By Anastasios Koutsogiannis, GenieBelt.
The Economist recently named data one of the most valuable resources of our time. It’s no secret that data already plays an integral role in every aspect of our lives both on a personal and professional level. And the construction industry is no exception.
Digitization is around the corner, and many things are expected to change — including the way people in the construction sector work. Despite that, the construction industry is still inefficient when it comes to taking proper care of its data.
According to Think Act Report by Roland Berger, 93 percent of construction stakeholders believe that digitization will have a big impact on every step of the building process. On top of that, 100 percent of building materials companies admit they haven’t managed to exploit the full potential of digital tools in construction.
With that in mind, here’s ten ways data could eventually transform the construction industry.
1. More transparency
Data can optimize the construction process to a significant extent. If managed properly, it can provide a great overview of different tasks and establish an unhindered flow of information between numerous project parties. In that way, everyone can be informed about the current progress of the project, and a transparent connection throughout the whole project can be established. Just like that, you can take full control of the numerous tasks and project agents.
2. Increased accountability
We need to bring accountability back in construction, and strong data management can help a lot. By being able to monitor every single task of the project, you can be confident that your team will always do their jobs exactly as they are supposed to. This can lead to fewer delays, increased productivity, and fewer accidents on-site.
But accountability is not only about rules and performance monitoring. Most importantly, accountability is about liability and trust, which are built on sincere and open communication. In other words, people are asked to perform a task and they do! And the reason for this isn’t a fear of punishment but a sense of responsibility.
Such an approach would have a great impact on the early stages of a project as well. One of the first things construction agents do before they get involved in a building project is the establishment of contract clauses that protect them from miscalculations and poor estimates. This is, of course, a standard part of the whole process, but it reveals the lack of trust between project partners. A transparent and fully traceable construction process can bring this trust back in the sector and lead to more accurate estimations and fewer project failures, in general.
3. Improved decision-making
It goes without saying, increased transparency and accountability can lead to improved decision-making and a more efficient and productive building project. Thanks to the available data, you can make faster and more accurate decisions. It’s easier to follow a unified strategy as a team because everybody is on the same page and has access to the information they need to do their jobs.
For instance, if workers have to add the first row of bricks on site in a week, they should be sure someone has measured the area before they do so. And that’s not all. One of the team members should make sure the bricks will arrive in time for the task to begin. This is where data is necessary. It allows you to understand the needs of your project and act in a fast and accurate way. This can help you avoid a number of costly bottlenecks.
4. Better collaboration
As construction projects become more and more complex, good collaboration can be a serious pain. That’s why more data means better communication. By empowering the connection between the construction site and the office, you can improve the way numerous projects owners collaborate.
The construction manager will have the option to stay up to date with the different issues on site without having to be there every day or spend countless hours doing paperwork. Similarly, construction workers can instantly inform people in the office of any unforeseen problems or upcoming project needs. This sense of continuous connection can provide a strong sense of security and trust between many sides.
5. Fewer project delays
The better the coordination, the fewer delays will eventually emerge. That’s essential for the progress of the project, and it can have multiple benefits. More analytically, data-driven project management can accelerate the whole building process and reduce its cost. And having access to a vast amount of data (e.g. weather data, geologic data, task completion data, etc.) can help construction agents predict the needs of their project according to the season and its current phase.
With this data, tasks can be scheduled with greater precision. The same applies to necessary equipment and materials, which can be on site at the exact time they should be. Thanks to such elements, the building process can be tremendously accelerated and harmful delays can be avoided.
6. Fewer disputes
As a natural continuation of the previous point, fewer delays means fewer disputes. It’s no exaggeration to claim construction is a land of disputes. We’re talking about extremely complicated projects in which many different parties are involved.
In that sense, data can keep things clear and tackle misunderstandings. Plus, recording everything that happens on site can protect you from attempted fraud or disagreements with insurance companies if an accident happens on site.
7. Less waste
Just in Europe, demolition and construction waste accounts for up to 30 percent of all EU-generated material. By construction waste, we are referring to a wide variety of resources, such as bricks, glass, concrete, wood, asbestos, metal, and more. It’s a very high percentage that hurts both the building sector and the environment.
That’s why you want to allow contractors to take an active part in the early stages of the designing-out-waste phase. Find smart and beneficial ways for design teams to learn how to make the most of the available resources and collaborate with contractors.
With the use of material-related data, design teams can detect the best techniques in order to both decrease and recycle waste. Additionally, they can introduce further requirements to the Site Waste Management Plan (SWMP) from a very early stage. Lastly, based on the collected information, you can review the waste material forecasts at any time and adjust your plan accordingly, before even beginning work on site.
8. No budget overruns
According to a 2016 study by McKinsey and Company, 80 percent of construction projects, on a global scale, are going over budget. That’s a terrifying statistic that highlights a serious efficiency problem the construction industry is battling.
With the use of data, there’s a strong hope this problematic reality will change. Precise planning of every task, in conjunction with a more inclusive information flow, can lead to optimized budget management. No more money spent on costly repairs or unpredicted delays.
9. Data as a knowledge base
One of the biggest problems the construction industry is currently facing has to do with its inability to accumulate knowledge and to document progress. In other words, construction has to become much better at analyzing the outcomes of completed projects and maintaining the positive elements for future use. The vast amounts of generated data could help the building sector establish some standardized and highly effective processes that could optimize construction and contribute to better management of resources.
To be more specific, historical data can be used by the building team to identify certain patterns and risks that can put the project or its surroundings in danger. Predictive analytics can, for example, analyze the potential impact of a new building or a street in an area. In that manner, a construction roadmap can be put together for particular areas or types of projects.
Additionally, the analysis of numerous projects can help in coming up with vital conclusions about the benefits and costs of renting or buying construction equipment based on the project phases. Fuel consumption and environmental impact can also be analyzed. And maintenance activities can be examined and scheduled properly in accordance with the feedback provided by weather data or big data from smart sensors inside a building.
10. A new type of workforce
Last but certainly not least, the type of workforce that construction attracts will change due to the use of data in the industry. The need for a more technologically savvy workforce has already arisen. This shift will help the industry to improve its profile and become a more attractive option for young and well-trained employees. Moreover, it is expected to facilitate the effort to retain a young workforce, as there will be many long-term career choices.
All in all, data has significantly increased its presence in the building industry. Many changes are already on their way, and it’s no secret that construction is rapidly changing. At the moment, the biggest challenge for the sector is to take the best out of this shift and come up with a plan that can allow for a more transparent construction process.