New solutions shouldn’t have to halt productivity to prove their effectiveness
by Nick Carter
April 9, 2019

It’s a popular belief that disruption is good for any industry. Innovation breeds competition, which, in turn, provides smart new services, increases consumer choice and drives sector growth. However, while disruptive innovations have influenced changes in some aspects of the industry, there has been no single technology that has threatened a transformation of the basics.

The reason? This industry doesn’t need disruption to grow and flourish. While construction has always been innovative in engineering, design and building, it has consistently struggled with internal procedures mired in antiquated analog processes, disconnected communications, disparate systems and inconsistent data. The result is an industry that loses even as it’s winning.

According to the 2017 McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report “Reinventing Construction: A Route to Higher Productivity,” this lag in productivity reduced the industry’s value by an estimated $1.6 trillion in 2016. However, it points to one specific opportunity. Rather than disruption, what the industry needs is a galvanizing spark to bring owners, architects, engineers, contractors and subcontractors and others into the modern digital age and out of its fragmented, outdated workflow.

Modernizing Where You Are

According to MGI, the industry possesses one of the lowest levels of digital adoption among all industries, contributing to a huge information management gap. And an industry hamstrung by disconnected processes can never realize its profit potential—in good economic times or bad.

However, the explosion of recent business has created worker shortages, wage increases and material cost surges, making the reduction of inefficiencies even more critical. So, how can an industry with traditional ebbs and flows modernize to take full advantage of a business boom?

Unifying, Not Disrupting

The construction industry’s problem resides in systems still separated into silos, where there is no central source of information and no data sharing across all parties working on any given job. As such, suppliers cannot easily identify when materials are needed or if delivery might hamper a project that’s been delayed; site supervisors can’t easily ascertain when equipment might be needed.

Subcontractors are unaware of changes to a building’s schedule; architects aren’t informed of on-site challenges construction workers uncover during the building process. This level of poor communication (or miscommunication) can delay progress, create missed deadlines and ultimately cost thousands of dollars.

The solution is to deploy available technologies in data sharing and artificial intelligence (AI) that can immediately alert all parties of relevant changes in construction schedules. Collaboration is key. Therefore, your system must be cloud-based to allow everyone access to information anywhere, anytime, on any device.

The system should focus on data over documents and ensure key information, like altered time schedules and even worker shortages, are shared in real time. The right solution closes communication gaps in project management, integrates with standard enterprise resource planning platforms, and supports growth and scale to accommodate fluctuations in business. 

Taking Notes on AI

So far, efforts to incorporate AI into the construction industry have failed, primarily due to incomplete application. In order to succeed in construction, AI has to be delivered from a data-driven perspective, pulling information from requests for proposals, available resources, budgets, requests for information, BIM drawings, work schedules, employee schedules, architect drawings and more.

The AI-driven system creates a single source of truth for all events occurring on a project, with everyone from subcontractors, to architects, to suppliers. By utilizing the cloud, all parties can operate from the same platform and gain access to the same information, helping avoiding confusion and surprises in budget overruns, delays and other issues. When problems occur, they are recognized more quickly and resolved more easily.

Data intelligence won’t disrupt the industry, but it will allow the construction business, as it exists, to operate in a more seamless manner. Moving beyond simply advancing document management processes, an AI-driven system enables true collaboration and creates an atmosphere of growth in any and all economic conditions.