The construction industry is one of the major powerhouses of the UK, accounting for 6% of its national economy, employing 2.4 million workers. Given its significance and scale, the impact of COVID halting projects sent shockwaves across the country.
Yet, as the UK finds itself in recession for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis, construction is seen as crucial in the UK’s road to economic recovery.
To ensure the industry is ready to capitalise on the opportunity at hand, construction firms must start looking towards digital transformation, utilising new and pioneering technologies to drive productivity and, with it, profitability, through areas such as improved data collection and analysis, and global communication.
Preparing for technological change
COVID-19 may have sent the UK into an economic downturn, but, in forcing many companies to rapidly adapt technologically, it could have a long-term positive impact according to Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, who witnessed two years of digital transformation in just two months earlier this year.
As a traditional industry, ways of working across construction would be seen as outdated compared to other disciplines and, with the required transformation being viewed as a sizable task, it is understandable why many are reluctant to do so
In spite of these barriers, investment in technology is key to ensuring firms can evolve and operate effectively in our new remote-first society. Many of the challenges faced – ranging from immediate access to documentation and plans, to securing future work through a well governed bid processes – can be supported through a more digitised internal solution.
The welcome news is that the construction industry has already displayed a willingness to explore innovations, with 75% of the sector planning to invest in new technologies this year, according to a recent global IFS study.
Supplement the physical workplace with a digital workspace
Getting a construction project off the ground is an incredibly complex process requiring continuous project management and stakeholder engagement in order to adhere to copious policies, procedures and processes. This has yet to be supported by a streamlined “digital workspace”.
Many of the construction firms we work with have cited issues with inconsistent management of processes and policies, coupled with disparate and cumbersome systems, essentially stating them as a hindrance to work.
When it comes to technological transformation, a “digital workspace” is the natural starting point. A collection of evolving technologies, it provides an accessible platform for communication and collaboration, whilst acting as a hub to manage processes and knowledge across sites.
It’s important this is a simple-to-use platform, available on any device, to allow equal use from office workers to front line staff, with nothing but their mobile phones. A modern digital workspace enables new, more efficient ways of working, whilst supporting remote employee engagement, allowing secure work to be conducted on the go.
Digital tools have already helped numerous construction firms with communication and team cohesion this year. Now, as sites reopen and readjust to social distancing and new ways of working, digital technology is helping to reduce the need for the physical movement of people.
We have seen our clients benefit from reducing reliance on paper, providing employees immediate access to information, such as safety guides and onboarding documentation, and ease of communication for Joint Venture (JV) partners on a single platform.
Digital workspace for processes and communication
Communication is a challenge for most organisations, but this is compounded in construction. Work is carried out in remote and harsh environments, often with poor internet or mobile connection. Coupled with workers from across the world and different languages, firms must cater for a breadth of workers with various different requirements.
Adding to this issue for many is the common challenge of JVs. Typical construction projects already involve numerous independent subcontractors and suppliers and adding a further party to the mix increases the difficulty of smooth, effective communication and collaboration.
Having a digital solution with an easily accessible pool of data, systems, and information for partners can help overcome some of these communication barriers. Relevant documents can be accessed from any device and location, allowing firms to update a project’s status and track schedules.
As the saying goes, knowledge is power and so, being able to put knowledge into the hands of the people – no matter where they are, who they work for, or what language they speak – is crucial.
Additionally, sharing this information is key to both business growth and personal development; by utilising modern technologies and embracing digitalisation, construction employees at every level will have more time to deliver a better service and outcome. Only once this happens will firms benefit from digital transformation.
All of these elements extend beyond technology however, people, culture, strong leadership and customer collaboration are vital to success and, by digitally transforming the way a firm operates internally, it can start to build the framework for future success and growth.
Article by: Katya Linossi