Construction companies have long appeared to struggle with embracing the benefits of digital platforms. However, digitisation is here to stay so it’s important to think about why this might be.
Consider this common scenario in the construction industry; a company works for many years on designing new software platforms – 5D BIM for example. It ploughs a large amount of cash into developing, promoting and integrating such cutting-edge software into its organisations in the hope of spearheading a new hunger for boosted productivity.
However, having faced several setbacks, the team decides to call an end to the digital transformation programme and resigns itself to project failure. Many companies have tried to use cutting-edge digital solutions in solving construction issues – low productivity being a big one – only to find success painfully elusive. Yet every day, more digital technologies are developed, like drones used to survey sites or new software for project management.
Unfortunately, many industry professionals have failed to engage with this new technology within their working environment. Budgets overrunning and project hold-ups are a very real challenge, but failing to adopt these new technologies means overlooking a huge part of the solution.
Why are digital technologies not always welcomed in the construction industry?
Company projects can often fail because key players are unclear about what “digital technology” actually is. This then leads to poor integration of such technologies and a lack of sustainable improvement.
It appears there are three main factors behind why digital transformation is especially difficult in the construction industry. They are:
Larger engineering and construction projects are typically funded by federal agencies and smaller units within the project that follow their own ways of doing things. This can mean projects are very often decentralised. Additionally, the location of many individual projects can be quite a distance from the offices that use such technologies. Training workers to use advance digital technologies can also be a problem, especially if people have been established in their roles for a very long time.
Construction projects are transient by their very nature. This means that every project is different, requiring new teams to work together each time, particularly contractors who tend to have a high workforce turnover. At both operational/company level and construction level, consultants, sub consultants, contractors and subcontractors will face various hurdles in creating specific, uniform ways of working that can be repeated with future projects.
Lack of replication
You’ll know of the old adage “No construction project is the same”. Well it’s certainly true.
It’s a bit like a set of twins. Even if two structures are designed, developed and built in exactly the same way – to be carbon copies of each other – they’ll still somehow be unique. This means that unique approaches being developed that are very seldom replicated, and it’s more difficult to introduce very specific changes across multiple projects.
Full digital transformation means changing gradually through multiple small scale projects. Only then do companies stand a chance of replicating them across major ones.
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