Work reinvented by technology: SCRA Comment April 2021
By Joel Dandrea19 April 2021
Technology innovation is crucial for employee connection and collaboration as businesses navigate the digital world, Joel Dandrea reports.
As life makes its way back in form and function this year, construction will undeniably continue to be heavily influenced (and even changed) globally by technology.
New technologies that either have or will go from buzzwords to implementation include artificial intelligence (AI), digital fabrication, generative design, reality modelling, real-time visualisation, robotics, virtual and mixed reality plus the ongoing emergence of all-things Internet of Things (IoT).
Automation is one area to keep an eye on, along with how it has accelerated a convergence of manufacturing and building. Leaders in the industrial space(s) should get used to the concept that many future buildings are likely be manufactured as opposed to being built.
Onsite, bringing those structures into existence shall still require plenty of boots on the ground, and some of those boots will be manning workstations. With mobility having become the new norm, one of the biggest trends emerging is demand for high-end mobile workstations. While not a new concept, workers were generally requesting thinner, faster and lighter workstations prior to 2020.
What construction leaders can expect to see in 2021 and beyond is a need for users and IT teams to further optimise the workstation experience to meet the changing needs of employees and their respective workflows.
More powerful workstations will be a more familiar sight. These will be packed with potent graphics processing units (GPUs) to work on sophisticated Building Information Modelling (BIM) datasets, collaborate with remote teams and visualise at the same speeds as in the office computers.
Workers from various construction disciplines and onsite companies should expect to become familiar with these emergent technologies to remain pivotal pieces of any collective onsite team.
Collaboration, communication and conferencing
It is critical to have a constant pulse on varying regional safety mandates and regulations when overseeing projects in multiple locations, on top of remaining vigilant to keep employees safe and avoid work stoppages.
It is likely that at least the majority of team members are using mobile devices in their daily lives. This is all the more reason to adopt a digital media platform to encourage open communication across jobs, which creates a space where everyone can access daily updates, emergency alerts and jobsite information.
Improved communication increases performance, productivity and the pace of work. But it can significantly reduce miscommunication and operational errors, helping avoid re-work – ultimately increasing the number of projects completed on time and on budget.
Implementing a communication platform allows contractors to broadcast best practices and company values to everyone onsite, while also giving employees a space to voice questions, celebrate accomplishments and share knowledge. Using this digital space as a culture carrier will also benefit an organisation’s talent acquisition and retention.
None of this matters without safety, perhaps the most timeless of buzzwords. There are numerous safety concerns when it comes to a construction site, including navigating potentially unsafe terrain, cleaning up the site and evaluating build projects.
For those implementing automation and AI through the use of robotics, some of these concerns can be minimised. Robots can be programmed to execute tasks in high-risk industrial environments – clean-up, tool pick-up and return, even some of the heavy lifting.
Construction industry companies should incorporate emerging technologies and develop new workflows to ensure that the projects they worked so hard to maintain in 2020 can power future projects, as the industry moves away from past challenges of the past and towards future opportunities.