After decades of lagging technical adoption, the construction industry is working hard to forge a new digital identity. Over the last 2 years, a combination of internal and external forces has driven contractors to experiment with and embrace technology like never before, including increased demand spurred by a growing population and skilled labor shortage. Following this period of examination, the coming year will see contractors focusing on the most effective ways to implement technology and leverage data analytics across their organizations.
A Transforming Industry
The journey to digitization is not without challenges. This year, as technology adoption and innovation in the industry moved from a few early adopters to the growing majority, it became clear that not all tech strategies and solutions are created equal. It also became apparent that technological transformation isn’t only about the products, but the people and processes as well. When new data sets or tools are implemented, organizational change must follow.
While some technologies solely streamline or digitize existing processes, internet-of-things (IoT)-based technologies create entirely new processes and data sets. The question for construction companies then becomes how to best prepare for and manage change while ensuring that new tech solutions deliver results and create real value for their organizations.
Over the last year, construction business owners and solutions providers have begun to wrestle with finding the right answer to this question. The valuable lessons learned provide a roadmap for the next 12 months. As a result, in 2019 construction business owners can expect to see an increased focus in the following areas.
1. Internal Processes & Infrastructure
Record investment in construction technology companies over the last 7 years has given rise to an emerging construction technology ecosystem comprised of wearable devices, sensors and drones. These devices collect and transmit real-time location, activity and utilization data from workers, equipment, tools and the environment.
The industry’s ability to leverage this new groundswell of IoT data continues to evolve. Business owners are beginning to realize the strategic value that data and technology have to offer organizations. However, in 2019, the most successful contractors will be the ones who tie technology adoption, implementation and action to defined business problems, allowing for faster arrival at a solution.
Previously, contractors might have used internal technology (IT) and/or innovation budgets to test the latest tech solutions on the market, all in hopes of developing a specific use-case and achieving great return on investment (ROI) along the way.
In 2019, contractors are expected to take a more integrated, strategic approach to technology investments. This focus will become even more important as more solutions hit the market and employees in both the field and the office grow weary and frustrated with a revolving door of promising solutions that do not deliver.
As the market matures, so too do processes and procedures, and what worked in the early days may no longer suffice. Different stakeholders, including solutions providers and industry partners, will work even closer together to identify challenges and develop concrete use-cases as they better consider how solutions will be implemented and how data will be stored, analyzed and acted upon.
For example, consider a construction company that wants to reduce the time it takes to report an injury or incident on-site. Employees from the risk management, operations and technology departments can work together to define what a successful solution would look like. By assessing a variety of solutions in the market, they can outline different use-cases, ensuring that there is enough value to justify the investment. And by trying the solution on-site and in the office, the organization is able to compare multiple data flows and reports, refining internal processes in a way that best interprets and acts on the information.
Additionally, by working with the solutions provider and bringing in other key project participants, such as the owner and insurance carrier, the contractor is able to test the limits of the solution and develop an actionable, scalable solution that evolves along with the business. This process is replicable across project sites.
2. Integrated Platforms & Experiences
In 2019, technical partnerships and integrations are expected to become more meaningful and actionable. Over the last year, a solution’s ability to integrate with existing solutions or third-party applications transitioned from being nice to have to nonnegotiable. Companies will continue to invest in increasingly sophisticated application-programming interfaces (APIs), allowing different applications to “speak” by sending and receiving data across systems.
This focus on quality over quantity will continue with the maturation and expansion of the construction technology ecosystem. As contractors become more familiar with the IoT marketplace, a solution’s ability to integrate and leverage data from different hardware or software will be a central concern. To achieve this, technical integrations and partnerships need to step out of the conference room and into the real world.
In the coming year, the industry will see more initiatives like Oracle’s Construction and Engineering Innovation Lab, which debuted in late August and enables contractors to experience both the power of IoT data and technology, as well as the interaction between various solutions and tools within a simulated worksite environment. Initiatives like this help participants evolve their own products while also enabling them to consider how that evolution will affect existing partners and integrations.
3. Improved Management Decision-Making
In construction, like any industry, decisions often come down to time, money and scope. When evaluating jobsite technology, business owners often find themselves asking when they might see the return on their investments. The trouble with this question, however, is that it often forces contractors into a holding pattern, reluctant to change processes or invest in emerging technologies that will surely pay dividends in the long run. By focusing on recovering just 5 to 10 minutes per day, contractors can begin to unlock efficiencies and increase their
Next year, IoT technology will see continued growth on the jobsite, changing the project management mindset from one of monitoring results to making things happen across safety, lean, quality and other organizational initiatives. Instead of taking a more reactive, after-the-fact approach to safety, project leaders and teams will use real-time notifications and feedback for a proactive approach.
For example, with a business problem and corresponding solution already identified, as well as the proper procedures in place to respond to the data, safety leaders can go straight to the location of an incident and ensure that the appropriate medical attention is received or that a hazard is controlled to minimize exposure to others.
As the industry enters a new phase of digitization and focuses on the strategic application of technology and data to solve business problems, gaining the greatest value from innovation requires construction firms to put the right processes and partnerships in place and implement daily process improvements. Realizing the potential of tomorrow requires practicing today, and by focusing on daily decision-making and site management, contractors and business owners can create value that drives further adoption of technology in the coming years.