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Gwen Chen
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May 14, 2019

Digital Transformation Trends in the Construction Industry

The construction industry is no stranger to digital transformation.

In the past decade, construction companies have doubled their investments in technology.

With so much skin in the game, this should come as no surprise. By 2021, it’s estimated that the global construction market will exceed $24 trillion.

While construction companies are in the process of modernizing their operations, they still have a long way to go. Most construction businesses still rely on the same tried-and-true techniques they’ve used for decades—like paper-based project and supply chain management systems.

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The result, according to McKinsey, is that construction projects are running 20% past deadline and 80% over budget, on average.

The benefits of digital transformation are certainly there—ranging from reduced labor costs, increased safety, and shorter project times, to name a few. Add it all up, and it’s critical that the construction industry embraces digital transformation.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the most impactful digital transformation trends in the construction industry: 

Big Data is taking over

Construction sites generate a massive amount of data. Companies that can quickly process data and make it actionable are reaping the benefits.

For example, JE DUNN is one of the largest construction firms in the U.S. The company recently partnered with Autodesk—a leading maker of 2D and 3D CAD technology—to put their data to work and optimize the design process. When JE DUNN applied its new data modelling system to a $60 million civic center construction project, the company was able to accelerate their timeline by 12 weeks due to less back-and-forth communication during the pre-construction phase. As a result, the company saved $11 million.

As this example shows, there’s a difference between stockpiling data and making it work for your organization. It’s not just about having big data—it’s about using it.

Wearable devices are optimizing worksites

Another way that big data is transforming the construction industry is through the use of wearable devices. As workers move about a construction site, wearable devices enable supervisors to visualize where they spend the most time. 

Armed with that information, supervisors can then place tools and materials in more convenient areas, which reduces labor costs by decreasing the amount of wasted time spent hauling materials and gathering tools.

Beyond that, wearable devices can also make construction worksites safer

Robotics and automation are ramping up

Construction companies are one of the least automated industries when it comes to robots performing tasks that are otherwise performed by humans.

Despite that fact, construction companies are increasingly looking to expand their use of robotics where it makes sense. One study, for example, revealed that spending on construction robots will more than double by 2025. 

Kewazo, a Munich-based startup, developed robotic technology that decreases scaffolding construction expenses by 33% while reducing the set up time up by 42%.

The company also boasts that their robots reduce the frequency of accidents while sparing construction workers from the strenuous task of lifting heavy scaffolding material during the initial construction phase.

Robots are replacing aging construction workers

The construction industry is faced with an ever-aging workforce; robots might just come to the rescue.

In Japan, over one-third of construction workers are at least 54-years-old. By 2025, it’s estimated that the Japanese construction industry will face a shortage of over 1.2 million workers due to its aging workforce and the fact that there aren’t any younger workers ready to replace them. 

The U.S. isn’t too far behind; the average construction worker is 43-years-old.

To bridge these labor gaps, more and more construction businesses are turning to robots.

We anticipate this trend will grow into the future along with advancements in robotic technology and 5G wireless infrastructure.

Mobile apps are fostering digital collaboration and transparency

Mobile apps are perhaps the most exciting digital transformation trend in the construction industry.

Thanks to no-code app development platforms, construction companies are able to quickly build custom apps that manage data capture, run field reports and safety inspections, track construction projects, and much more.

Additionally, no-code platforms enable everyday construction employees (i.e., citizen developers) to build apps for their businesses, which saves companies from having to absorb massive development costs.

Construction companies of all types are using no-code apps to increase their efficiency. For example, KLB Construction, a Seattle-based civil construction company, reduced mountains of paperwork using no-code apps. And over in Colorado, Front Range Excavating developed a series of apps using AppSheet’s no-code platform. Within a single month, the company’s custom apps were able to facilitate every single process within the company—without hiring a single developer. They even built an app that reduced payroll processing from one day to 30 minutes! Talk about efficiency.

Choosing the best digital tools for your construction business

The first step toward digital transformation is the most important one. Once you begin your journey, you’ll never look back.

Whether your main priority is improving safety, reducing labor costs, or increasing worksite efficiency—or all of the above—there’s sure to be a digital solution to help your construction business get more done more in less time.

To learn more about how AppSheet improves worksite safety, click here. To learn about how to enable digital transformation with custom apps, download the E-book below.

Download the Construction E-book

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