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Renewed focus on digital transformation will transform construction

by BDigital_Admin
Without the right skills, construction will fail to capitalise on the benefits of digital transformation, writes Alex Micallef.

Without the right skills, construction will fail to capitalise on the benefits of digital transformation, writes Alex Micallef, UK GM at Graitec

The recent updates to the Construction Playbook, created to encourage collaboration and strategic relationships between the public and private sectors, has been well received – the industry has welcomed the government’s commitment to advancing MMC, sustainability and the focus on building safety.

Yet, while digitisation is a key component in delivering all the objectives listed within the Construction Playbook, technology remains a stumbling block for the construction sector and, the reality is, without a specific focus on digitisation across the board, fundamental transformation will remain elusive.

It’s no secret that the construction industry has been slow to adopt digital technology. And while the pandemic, and the challenges it created, undoubtedly forced transformation to aid collaboration and the sharing of data and information, the pace of change has remained frustratingly slow.

While it’s certainly positive that the importance of digital transformation is now clearer than ever, a strategy must be put in place to build technical proficiency and skills.

Typically, when the construction industry talks about the skills gap the focus tends to rest on ‘traditional’ on-site, hands-on skills involved in the bricks and mortar building of a structure – yet the use of data, including the way information is interpreted and managed, is increasingly important.

While sub-contractors are accustomed to completing large-scale, multi-million-pound fit-out projects, for example, they are often less familiar with producing complex 3D models for construction.

Even Building Information Modelling (BIM) still means little in practice for many within the industry, with difficulties managing the complex software.

Failing to adopt tech will impact growth

Our team spends a great deal of time in clients’ offices, factories and manufacturing facilities, helping to integrate new software and supporting their teams as they get to grips with new processes and new workflows.

We see far too many sub-contractors still relying on excel, which not only carries implications for specific projects, but also impacts the growth and profitability of their business.

Without a real focus on digital technology, the proficiency gap will continue to widen. The industry must move quickly to build a broader understanding of why data is needed and how it should be used to best effect.

In failing to adapt to the pace of technological change, construction businesses not only lose valuable gains in productivity and efficiency, but, ultimately, will see a correlation with their bottom line.

Sub-contractors are increasingly finding that projects – and their chances in winning lucrative new contracts – require literacy and experience in using digital technology; whether that is BIM tools or software like Autodesk Construction Cloud to enable effective collaboration between project teams.

As 2023 nears, construction businesses must refocus on digital technology, ensuring that they are well-placed to capitalise on new opportunities – and able to secure those lucrative new contracts.

There are several areas that should be prioritised as a starting point – collaboration, interoperability and compatibility; automation brings huge improvements in reliability, data accessibility and efficiency.

Common data environment

Creating a common data environment is vital and will deliver benefits across the business – from ensuring that incoming bid opportunities are managed, distributed and tracked to meet deadlines, through to the ability of project teams to access up-to-date drawings and documents, whether on site or in the office, and the tracking and management of costs against budgets for labour and materials.  

While businesses will understandably be keeping a keen eye on new capital investments over the coming months, technology should remain a priority. Many sub-contractors are unaware of the zero financing offered by some technology providers, Graitec included, spreading budgets across the year.

Digital technology is here to stay but unless the rate of adoption accelerates, coupled with a commitment to closing the technological skills gap within the industry, progress on the major objectives outlined in the Construction Playbook, like sustainability for example, risks stagnation.

Read next: The case against a flexible approach to the golden thread

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