Why now is the time to improve construction performance

Performance in the construction sector has been somewhat of an anomaly. Despite the new technology and ICT infrastructure available, it seems that for the past 25 years or so, the industry has struggled to make use of the new advancements to improve productivity. This is a contrary to what similar industries have been experiencing, for example the manufacturing industry, who have been able to use technology to almost double their productivity over the same period.  With all the new technology available today, why is it so difficult for the construction industry to improve productivity?

A goal we’ve missed too many times 

Construction stakeholders have developed several new methods and practices to improve construction output, with the aim of making the overall performance more reliable, increasing the effectiveness of their work, and reducing waste and idle time.

There are so many new methods and practices that it is easy to get lost: Advanced Work Packaging and Workface Planning, Lean Construction, Industrial Integrated Project Delivery, “Modular” vs. “Stick Built” Execution … in addition, sometimes cross-industry adoption takes place as well, where construction methods originally developed for shipbuilding, such as preassembling of  components offsite, are being adopted for on-shore projects.

However, the evidence over the last few years shows that all these new practices and methods alone are not enough to allow a breakthrough in efficiency for the industry. Besides methodology, new systems and solutions, new digital technology is needed.

When new methodology and best practices are combined with the latest technology solutions, we can finally expect a significant leap forward in construction execution productivity.

Digitalizing construction execution

The key benefits of digitalizing construction execution on-site come from providing a centralized construction execution platform. In this platform, all the relevant information is available straight from the source, without the need of manual operations, manipulation, further processing or restructuring of the data.

And why is this important? Because there is no digital integrity if data has been manipulated, and no error free data delivery if manual operations take place. Most importantly – there is no chance of having any accurate updates on how a project is advancing, unless all the stakeholders have access to error-free, timely, and automated information.

Construction stakeholders need data they can trust.  Therefore, the only solution is to establish a digital connection between the platform, where construction data and decisions addressing execution could take place. This would include, but is not limited to: reusing the data, such as engineering deliverables with relevant embedded quantities, materials ETA, and construction master schedule. This way, the stakeholders can always have the latest information available to prevent wasting time in looking for data or double-checking its reliability.

The time for digital construction sites

“Data is the oil of the 21st Century” seems like a true statement everywhere, but at construction sites it has a different significance. For the construction industry, data is like a massive oil well that everyone knows of, but nobody has been able begin extraction.  This is mostly because smart technology has not yet been widely adopted, making it difficult for the construction industry to reap the benefits of a data-centric, digitalized approach.

The only option to improve the current construction execution performance is to make construction sites truly digital technology places. With smart 3D models integrating all the data and delivering all the queries, mobile apps supporting materials management and real time status on crew safety tracking or multi-D integration, construction sites can become truly digital technological environments, where data can improve decision making and efficiency.

So what are the real life use cases for a digital construction site? Stay tuned for my next blog post on Digitalizing Construction, or contact us directly for a free consultation.

Maurizio M. Sirica, Business Development Executive for Hexagon PPM , focuses on Digital Transformation for Project Execution & Performance Management.

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