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Change is coming. But is tech passing you by?

Richard Threlfall

Technology is constantly evolving. Recent years have seen huge developments in areas like robotics, drones, data analytics and automation.

These innovations have helped enhance project management and improve efficiency, making the construction sector the perfect stage for a technological revolution.

KPMG’s latest Global Construction Survey looked at attitudes and changes across the industry internationally and showed that when it comes to technologies, people in the sector expect change but are unsure of the best way to adapt.

Globally, an overwhelming 93 per cent of respondents think technology will significantly change their business, yet fewer than half have developed a data and technology roadmap. Meanwhile, just 5 per cent view their organisations as ‘cutting edge’ in terms of technological maturity.

When it comes to implementing technological advances, the UK appears to be one of the leaders. British companies are the most likely to use drones and virtual reality and the UK shares top place with China for the use of mobile platforms.

But there is still a long way to go before companies are reaching their maximum potential.

Realising the benefits

Across the sector, companies would rather follow the status quo than lead on innovation. This must change.

It is not just a case of investing in any technology, but finding the most relevant technological advances to improve performance and then aligning these with business strategy.

Tasks like payment processes, data management and calculations could all be made more efficient with automation. Drones can be used for site flybys and data analytics can help predict trends and make forecasting more accurate.

Yet despite these obvious benefits, a very small proportion of owners and contractors are using them routinely.

“Introducing more and better technology will make a career in construction more appealing to millennials”

Other industries have been using exciting advancements in robotics and automation to streamline their work processes for some time. However, unlike other sectors, construction has a lengthy supply chain with numerous layers and various ancillaries. This means that for each project, information is spread across several organisations in a range of different formats and databases.

With such a disjointed working environment, construction firms are unlikely to see the full benefits of implementing a new sophisticated data reporting system, as much of the project data is inaccessible. So it is hardly surprising that so few are investing heavily in digital solutions.

How to get more out of tech

While these structural inefficiencies are unlikely to change overnight, there are steps contractors can take to improve efficiency and get more out of tech.

By looking at the systems that are already being used, firms can check to see if they can be better optimised and whether the information being produced could create insight reports to help inform where performance can be improved.

Moreover, introducing more and better technology will make a career in construction – which continues to struggle to attract younger people into the industry – more appealing to millennials.

Change is coming. We must embrace the advances and benefits technology can bring or risk being left behind by our peers in other sectors and markets.

Richard Threlfall is UK head of infrastructure, building and construction at KPMG

Readers' comments (1)

  • We run drone training courses for infrastructure, media and emergency services . The construction industry as a whole is slowly waking up to the benefits of AI and implementing new technology. Is it risk aversion, lack of information or fear of change at Board level ? Once construction companies take on board the tech benefits and cost savings and opportunities that these new techs bring them there will be rapid adoption and efficiencies. Those that do our courses or see our webinars see wider potential . We know that because of the questions asked. However lack investment or interest from older more conservative Boards is slowing this down. Young engineers and surveyors see the benefits .

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