There are a couple of things preventing the construction industry from adopting digital technologies. First, many construction firms still plan projects on paper, which limits the availability of information across stakeholders and increases the risk of misalignment between them. Second, construction professionals are already specialized, and digital transformation requires them to learn yet another set of technical skills. And third, adopting digital tools requires construction firms to iron out system incompatibilities and change their processes.
However, innovative firms have begun leveraging 21st-century digital tools to ensure higher returns and greater competitiveness across their entire value chain. Let’s take a look at how the construction industry is undergoing a digital transformation.
Innovative construction firms have begun leveraging 21st-century digital tools to ensure higher returns and greater competitiveness across their entire value chain.
Building information modeling (BIM)
A construction project involves many teams with different specializations working together. Architects dream up designs, engineers ensure structural integrity and functionality, prefabricators produce components off site, and project managers handle construction supplies, tools, and personnel. For everyone to work cohesively, they need building information modeling, or BIM.
BIM software uses digital representations of what would become the physical and functional components of a structure. It allows different stakeholders to share the same information, so they can collaborate more closely and avoid becoming out of step with one another. Other areas BIM can assist in include:
- Providing specs to contractors for prefabricating components
- Setting accurate material order quantities
- Planning and scheduling construction phases
- Detecting design and engineering conflicts
- Allotting sufficient spatial buffers and tolerances
- Preventing workflow problems like late materials delivery and misscheduled contractors
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)
BIM is going several steps further with VR and AR. VR creates digital visualizations of the construction project, whereas AR uses a tablet or optical device to add visual overlays (such as a 3D-rendered sofa) to an existing physical space. With these visualizations, stakeholders can perform inspections long before groundbreaking day. Architects and engineers can correct flaws while clients can suggest design changes. These preemptive actions minimize costly change orders and help the project remain within budget and schedule
Project management platforms and mobile communication
Project managers can now use construction-centric project management apps to help them manage internal teams and subcontractors alike, keep track of to-do lists, and digitally disseminate quality control checklists.
Meanwhile, workers can use mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to log into the project management apps, send work updates, and share notes in real time. Therefore, when problems arise, they can alert necessary personnel immediately so that the latter can address those problems as soon as possible. Using a chat app, for instance, a worker can alert the project manager about the wrong pipes being brought to an installation site. The latter quickly checks the delivery logs online and rectifies the mix-up, thereby preventing potentially costly setbacks.
Digital twin technology and artificial intelligence (AI)
To create a digital twin is to create a virtual copy of a structure by using sensor-equipped machines such as drones and IoT devices. More than an amalgamation of data on the structure itself, data on things like airflow, thermodynamics, and foot traffic can be compiled by digital twins. AI can then analyze such data to help designers and engineers optimize aspects of the building, such as energy-efficient HVAC configurations. The technology can also inform the designs of future projects.
Construction consistently has the highest worker death rate across all industries, so firms hold worker safety as their top concern. Part of their latest effort is gearing up personnel with wearables, such as:
- Biometrics sensors that detect heart rate and sudden falls
- Environmental sensors for detecting gas, carbon monoxide, or other hazardous substances
- Location trackers that can be used to find staff trapped in cave-ins
Drones and robots
Surveying sites and inspecting structures can now be done more quickly, safely, and efficiently with drones. Since drones are compact, can fly, and are expendable, they can take the place of humans whenever it’s too risky to do in-person surveys and inspections.
Lastly, the adoption of construction robots increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns and social distancing mandates reduced the availability of construction workers, forcing developers to cover their production shortfalls with machines. While some robots are sophisticated enough to 3D print a house, most machines fulfill simple, repetitive, and tiresome tasks such as laying concrete, assembling steel trusses, and painting walls.
As you can see, when digital technology progresses, it can do so in leaps and bounds. Whether your business is in the construction industry or not, leveraging IT can help you advance and widen your lead from your competitors. To do so, you need the technical expertise of Athens Micro. Send us a message or call us toll-free at 1-866-262-4461 to learn more.