As construction companies are increasingly doing more with less, the demand for construction continues to increase while the supply of skilled labor decreases. Instinctively, construction companies are trying to solve this imbalance by increasing the supply of labor. While such methods as recruiting high school students into construction careers has yielded positive results, it is not keeping pace with the demand. Another way for the construction industry to bridge the gap between supply and demand is to utilize technology to improve productivity.
One tool that is already improving productivity, quality, and safety is building information modeling (BIM). BIM is being used to create 3D models that allow key personnel to plan and manage projects throughout their lifespan, allowing for better planning and design, reduced errors, optimization of materials, and support for prefabrication.
Prefabrication & Modular Construction
The use of prefabrication and modular construction increases project productivity by allowing the construction of various components to occur in a controlled environment (e.g., a remote yard or warehouse facility). The individual components can be assembled faster than a traditional build, which reduces project delivery time. Quality control and safety are also dramatically improved with prefabrication. Prefabrication makes the use of robotics in construction more viable, further increasing productivity.
Other field technologies that can be used to improve productivity include laser scanners, drones, and wearable technologies. Laser scanners can be used to verify the accuracy of installed components, which can eliminate costly rework and the resulting delays.
Drones can be used for site work to assist with cut and fill analysis as well as documenting stages of completion. Wearable technology like internet of things (IoT) enabled safety vests and wristbands improve productivity by tracking labor on job sites.
To help improve communication and reduce or eliminate miscommunication among project team members and between the field and office, mobile devices, collaboration software, and apps increase productivity, reduce waste, and enhance workforce performance. Mobile devices also give field personnel quick and easy access to paperless documents such as drawings, permits, inspections, and change orders.
Data analytics can be used to fine-tune operations and eliminate inefficiencies as well as manage project risks, optimize contractor performance, and improve budgeting. Predictive analytics can be employed to forecast project needs and improve planning. And, business intelligence platforms can pull large amounts of unstructured data from various sources within an organization to provide a more complete visualization of data. The results can help improve decision-making and increase operational efficiency.
CFMA’s Virtual Conference
The opening presentation during CFMA’s 2020 Virtual Conference by James Benham was titled “Post-Pandemic Construction Tech: Surviving & Thriving When the Rules Are Rewritten.” Benham demonstrated how the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the necessity for construction companies to invest in technology. Companies with sufficient technology in place have been able to easily navigate the turbulence created by the pandemic and have kept projects on track while ensuring the safety of their workforce.
The Virtual Conference included other technology sessions with topics ranging from data analytics and cybersecurity to labor cost control methods. Virtual Conference attendees also had the opportunity to learn about new and proposed features as well as the latest updates for eight of the industry’s top enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems during the Virtual Technology Forums.
As this issue of CFMA Building Profits focuses on technology in construction, we hope that the tools contained herein will help CFMA members find new ways for technology to improve productivity and do more with less.
Copyright © 2020 by the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA). All rights reserved. This article first appeared in July/August 2020 CFMA Building Profits magazine.