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The construction industry, like many others, is experiencing a period of rapid change. From drones to 3D printing to robotics, new construction technology seems to come out by the day. New building methodologies and new ways of working together are being explored. And on top of all of that, the pandemic forced much of the workforce to disperse, and new regulations were put into place, often changing daily.

This is a lot to manage in an already high-risk, low-margin business. It’s been inspiring to witness this industry’s adaptability and resilience as the world around it is continually shifting and evolving. Looking back on almost two years of building through COVID-19, some key trends and lessons are beginning to emerge. And it seems some of this change is here to stay. 

A Pandemic-Driven Digital Technology Boom

At the onset of the pandemic, construction companies—considered essential businesses—needed to transform their jobsites and offices to ensure worker safety, while also continuing to progress on projects with minimal disruption. To do this, they leaned on digital technology solutions more than ever before. The businesses that already had these systems in place were able to adapt to these rapid changes quickly and minimize disruptions to their jobs and businesses. The inability for teams to meet face-to-face in offices led to increased reliance on remote collaboration solutions that helped teams see the status of projects and share the information necessary to keep them on schedule, wherever they were. 

But construction can’t happen remotely, and concrete needs to be poured at the jobsite. Solutions for communication and collaboration helped construction firms keep projects on track not just by connecting field and office, but by better anticipating project disruption by analyzing schedules, materials stock levels, weather patterns and more.

The companies using these solutions quickly recognized benefits far beyond remote collaboration. These included streamlining processes for payroll, material procurement, bidding, team building and knowledge-sharing between projects—all made possible by maintaining a single, universally accessible version of the truth for every aspect of every project.

A Lasting Impact: The Future of Construction

Will the rate of change in the construction industry slow? Will companies that have adopted technology over the past two years go back to how they operated before, when jobsites and offices are fully opened? This is a highly unlikely outcome. Construction has always been a low-margin business, and the continuing pressure from supply chain disruptions and commodity price increases further emphasizes the importance of finding efficiencies through digital technologies.

Over the past couple of years, the rapid adoption of technology solutions and the ability to access a single, central place with all key information ensured stakeholders could successfully work remotely. For example, workers onsite have the ability to store 360-degree site photos and other project information in a single location, reducing the need to travel. Project managers can easily review the status of key project elements to see whether they are done correctly, reducing the need for expensive and time-consuming onsite visits. These efficiencies, driven by digital collaboration tools powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, power the analytics that allow companies to obtain a holistic view of their projects and extract critical data from them. 

Looking into 2022, centralizing and analyzing data will continue to be critical for growth. Keeping all information in the single data store enables companies to use historical data to identify key trends and make more informed decisions moving forward, eliminating mammoth investigations trying to track down why a poor decision was made or what the total cost to the company was. Information that in the past would have been quickly lost and forgotten is now permanently captured and easy to get to. This has the potential to dramatically reduce the need for change orders as a company can capture why change orders were required on previous projects and apply that knowledge to current and future projects.

It is clear that COVID-19 both underscored and accelerated the need for digital innovation. As construction faces a worker shortage while demand for construction is booming, companies are now seeking technologies that can help create efficiencies, reduce rework and delays, and enable them to move off of the current job and onto the next one.

For example, leveraging ML technology to evaluate job progress, worker performance, and the availability of materials results in projects being completed quicker, to a higher standard, and at a much lower cost. It is clear that implementing automation, AI and ML is going to be a game changer for the industry. 

As AI and ML continue on an upward trajectory, 3D printing and increased reliance on prefabrication and offsite construction is also expected to grow even more, especially in the wake of COVID-19. Entire rooms can now be fabricated entirely offsite, transported and then installed with a crane, with any plumbing, electrical and ductwork to be added later, either by robot or human. Large-scale building projects of the future will become increasingly modular, and as urban centers grow more dense, more work will need to be done offsite. But, the need for effective coordination and communication does not change, whether rooms are built on or off the jobsite.

Preparing for the Future

The construction industry is clearly in the midst of a major transformation with more demand than ever before. The recently passed infrastructure bill further signifies the importance of this industry and the impact it has on everyone’s lives, every day. The bill specifically allocated $100 million over five years for digital construction management solutions, highlighting just how impactful digital transformation will be for the industry and its ability to tackle all of its current backlog, and the future projects that will stem from the infrastructure bill.

There is no doubt that the pandemic reshaped many industries, and the construction industry is no exception. Companies that were quick to leverage new digital technologies to meet the sudden demand for remote communication and collaboration will see long-term benefits from greater efficiency, enabling them to safely complete more projects faster with higher margins. Leaders across the globe seem to have the below in common in their approach to managing this change:

  • they create a culture of innovation by making it okay for everyone in the company to question the “way it’s always been done”; 
  • they build a pipeline of tech-savvy talent who embrace innovation; and
  • they hire a dedicated technology individual or team whose job it is to understand how new solutions can benefit the business.


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