Driving Efficiency & Productivity with Smart Construction

As construction projects become more complex, construction companies must infuse agility into their operations to avert time and cost overruns by tapping into the benefits of advanced technology solutions like Building Information Modeling, Artificial Intelligence, IoT, and Big Data analytics, and keep pace with the fast-moving world of engineering, construction, and operations.
Paul Wallett, Regional Director, Middle East & India, Trimble Solutions

The global population is urbanizing and growing at an unprecedented rate. The statistics speak for themselves. Cities will house well over half the world’s predicted nine billion inhabitants by 2050. As a corollary, the construction industry is expected to reach US$15.2 trillion by 2030 with average global construction growth amounting to 3.9%, outstripping global GDP numbers by one percentage point.

If we don’t “smarten” up our construction methods now, viz. revamping and establishing more effective and sustainable processes, this industry will be unable to cope with the increased demand for infrastructure. As construction projects become more complex, construction companies must venture to infuse agility and responsiveness into their operations to avert the concomitant time and cost overruns and keep pace with the fast-moving world of engineering, construction, and operations (EC&O).

Time and again, research studies have ranked construction as one of the least-digitized industries, only outstripping agriculture and hunting. Many construction firms are saddled with legacy infrastructure and processes and face long-term under-investment in skills and technologies. Hence, it comes as no surprise that other sectors are working to push the boundaries of technology use and capturing disproportionate gains. As a result, the construction industry is scrambling just to keep up.

However, the tide is turning and there is a raft of innovative developments set to reinvent the construction industry in the near future. By tapping into the benefits of advanced technology solutions like Building Information Modeling (BIM), Artificial Intelligence (AI), IoT and big data analytics, firms can reduce build cost and time while improving site-based jobs’ safety and efficiency. In an industry notorious for razor-thin margins, this is key in sparking the much-needed disruption.

Building Information Modelling
Eliminating the need for a blueprint to be produced before the building of a project, Building Information Modelling is without a doubt one of the most significant breakthroughs in the construction industry in recent years. It enables the creation of a very comprehensive and dynamic 3D model of an asset, bringing together all the information relevant to a project in one location. The transparency and insight from this enable firms to benchmark and compare projects and settle on a shared vision early on mitigating risks that can derail work and sharpen decision-making.

Trimble Connect
Cloud-based collaboration tools like Trimble Connect are aimed towards the same end. By uniting worksite teams with shared planning and scheduling information, they help minimize wasted time and resources. Stakeholders can track progress, identify, and mitigate risks, and manage change to orchestrate the delivery of projects efficiently – to meet quality, time, and cost objectives.

Trimble CrewSight
The adoption and integration of smart tech solutions is also an effective means to ameliorate on-site health and safety risks, a persistent worry for the construction industry. By assisting contractors in planning worksite logistics ahead of time and identifying and addressing possible dangers in real-time, on-site management systems such as Trimble CrewSight enable project managers to guarantee that safety standards are being met.

The Statue of Unity serves as a great example to elucidate this further. At 182 meters high, this effigy of independence hero Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel holds the distinction of being the tallest in the world. As one would expect, the construction process of this colossal monument saw numerous stakeholders interfacing within a highly complex system. However, by leveraging Tekla’s constructible 3D BIM model and other information technology and automation tools, the contracting firm was able to create a culture of good project management habits that fostered visibility, communication, and accountability throughout the project team. With seamless communication, all project stakeholders had access to current project information for reliable decision-making and easy-to-use dashboards helped team members keep the project on track, preventing them from going over budget or falling behind schedule. As a result, the project was completed about two months before the budgeted timeline with nearly 25% overall efficiency gain.

Smart Construction
Construction is a risky business. Each project functions as a prototype in some sense; it’s a singular undertaking that comes with a fresh set of challenges. Smart construction, though not a panacea in the slightest, can assuage some of this uncertainty, helping stakeholders withstand the erratic market fluctuations, ever-increasing client demands and project complexities, that have become commonplace in the industry.

However, the construction industry’s propensity to adopt these cutting-edge technologies tends to vary and appears to be heavily influenced by the project team and the client’s desire to adopt them. That being the case, the adoption of technology must be accompanied by a strong business case, directed at problems that need solving. With hiccups that have hamstrung the industry for decades increasingly being seen as reflections of the industry’s failure to embrace the potential of digitalization, a veritable revolution in working practices and cultures across the industry is nigh.
NBM&CW April 2023
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