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Too old for tech? The barriers to digital construction

Does age present a barrier to embracing new digitised construction methods?

Technological innovation and improved connectivity are changing the way the industry delivers projects across the globe, with pioneering firms using digital construction to boost profit margins. But widespread adoption faces a variety of challenges, from an ageing workforce through to sheer variety of industry disciplines.

One firm looking to further develop its capabilities is Blue Chip PFP, which provides passive fire protection systems to the industry. Its technical director Craig Blyth was among the 1,147 respondents to a survey on digital construction, in association with Microsoft – and won an iPad in the accompanying prize draw.

Bolster example

As an example of how digitisation is taking hold in the sector, Mr Blyth describes a system Blue Chip uses that provides transparency and clarity on projects. “We use Bolster, which allows us to see in real-time the work our operatives are doing on site,” he says. “We can upload a drawing that can be accessed by desktop or mobile device; the operative can log in and mark the room where they are working on the job and take photos as work progresses.”

He explains that this “digital worksheet” is both time and date-stamped, offering the client visibility on how works are progressing so they can work keep tabs on budgets and costs as they go.

Digital connectivity means more than project monitoring to the business, though. Mr Blyth says that, while operatives on site use their phones for group chats via WhatsApp and have MS Outlook for emails, meetings and minutes, Blue Chip PFP is considering a health and safety package that can add digital method statements so that operatives can operate 100 per cent remotely.

Middle age ground

However, employee age has shown itself to be a crucial factor in the uptake of new systems – particularly relevant given the industry’s ageing workforce.

“It’s about recognising people’s individual capabilities and limitations and trying to capitalise on that while bringing them up to speed” 

Craig Blyth, Blue Chip PFP

“I’ve found that the age category [of staff] makes a big difference,” Mr Blyth says. “Our younger operatives who are maybe 18-23 that are coming through are very open, will take things on board and adapt to whatever [digital innovation] they are given.”

Mr Blyth believes it is important to find some middle ground. “We could play a role in finding a happy medium to bring in training courses and more awareness for [older staff on technology], but still have paper exercises in place for the younger ones,” he says. “It’s about recognising people’s individual capabilities and limitations and trying to capitalise on that while bringing them up to speed.”

To discover more about the industry’s uptake of technology and how digital construction is developing, read CN’s in-depth analysis in, association with Microsoft, here.

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