Following what has been a very turbulent 15 months or so for the construction industry, from market lows to record comparative growth, there are still huge opportunities to build back better – both in the short and longer term. Not just the things that we do and build, but in how we do them – quicker, smarter, more efficiently and with a focus on better delivering valued outcomes for the end client.
Construction is an industry that has made some in-roads to unlocking the value that Digital Transformation can bring. Across organisations Digital Transformation initiatives have come about in various guises, such as:
- Considered strategic transformation programmes such as plant asset management and associated telematics.
- Department initiatives well supported by a central IT function
- Stealth initiatives: as can happen where roadblocks are experienced. Sometimes digital transformation innovation is done by stealth, in order for various arms of an organisation to implement capabilities that enable them to meet other targets more effectively (e.g. time, cost or quality benefits). It is, however, important that innovation should never be ‘tech for tech’s sake’. A strong business case showing return on investment, and clearly identifying business benefits, is a crucial prerequisite – and enables senior stakeholders to consider wider application across the organisation or group.
Digital Transformation does not need to be a case of re-inventing of the wheel. To a large extent, understanding the ‘art of the possible’ can help to expand thinking beyond immediate requirements. It can also lead to consideration of better fit-for-purpose solutions that enable benefits to be felt more widely across the organisation – even extending to partnerships and clients.
There are many examples of Digital Transformation successes in construction, and with increasing appetite to unlock value for businesses, we take a look at a selection of examples to give some food for thought:
Out in the field
Drone technology: The use of drones for undertaking site surveys and monitoring build progress has helped reduce risk and delivered improved survey data. The use of drones has been estimated to provide £8.6bn upside within the construction and manufacturing industries by 2030. The impact for people also needs to be considered in the deployment of drone technology, with opportunities for skilled workers to operate drones and a new digital skillset required to analyse the outputs, which represents a significant change for all those impacted.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) and the creation of a Digital Twin have been much talked about over the years and have gained traction across the industry. Digital Twin developments have been rapid and has come like a wave, impacting everything in its path. Being able to replicate a physical product virtually has accelerated the industry’s ability to mitigate physical construction risk, reduce re-work and enhance predictive maintenance. Overall, the introduction and evolution of BIM has helped firms unlock huge value in terms of collaboration, time savings in establishing a single source of the truth for data, and direct savings through detecting physical build clashes before they are experienced at a high cost on site. The National Building Specification (NBS) has published research into BIM adoption in the UK since 2011, and in 2020 published its 10th annual BIM report. In 2011, 43% of respondents had not heard of BIM, but in 2020 73% said they were using BIM.
As part of the government’s Digital Built Britain drive, all construction firms must be BIM Level 2 certified (or on the road to certification) in order to be eligible for government sponsored contracts.
With BIM Level 3 on the horizon, how long will it be before this next iteration becomes the basic criteria for eligibility for the large scale infrastructure projects of the future?
Joining the dots: end-end Digital Transformation
The focus of Digital Transformation has in the past been in favour of the back-office, where immediate effects of moving from paper to digital systems have enabled businesses to realise efficiencies fairly rapidly. However, the greater benefit of linking Digital Transformation throughout processes – from back-office to site – means significant inefficiencies (evident in hand-offs between the two) can be addressed.
IoT smart monitoring of building performance can enable real-time feedback of data for analysis in BIM. This vastly reduces costly building monitoring activity and provides engineers with a wealth of information to constantly improve future building and infrastructure designs. This marks a significant change in the way that businesses continue to interact with the end-product, and the skillset required for both site and back-office roles.
On a much simpler scale, the introduction of e-sign documents using mobile devices reduces administration and sometimes lengthy approvals. Although a much smaller practical example of Digital Transformation, there needs to be clarity on the new processes and the change impact needs to be understood for change to be effectively managed and ensure solutions are adopted, and lead to the expected benefits realisation.
Digital Transformation is not delivered by a ‘one size fits all’ approach, but there are common elements in terms of establishing a clear vision, having engaged and aligned senior sponsors, and managing change effectively to ensure adoption and make sure the end result delivers the expected benefits.
For more information about Digital Transformation and how you can set up your programme for success, contact DavidD@NineFeetTall.com