Today, there are a lot of factors affecting the construction and engineering sector:
- working with many disparate teams;
- less time;
- smaller budgets;
- the list goes on!
Projects are becoming bigger and more complex and therefore project managers are facing even more challenges. New technologies like 3D printing, augmented reality, survey drones and digital workflows are now being deployed to make the life of a project manager easier.
One of the problems that project managers and supervisors are facing in the industry is poor communication. For example, the construction industry and power plant operations usually have staff in different teams working in shifts. To be able to communicate between these utility shifts they are now using a simple tool: WhatsApp. All subcontractors on a project are added to a group where instructions for the group are being shared in the morning before everyone starts working on their tasks for the day. They are also able to keep communicating during the day by chatting in real-time. Another problem is accountability; who is responsible for what project, task, result, etc.? Again, communication is key. It helps to keep a record of all daily tasks and who is responsible to do what.
Engineering and construction technology
Many engineering and construction companies are already using new construction technologies for their daily tasks, especially focused on software tools for digital collaboration. The modest returns they’ve seen to date make these companies reluctant to explore additional productivity-enhancing technologies, especially those requiring substantial investment. Other companies are simply unfamiliar with tools and solutions in areas beyond digital collaboration.
Many of these companies just don’t know how to get the best out of new technology and obtain full value from them. Also, technology initiatives fail to produce noticeable improvements in key performance metrics. According to a study by McKinsey, three factors may be responsible for these issues: Insufficient commitment, difficulties with company-wide rollout, lack of compatibility with legacy systems.
A good implementation is key to make it a success. Company managers should clearly demonstrate and emphasise their support for new initiatives. Specific teams and leaders should be made responsible for implementing the digital strategy, monitoring results and making sure that initiative achieve scale and maintain momentum. Successful results should be shared with everyone in the organisation, encourage widespread rollout, and advise other teams deploying the tools.
What will the digital future bring for construction?
The construction industry is suffering from sluggish productivity growth and relatively low financial returns. However, they are not very keen on adopting the process and technology innovations that could solve these problems, regarding profitability and performance.
In general, R&D spending in construction runs well behind that of other industries: it accounts for less than 1.0 percent of revenues, versus 3.5 to 4.5 percent for the automotive and aerospace sectors. Ditto for spending on information technology.
An important reason for the industry’s poor productivity record is their way of managing its processes and deliverables. Things like blueprints, design drawings, equipment logs and punch lists are still on paper. A lot of companies are still running their entire business on Microsoft Excel, even although they know there are other tools, they just feel comfortable using spreadsheets. Some construction firms are now working with software providers to develop a cloud-based, mobile-enabled field-supervision platform that integrates project planning, engineering, physical control, budgeting, and document management for large projects.
According to a report by PwC, "Global Construction 2030", the volume of construction output will grow by 85% to $15.5 trillion worldwide by 2030, with three countries, China, US and India, leading the way and accounting for 57% of all global growth.
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