Technology

Connected Construction Is Rapidly Approaching: Are You Ready?

Out of necessity arising from the global pandemic, the industry has hit the fast-forward button on technology adoption—abandoning paper, automating workflows and optimizing data.
By Jim Lynch
March 11, 2021
Topics
Technology

The construction industry has shown an unparalleled level of resiliency over the past year. In navigating one of the most difficult periods in recent history, companies have been forced to adapt to an entirely new way of working—adopting new technologies, new processes and new mindsets.

Leaders across the industry have acknowledged and responded to the galvanizing impacts of the pandemic, with two-thirds of executives agreeing that COVID-19 has accelerated industry transformation and half reporting they’ve increased investments to prepare for the new future.

Out of necessity, the industry has hit the fast-forward button on this technology adoption—abandoning paper, automating workflows and optimizing data.

Now more than ever before, leaders have the opportunity to embrace and capitalize on this current transformation and make construction more predictable, safe and sustainable by adopting a methodology that sounds simple, yet is incredibly powerful: connected construction.

The Future of Construction

Connecting construction projects, teams and businesses is a worthy endeavor. Breaking down information and communication silos, as well as connecting teams and data helps to reduce rework, delays and risk—while gaining valuable insight and visibility into the entire building process. But contractors still have a long way to go to bring this concept into a reality that permeates the industry.

New workflows and technologies have generated unprecedented volumes of data and, according to FMI, 95% of data captured in construction and engineering industry currently goes unused. Disconnected people and information will continue to hinder firms and projects across the sector.

It’s time to address these gaps and seize the future of connected construction to help mitigate the disruption caused by the pandemic, build resiliency and ensure the industry is prepared to act on the vast opportunities that connected construction will bring.

Data Holds the Key

One fundamental opportunity is the introduction of better integrated workflows across the entire project lifecycle. Whether it’s setting teams up for success using risk management tools during preconstruction or delivering a data-rich handover to owners, companies can enhance critical workflows with digital tools that connect information—and people—across the different phases of a project.

Simultaneously, connected construction can also enable the industry to make greater use of advanced analytics. Data holds the insights to drive better outcomes across projects and throughout companies, and new analytical tools are helping firms to extract and collate information more easily. In turn, leaders have a more holistic and historical view of data and, more importantly, what that data means and what should be done, if anything, as a result. With connected construction, firms can turn real-time data into actionable insights, empowering the industry to learn from the past.

Connected construction can also enable firms to take advantage of entirely new methodologies, such as prefabrication, that require an advanced level of communication and collaboration. Prefabrication delivers greater certainty on schedules and budgets, increased productivity and reduced disruption onsite, as illustrated by the rapid health care projects delivered in 2020.

Realizing Connected Construction

So how does connected construction become a reality? To fully actualize and implement connected construction, the industry’s digital transformation must be underpinned by a strategy to connect people, workflows and data.

First, the very foundation of connected construction is a common data environment (CDE). Establishing a CDE is critical for organizations to break down siloes and disconnected processes. Centralizing data gives decision-makers access to key information and the analytics that will enable the organization to drive continual improvements.

In addition to leveraging a centralized platform for data, empowering our workforce with new skillsets will be equally as important. As a result of the global pandemic, we’ve seen the skillsets required from employees shift—whether it’s the need for remote collaboration or training in new software. Providing workers with digital skills will help them adapt to the jobs of the future. At the same time, the companies that empower employees with this kind of environment will attract, retain and develop the very best talent and, ultimately, win.

Another foundational block of connected construction lies in the cloud. Cloud-based technology provides a single source of truth across all project activities, connecting teams for more effective and efficient collaboration—often leading to digital workflows that are deeply integrated with one another. Fully integrated workflows can not only improve productivity, but drastically reduce data loss across the lifespan of a project.

Finally, connected construction isn’t only about technology—it’s about the culture of the industry. Leaders must foster collaboration throughout the building lifecycle, across different stakeholders, organizations and teams. That means becoming comfortable with the greater degree of transparency provided by technology. It’s also about sharing and managing risk in more intelligent, data-driven ways. It means enabling owners, general contractors and specialty contractors to think holistically about projects and acknowledging the interconnectedness of the design, plan, build and operate phases.

The Dawn of Connected Construction

Driven by the necessities of the pandemic, businesses are realizing what is possible with digital transformation and growing their efforts. New technology solutions are now available to support every workflow in construction and provide seamless integrations across projects.

With connected construction, business can not only survive the new normal, but embrace the new possible. Just as “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” the blocks of connected construction will fall into place over time.

While the future of connected construction might sound far off, the truth is that many of the fundamental aspects of connected construction are already in place and fully operational. It’s time for firms to create a digital foundation that will connect teams, workflows and data to deliver better outcomes today—and build a better industry for the future.

by Jim Lynch

Jim Lynch leads Autodesk’s efforts to create and deliver products and services that accelerate the construction industry’s transformation from analog-based processes to digital workflows. Jim manages all aspects of business operations within the Construction Business Unit, including product design and development, marketing, sales and customer success. He and his team are focused on delivering innovative, cloud-based solutions to help the global construction industry reduce risk and increase margins. In his 20-plus-year tenure at Autodesk, Jim has held a number of key leadership roles in AEC product development, product management, and marketing efforts. He was a key contributor in scaling Revit into one of Autodesk’s flagship products and establishing BIM as an industry standard. He holds a BS in Computer Science from Fitchburg State College.

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