beneficial for streamlining projects, encouraging communication and collaboration. However, to support this, a reliable and secure access to the network is crucial.
Aside to the benefits, mobile working does also create risks that must be considered - intellectual property breaches, compromised data security and cyber security hacking. Using generic public Cloud solutions such as Dropbox or Google Drive can put your highly sensitive, data and intellectual property in danger.
To protect your business, choosing the correct deployment model is key. Using a professional Cloud provider can not only give you the highest level of data security, but they should also undertake regular back ups so information is never lost.
Remote working in hard-hat industries
Remote working is becoming more popular with growing evidence of the positive effects it has on productivity, efficiency and employee retention.
Traditionally it has been only available for people that have ‘desk jobs’, however, as technology continues to advance, what a remote worker can be has broadened – it is now becoming a reality in the hard-hat industries.
This new flexibility is can be partly attributed to new innovations such as wearable technology This gives managers the ability to monitor worker performance and supervise their remote workers even if they are not physically in the same space.
Wearable technology can be included in a variety of equipment, including vests, boots, gloves and belts. They come equipped with sensors that can monitor a worker’s essential health indicators, as well as their location on-site.
The rise of BIM (building information modelling)
There is a growing need to use building information modelling (BIM) technology, especially following the government requirements introduced in 2016 mandating the use of BIM on all government projects.
For a successful adoption of BIM within your business, there are a number of areas that must be taken into consideration.
Your IT hardware, servers, network and broadband speeds need to be reviewed – the file size on BIM projects can be very large so if your IT infrastructure is not up to spec, you could encounter major issues on developing or sharing projects.
Data and network security is also key when introducing BIM to your business as it requires the highest levels of data management and storage. This is due to the levels of information that can be accessed by multiple stakeholders during the life-cycle of a project.
Working with a trusted IT Partner
With the fast-moving pace of technology within the construction industry, having a clearly planned out IT strategy can give your business the advantage over your competitors.
We specialise in designing and building IT solutions to help move your business forward, improve productivity and create efficiencies.
Talk to us today on how we can help you. We offer professional advice and can give you access to some of the best technology in the market at a reasonable cost.