The Central Role Of Technology In Post-Pandemic Construction Sites In The USA
The repercussions of COVID-19 are being felt the most in the construction industry.
Some construction projects had to be delayed, while some got canceled due to the shortage of supplies such as structural steel and glass that usually comes from Asia.
Also, unlike other industries where the workforce can work remotely, construction projects required workers to work on-site.
Typically, construction companies do not rely heavily on digital tools as they are risk-averse and fragmented in nature. However, the pandemic has compelled them to leverage technology more. For example, McKinsey observed that designers and engineers are increasingly using Building Information Management (BIM) to manage projects and speed up project delivery.
With vaccines being delivered and the industry preparing for post-pandemic recovery, we foresee technology playing a central role.
Role Of Technology In Post-Pandemic Construction In The USA
1. Cloud-based collaboration tools
Due to social distancing, companies had to resort to using collaboration tools to exchange data and communicate in real-time. An integrated cloud platform enables all stakeholders to share data and information on one platform. It allows them to streamline processes and improve their productivity. The best part is the stakeholders can continue working from remote areas. They do not have to be present at the site. This saves their time and effort in completing the project. Considering that all the information is shared on a unified cloud-based platform, stakeholders can save time in to-and-fro communication and manage enterprise-wide project communications efficiently.
2. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)
Contractors can address specific design and inspection tasks remotely by using AR and VR. To begin with, AR can be used to walk the contractors through the site to review it even if they are not present at the site. Onsite too, AR also helps contractors view the finer details of the project. All they have to do is hold a smartphone or tablet with the camera facing the site. They can see the scaled-up version of the site and see things that cannot be viewed through the naked eye. VR, on the other hand, helps contractors to remotely train workers even as they work on the site. Most importantly, AR and VR help companies to save money on costly mistakes by detecting errors ahead of time.
3. BIM The World Economic Forum praised BIM for its contribution to transforming the construction industry during COVID-19. Although BIM has been used by the industry for decades, its benefit became even more apparent during the lockdown. It enabled the stakeholders to continue progress even though they were working from remote areas. They were able to plan projects better, mitigate risks, and streamline operations and maintenance. All the information from the
field was updated in real-time into BIM models, making it easier for the stakeholders to monitor the project’s progress. We anticipate an uptick in the usage of BIM models for smarter planning and designing of the buildings.
4. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation
Like every industry, the construction industry also reported productivity concerns due to social distancing norms and lockdowns. Post-pandemic, the construction industry will be under immense pressure to improve its productivity. That’s where AI and automation will help. Companies can leverage AI to automate many of their processes such as scheduling tasks. So, the work can continue even without human intervention. The tasks will be completed on time without any error. AI can also be used to streamline process workflows, do safety inspections, and ensure the overall quality of the project. In a nutshell, AI can help improve the overall process management in the project. According to Accenture, AI can increase industry profits by 71% by 2035.
5. Data analytics
Data analytics empowers companies to gain a competitive advantage. It enables them to analyze historical data and current data and use it to predict important future outcomes. Using data analytics will help companies to anticipate issues and prepare for them to mitigate risks. Given the enormous losses faced by the industry during the pandemic, data analytics will be a perfect option to help companies streamline their processes and fix problems proactively to avoid further losses. It enables the stakeholders to take proactive decisions instead of reactive ones like they are accustomed to doing normally. Apart from that, data analytics helps stakeholders to determine better budgets and schedules aligned with the scope of the project.
Technology will reshape the way the construction industry functions. According to the United States Chamber of Commerce, 70% of contractors believe that using technology will help them improve productivity and the safety of workers. It will enable them to reduce costs, manage projects efficiently, streamline the construction process, and accelerate the speed of delivering the project. With the right choice of technology, support from an expert partner, and the commitment of the workers, construction companies will be more future-ready and better prepared to face situations like the pandemic. A digital transformation could be coming for a so-far traditional industry like construction.