Construction remains one of the least digitized industries according to a recent article in Forbes magazine. While the whole world seems to be hopping onto “the cloud,” the construction industry is struggling with antiquated systems and perpetuates commercial models that are generally resistant to digitization. Despite that reality, the benefits of digitization are considerable.
Digital Access to Information
Dodge Data & Analytics surveyed more than 200 US contractors to identify and analyze construction process management and benchmarking. They found that half of contractors do not consistently capture and review project data to measure construction project performance.
According to McKinsey, one reason for the industry’s poor productivity record is that it still relies mainly on paper to manage its processes and deliverables. This includes blueprints, design drawings, equipment logs, daily progress reports, and punch lists. Lack of digitization makes it difficult to share information, leading to owners and contractors unintentionally working from different document versions.
Despite these challenges, progress towards digitizing construction is nearly stagnant. According to the 2019 ConTech Report, “There is no surprise that Gartner’s prediction of a 6% increase in IT spending remains unrealized for the construction industry. The fact that IT spending has remained at a virtual stand-still for its third year is beginning to cause concern.”
Digital Connectivity from the Job Site
Mobile field data collection saves time and reduces the cost associated with data entry while increasing reporting accuracy and accountability. It improves communication, allowing for streamlined workflows and data collection. Reports, audits, inspections, checklists, and other forms can be created digitally and completed on mobile devices and sent back to home offices. Data can be collected with or without an internet connection, making digital forms adaptable to remote job sites. Software can integrate with other systems and project management tools in multiple formats, enhancing existing workflows while improving consistency and compliance and allowing for faster, more accurate schedule updates.
Data automatically saved in cloud storage can be sent by email, and parties can be notified by text message. Photos can be captured, saved, and sketched on top of, signatures and barcodes can be collected, and reports can be automatically forwarded to management.
GPS capabilities can track when and where employees submit data and provide real-time visibility into inbound deliveries. PO requests and creation can also be done automatically, and receipts captured by photo.
Paperless by the Numbers
As noted in The Key Performance Indicators of Construction, “While it’s important to capture issues on current projects, it’s equally critical to set up standard processes to compare them to past projects.” As they go on to describe, there are multiple, measurable, reasons for the construction company to embrace digitization:
- About 25% of general contractors don’t capture job site information because they don’t have an easy way to do it.
- 14% of the survey respondents do capture job site information reported a high/very high degree of difficulty doing so.
The challenge we see is that many of our clients (owners) don’t typically contract improved productivity with their contractors or see the use of technology as a benefit to delivering on time and on budget…just like drivers didn’t require electric vehicles. With the concept of fixed fee construction projects going away, there is little incentive for the contractors to be more productive. With the use of time and materials contracts, contractors get paid more the less productive they are!
What will it take for the construction industry to embrace productivity and efficiency the same way the manufacturing sector has?