Construction industry is building a strong future in the cloud

By Fabian Saverimuttu -

person typing on laptop

 

Technology is becoming as important as a hammer when it comes to nailing down a successful construction project that is delivered on time and on specifications.

Research by Aalto University has revealed the unbelievably low level of productivity at every stage of a construction project. For example, designers spent about a third (28%) of their time waiting for changes and other non-design processes and only 17% of their time on value-added activities. According to an Associated General Contractors (AGC) survey, almost half (46%) of respondents planned to increase IT investments in 2020. Those increases will be in software for project management, document management and fleet tracking. Currently, mobile is the predominant cloud-based technology in construction used for distributing daily field reports, tracking employee time, and accessing and sharing documents (drawings, photos, contracts, etc.).

Government initiatives, innovation in construction, social and environmental consciousness and post-Brexit or COVID-19 uncertainties demand faster digital transformation in construction. Implementing cloud-based construction solutions help architects, designers, contractors, skilled workers and other members of the Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) industry boost productivity and profitability. Despite the benefits, resources and the status quo are the biggest barriers to technology adoption in construction with 43% of firms reporting not having the time to implement and train on new systems and 38% reporting resistance to technology as top adoption challenges in the AGC report.

 

Three ways cloud-based technologies are revolutionizing the construction industry

Though the construction industry has traditionally been slow to adopt new technology, the need to build better buildings faster is motivating builders and contractors to explore cloud-based solutions to help streamline estimating, scheduling, building and communications. Here are three ways that cloud-based technologies are revolutionizing the construction industry.

 

1. Enhanced communication on site and off site.

The construction industry can’t afford to rely on manual processes. Construction cloud solutions for email, project management and accounting improve day-to-day worksite productivity. Real-time communications ensure that critical changes, updates and directions get to the right person at the right time to avoid costly mistakes and project overruns. Cloud-based collaboration also enables firms to access remote talent outside of the worksite to broaden a shrinking talent pool.

 

2. More accurate project planning

Imagine walking around your new home — before the first brick is laid. AR, VR and IoT are creating ways to visualize, experience and brainstorm projects in your office or across the world without heavy investments. Using AI and machine learning accelerates research and decision making by using bots to collect, analyze and combine information in ways that would be impractical for humans. Drones and HD photography are being implemented to reduce the danger and expense of surveying rough, unfriendly terrains by digitally surveying areas by air.  

All of these technologies come together in Building Information Modeling (BIM). BIM solutions simulate the project environment to identify potential design, construction or operational concerns. Digital twinning takes BIM a step further. By connecting an actual project with a full-scale digital reproduction using integrated smart sensors (IoT) and AI, planners can simulate potential carbon emissions, structural issues and other building considerations in real time. Consuming, storing and processing these massive amounts of data points requires highly scalable, flexible infrastructure only available in the cloud.

In addition to leveraging exciting new technologies to build better buildings faster, cloud-based construction solutions also address traditional problems like IT privacy and data protection. Often regarded as a low-risk, high-impact sector, a cyberattack in the construction industry has the potential to bring productivity to a standstill, creating project delays and reputational damage. The cloud offers multiple ways to secure assets — both in cloud and on premises.

 

3. Better experiences for builders and owners

Cloud transformation moves organizations away from one-off project thinking into service-oriented process thinking applied holistically, not ad-hoc. This approach applies not only to the technology, but also to the entire culture of an organization. As the technology changes, processes and practices will also evolve. The results are safer, more efficient workplaces for employees and high-quality, on-time projects for property owners.

Using big data and AI helps teams transition from opinion-based decisions into data-based decisions. In turn, teams are able to shorten timeframes and reduce overall costs, leading to less waste and higher profit margins. Cloud-based technologies also reduce the chance of rework and mistakes with AI to prevent over procurement or maintain adherence to project specs. Using IoT sensors, worksites can be fitted to track safety incidents to reduce future hazards.

Machine learning and 3-D printing are being used for preconstruction to reduce project overruns and complete projects faster. By constructing large pieces of a project in a factory using precision equipment instead of onsite, firms are reducing injuries, increasing quality and saving on onsite labor and materials costs. Separately, robots and machine learning are combining to complete dangerous, labor-intensive jobs prone to human injury like high altitudes, mines and deep waters.

 

Start your journey

With the drive to reduce costs across all industries, now is a good time to explore digital transformation and cloud-based alternatives. As BIM, AI and AR/VR advance, AEC firms will get left behind if they don’t start making up for decades of under-investment in technology now.

Rackspace Technology offers solutions tailored to the needs of construction firms and designed to benefit a range of construction industry needs. Services include cost optimization and governance, scaling at speed, security and compliance and resource augmentation.

 

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