Technology is being implemented in the construction industry, but the adoption trickle-down effect from the largest companies to the smallest has been slow. What are the hurdles stopping the industry from adopting tech as a whole, and how should we address them?
Construction is poised to learn lessons from other industries that are known to be high-tech. Those industries, like manufacturing and aerospace, have already figured out how to design systems that are reliable under pressure. They’ve already figured out how to balance safety with speed and rigorous testing.
Still, stumbling blocks exist for tech implementation in the construction industry.
Buggy tech is one problem. When Software Advice published its recommendations for construction apps in 2022, it considered 391 products. But there are hundreds, if not thousands, of software programs that a company could try, quite a few of them designed for mobile devices. No matter what the software promises, if it’s buggy and problematic to use, it will simply get thrown away.
Some companies get stuck in an infinity loop of pilot projects. They never progress beyond the pilot phase. There are others that try to solve too many generic use cases not specific to a job. You’ve got to optimize your company’s niche then increase it.
It’s hard to quantify return on investment for using technology in the field. This is highlighted by the habit of some companies to convert paper designs to digital form, then convert the digital files back to paper, an inevitable source of mistakes. To use data, you have to capture it. And your project data might be on paper or inside people’s heads.
While tech support is important, remote support is critical. Historically, software companies sold their solutions to IT departments and an IT staff could usually figure out issues by themselves. These days tech companies are selling products that get used by field workers, who may have no clue about how to solve their issues. In addition, they don’t want to feel abandoned. Most tech software companies are not strong at supporting workers in the field. However, their responsibility is to educate the construction company they are selling to and help that customer through the implementation process.
To be successful in a tech implementation, a construction company should plan ahead. Take the time to map your plan and think through it. You should consider where you are losing money and/or time. You should decide where you want to improve your business. Then a comprehensive strategy can be developed with the outcome of solving those pains. The least preferable reason to implement tech is because someone else is doing it. Tech should be implemented as a tool for achieving business results. Once you understand your challenges, you can find the tech to solve it. You should regularly ask, “What do we want to get out of this?”
As the industry undergoes a digital transformation, company leaders need to be open to doing new things. They need to rethink how their business operates. Digital transformation is a framework to help people decide what they need. They may need to change processes, change the way they train workers, change the way they manage labor because of labor shortages. Whatever that change looks like, technology is one way to get there.
Tune in to Bridging the Gap Podcast episode 171 with Matt Kleiman to learn more about tech adoption in the construction industry.