Digital Disruption In The Construction Industry

The Nashville or Middle Tennessee portion of the global construction industry is rapidly evolving. General contractors are wary of changes. “Disruptive technologies” are causing some of these changes, and are identified as technologies whose adoption significantly changes the way business is done.  To point out one example, 3D printing, is a potential disruptor in the construction industry.

The basic result of these “disruptive technologies is “digital transformation.” Digital transformation is when an organization uses data and other digital technologies to transform the way it carries out its business.  Virtually all industries today are undergoing digital transformation. The opportunities for cost savings, as well as productivity and service improvements, are arguably greatest in the construction industry.  Statistics show that the construction industry is further behind than most industries and has more distance to make up.

Not Always This Way

Think about the centuries and millennia of the past. When the master builders of their day were building the breathtaking Great Pyramids, the Roman Colosseum, the Greek Temples, and even the incredible stone cathedrals of the European Middle Ages, what was manufacturing like? One step at a time and the products were little more than basic commodities i.e., goat carts. Compare that with today’s modern automobile manufacturers and the construction project down the street!

Many factors are changing the way contractors do business. Some companies, such as Carden Company are engaging in these changes to produce better long- and short-term results, reduce costs, and provide a better product for the building Owner. We are not waiting for our competition to take the first step.

The Changes

It is unlikely that any one particular technology will disrupt construction on its own. Rather, it’s more likely that a mixture of trends will enable new technologies to be used in disruptive ways.  One change is the rapid pace of globalization. Manufacturers and suppliers are no longer just local or even domestic.  Labor availability and their skill level is a primary concern. Building regulations are continuing to tighten, forcing changes that can be costly for companies that have not adapted quickly enough.

The People

For all the hype surrounding new digital tools, it is people that ultimately drive the gears of change. All these changes are forcing construction companies to modify their business models and transform how they do business. However, any digital transformation must start as a people transformation. Future work will likely involve people collaborating with other people to design work and processes for machines to perform. Get the people part right, and the technology will take care of itself.

Increased Owner Engagement

One of the more significant trends shaping the construction industry today is the rise of informed, digital-savvy owners. Building owners today have access to more information than ever, and they’re asking for more.  The industry must adapt. Successful owners not only consider construction cost but the lifecycle of a building as well.  They keep a tab on the aging process that naturally happens to a building. They also monitor the changes that usually occur when the original purpose of a building shifts. This data collection means that a building owner can have access to data that allows decision-making on choices of building materials and systems to be made more precisely.

The Future

Construction firms are continually refining practices and integrating new techniques and materials, such as drones and GPS tracking to streamline and automate construction processes. It’s been found, however, that many of these technologies are likely to result in minimal improvement. They do not transform or improve the building process itself, processes that may date back centuries.

A construction firm’s product is not only a building but also the building process. The most significant future opportunity is not merely improving long-existing process but to develop radical, new approaches that treat construction as an encompassing and interrelated activity. The future goes beyond merely swapping analog tasks for more precise and efficient digital ones.  A completely different premise will control. Instead of thinking of construction as a series of tasks to be performed, we need to think of it as managing the information about the building.  New ways of sharing this information enable the building process to be arranged in new ways. This invites fluidity and allows for the creation of new operating models.

Digital transformation  is a topic that can build feelings of optimism for a better-built environment. However, it can fuel feelings of frustration stemming from unknown changes and fear of unfamiliar forces affecting our industry. To navigate the future with confidence, organizations need to make the right choices. Put the right people in place. Give them clear, timely, and inspirational choices, and they will deliver growth in a dynamic, disrupted world.  Like Carden Company, successful contractors will employ people that possess deep industry insights.   These employees will utilize cutting edge methods to help the building owner resolve their most critical decisions, drive value, and achieve economic success.