CONSTRUCTION & DIGITALISATION? MAYBE
Is Now The Time?
Construction and technology have always worked together very closely.
The same can’t be said regarding the application of Digital Skills onsite and although this is changing, the next several years will see many computer-related applications and electronic changes as manufacturers move away from the more traditional mechanical methods.
“the pandemic has helped speed up digitalisation adoption. Those who haven’t engaged with it yet should be encouraged to” — Josh Wallman, Director, Capja
Being, as we are, at the early stages of digital technology development Technological advances seem to happen constantly. And quickly. For many construction professionals this can be daunting, because: If technology is expensive and construction is expensive then construction technology must be… really expensive? And, mostly, they would be correct.
However, in part due to developments in other sectors — automotive, electronic, etc… — many developments are now inevitable. Most greatly improve operator experience, safety and health. Some changes may affect established operators but in the long-run it will encourage new, different, workers and improve site safety for everyone, both on- and off-site.
So where do you start?
By implementing a Systems Approach and using Systems Thinking businesses can focus on scaleable processes and integration, not a single problem(s) or area(s).
Although individual technological developments are released constantly, building a system to connect these integrated tools can be designed and implemented to operate over a longer period. This allows for much more bespoke implementation and provides flexibility to upgrade and future budget projections predictable.
In real-terms — a robust process, upgradable over time and as necessary without compromising your activities due to shorter term financial or technological limitations.
SAFETY ON SITE — Internet of Things (IoT)
It doesn’t really matter how much legislation and checks any contractor has in place to maximise workplace safety, accidents are always liable to happen, especially when reliant upon a person(s) to watch over and pre-empt potential issues.
The best we can do is minimise the human element of tracking and prediction, something technology can help with greatly.
By combining Internet of Things (IoT), sensor technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI), cameras and LiDAR laser technology, companies like Zyter are providing unprecedented levels of data and support to managers.
This not only allows AI technology to predict and notify users of potential dangers, but also records all information onsite, allowing C-suite and decision makers to make much more informed decisions on H&S policy.
Further developments improving the operator experience including climate control, tyre pressure monitors, central locking, remote key access and even coolboxes reduce the risk of injury further and boost productivity.
Operator comfort can provide up to 25% material and time savings when excavating and filling, with all user data collected and integrated through the IoT to constantly identify potential areas for future improvement.
ELIMINATE PAPER WORK — AUTOMATE, DIGITALISE:
Paperwork has always been one of the banes of industry and although many other sectors have looked to get away from unnecessary paper as soon as possible, construction’s reticence to adopt digital practices have seen it fall far behind sectors like banking or electronics.
Despite many industries using the pandemic as a reason to make the switch, construction hasn’t.
The benefits are enormous, with site operation guaranteed to see a boost in productivity, safety, compliance and the day-to-day operation of a construction site.
The digitisation of all traditional paperwork — including on boarding, equipment check, QR code access/approval, timestamps, operator data, and digital signatures would see drastic time-savings.
And because everything is processed through a central point, invoices can be instantly raised and sent or settled using branded documentation and watermarks to ensure legality.
Developments in cloud storage and the constant improving of communication infrastructure & hardware mean that very soon (in UK and western Europe at least) unstable WiFi connections will identify your generation much like analogue telephones or your car having a manual choke!
Due to the increasing integration of construction equipment and plant with computers and communication hardware, it’s already increasingly ubiquitous to — when there isn’t suitable signal — download the necessary/minimum work-data, sync’ed to upload at the end of the operators shift, day or even whenever a WiFi signal is re-established.
SIMULATION — SITE & TRAINING
Construction’s increasing transition from mechanical to electrical systems allows for much greater operator comfort and site safety. And yet many, powerful, useful, technologies currently in existence — through a lack of eduction and visibility — aren’t being used to their full potential.
A classic example of this is 4D site simulation. It could (and should) be used to boost efficiency, improve comfort and assistance onsite and support safety measures. Instead, it’s glorified Building Information Modelling (BIM) and currently, largely — although sometimes useful elements make it into BIM(anagement) — under-utilised beyond the initial pitch for which it is created.
Operator simulation training is becoming more popular as it simulates the real thing, at least in terms of controls and actions, with ever-increasing accuracy.
Construction needs to find ways to attract workers — including skilled plant operators — and by gamifying the process plant manufacturers, in conjunction with government support and regional hubs (for more advanced requirements, e.g. testing), could provide the means for students. Even children could learn to drive a digger in the same way train and flying simulators can be accessed from a games console.
“With the construction industry doing absolutely everything it can to eliminate barriers to training, this [plant simulation] is an ideal solution to getting the next generation of skilled labour exposed to the challenges and rewards of a construction career.” — Julien Richer-Lanciault, CM Labs
Although plant simulators are becoming both widely-accepted as comparable to the real experience and an increasingly affordable option, the main limitation now is safety training. The most widely-citied criticism of simulation training is its inherently isolated nature.
On a building site there are many interacting elements, including plant, workers and material transportation all doing different, very dangerous things. By integrating site simulations and operator simulation, a more immersive and realistic experience could be achieved and using real-world data.
With an ageing workforce and labour deficit, providing more accessible routes into the construction industry could be heavily assisted by the adoption of technology. This requires changing the way construction professionals think and work, but practical changes to operator experience like multifunction steering wheels and interactive displays including extensive instrumentation and modules are only improving with each model upgrade.
The inclusion of digital systems and software will require upskilling or training new operators, so the more general the controls are the higher the uptake by new operators will be. It will also boost productivity by allowing new and existing users to quickly familiarise themselves with new control systems.
Finally, adoption of data driven technology and sharing & storage solutions already being used to great effect in other industries must be embraced by construction, too. On the plus-side though, many problems common during the adoption of a new technology have been resolved by other sectors, so it should be easier for the construction industry to transition.
Do you need a plant or labour recruitment solution designed exclusively for Construction industry professionals? Come and see us at TradeGraft, we would love to help to make your life easier.