What are digital tools in the construction industry?
Digitalisation affects all businesses, and the construction industry is not an exception.
The use of digital tools such as BIM has become more common, especially in design. Besides, there are plenty of other new applications and devices introduced to construction sites. They help to improve the efficiency or quality of work.
- Project management applications for schedule monitoring and quality assurance
- Condition sensors to measure, for example, the drying and strength of concrete
- Job area cameras, 360 ° cameras and drone footage for visual situational awareness and fact-based visual documentation
- Reporting systems for creating regular reports on the progress of a construction project
- Positioning systems to locate tools and workers on site.
Why does the construction industry need digital tools?
Whether digital or analogical, tools have no absolute value, but their value is formed by what you can achieve when using them. Digital solutions help improve the efficiency and productivity of a construction project. They increase knowledge, help the scheduling of work phases, and enable management of the site even remotely.
The added value of digitalisation in construction is an opportunity to accumulate comparable information from each project. Now you can stop inventing the wheel, again and again, learn continuously and do every next project better.
One of the root causes of the productivity challenge in the construction industry is waste – the amount of unproductive work. The way construction projects are managed and implemented must be changed to reduce it. This could mean, for example, broader application of takt production. The application of production models such as takt production is way easier when supported by a comprehensive digital solution.
Why should digital tools be considered in pre-planning?
Taking digital tools into account during pre-planning is the only way to get the most out of your technology.
The use of different digital solutions is a relatively new phenomenon on construction sites, and thus their exploitation is often still in the experimental stage. Yet, the real benefits of digital tools will only be realised by moving from experiments to established practices that systematically track the results obtained.
If the deployment of digital tools is only considered afterwards, once the budget has been drawn up and the plans made, their use will remain in perpetual pilot mode. Taking digital tools into account already during pre-planning will ensure they become part of everyday life on the job site. By doing so, you make the foundation for the future of your business because the future decision-making of the construction industry will heavily rely on automatically collected data.
Introduction of digital tools in a construction project
Improving the construction industry’s productivity requires, above all, a change in the way we work. The transition towards better-operating models does not happen by itself but requires an active approach from site management.
The data extracted from new tools should not solely remain in possession of the main contractor but also be extended to all project stakeholders.
You get the most out of it when all the digital tools are compatible. So, here’s how to proceed:
- Think about goals first: what do you want to change, and what do you want to achieve? Who will use the new digital tool, and how will you share new information within your organisation?
- Start lightly and choose one or two solutions at the beginning. For example, regular shots with a 360 ° helmet camera are a great way to visually document the progress of a construction site in digital format.
- Today, new applications can be deployed quickly from the cloud, and no massive IT project is required to get started.
- When choosing digital tools, consider their compatibility. Selecting a solution that combines several tools for different needs, such as Aiforsite, is better if you want to achieve tangible benefits.
- Deploy the tools together with the project partners and show them what they can achieve using the tools provided
- Remember change management
- Once you have achieved measurable benefits on the first site, take your lessons to the next project pre-planning. At the same time, experiment with new digital solutions.
- Once you have evidence of improved work processes in selected construction projects, extend the use of digital tools to all your current and future projects.
- Once you have accumulated enough stored data, you can deploy an analytics solution based on artificial intelligence, which will further improve the productivity of your construction project.
“Digital tools add value to all parties in a construction project. It is in the interest of each project owner, contractor and subcontractor to be aware of their possibilities and jointly commit to their use.”
Kari Hirvijärvi, CEO of Aiforsite Oy
This article is part of the Construction Productivity series.