Technology is a fact of life in this day and age. Everywhere you look you see a smart world: smartphones, smart homes, smart TVs, smart cars — it’s all smart technology. This has even moved into the construction industry, but it’s surprising how many construction companies are still using outdated equipment, technology and even methods to run their business. In this day and age, if you aren’t adapting, you’re fading away, and a company that doesn’t keep up with the times can get left behind at lightning speed.
That’s why it’s important for entrepreneurs and managers to always stay up to date on the latest technological innovations, not just in their own field, but across the board. Learn why you need to stay abreast of the latest technology, find out how other businesses are using it, and think about how you can apply it to bring your construction business into the modern era.
Technology and the Future of Business
Before we look at the relationship between technology and the construction industry specifically, let’s look at how it affects the future of business practices in general. Collaboration and constant connection are the key factors in successful business these days. Connectivity has replaced bureaucracy and the constantly spinning gears of the old days. Aggressive management has been left behind in favor of collaborative leadership. Like it or not, this is the way business is moving in the future, and construction companies that embrace it will gain a leg up on the competition.
Increased connectivity is essential to your operations in this day and age. Technology has broken down both personal and geographic barriers, and we live in a global workplace. Traditional offices are becoming obsolete, as are business meetings, which are slowly being replaced by video chat and online collaborations.
Companies are also approaching their relations with employees in a different way, offering more incentives and benefits, such as training and mentoring, as well as more flexible scheduling that allows employees an improved work-life balance as opposed to the traditional nine-to-five work day. Perhaps the most difficult change is that employees are becoming more transient than ever, and companies are learning to accept that people will move in and out as they search for the best fit for them, while also looking for the best ways to attract and keep top talent.
Innovation and the Modern Business Environment
Innovation isn’t the wave of the future — it’s the wave of the present. Since the World Wide Web went online in 1991, innovation has grown at the speed of light, spurred by increases in information technology. In short, innovation spurs innovation, creating an exponential rise in new approaches, new thinking and new technology. By the time a technology becomes standard, it is rendered obsolete by the latest technology.
If your business hasn’t adopted solutions like cloud computing, VoiP communication, social networking and other modern technologies, you may already have been left far behind. Innovation will accelerate the growth of your business. It will give you the tools to solve evermore complex problems, it will allow you to better audit your practices and make better conditions, and it will improve your marketing and communications, customer support, and resource management at all levels.
New technologies allow you a constant communication with your customers and an improved method of providing for their needs. They allow you to make data-driven decisions that will improve performance across the board, and they allow for an unprecedented degree of operational transparency.
Changing the Core of Business
The importance of digital transformation in business cannot be understated. As social media, mobile devices, and other real-time technologies align to change the world we live in, they are creating bigger changes than anyone could have anticipated, and these things have become a priority for organizations at the forefront of their industries. Customer-driven approaches and improving customer experience are critical in these efforts.
Those companies that are looking to rise to and remain at the forefront of their industries must embrace this digital transformation. This transformation can only be effective with support from leadership, and it must be focused on both optimizing the customer experience and on training your crew at every level to embrace the new technologies.
Technology has changed the way we all think and process information. From design tools that have impacted drafting, engineering and architecture to customer portals that expedite communications and contracts, technology is everywhere. Formal meetings with architects and engineers are no longer needed — blueprints can be digitally shared and comments instantly communicated.
Customers can get immediate status updates and have any questions or concerns addressed right away. Record keeping is thorough, transparent and immediate. All of these factors have a huge effect on construction and contracting projects. They allow for easier and more varied subcontracting via digital communications. It’s essential for any business to adapt to the new technology and to enhance their operations at every level, from the CEO to the office assistant to the skilled on-site worker.
Technology and the Construction Industry
Technological advancement is a fact of life across the board, and the construction industry is no different. Even so, far too many construction companies are conducting business the same as they have for decades. A survey conducted in 2017 revealed that although over 70% of those surveyed agreed that technological innovation was essential to their business, less than 50% had any kind of real strategy in place to adopt advancements. In fact, only 5% felt that they themselves were leaders in embracing technology, and the majority adopted technology only after their competition did so.
While leaders across the industry are aware of the importance of technology adoption, too many haven’t actually taken the steps to do so. Far too few are eager to do so, largely due to fear of the unknown.
In truth, technology in the construction industry will help to: reduce on-site accidents, better organize your projects, resonate with your millennial workforce and keep you competitive in the field. Change is coming, and it’s better to adapt now than later.
Creating a Safer Work Site
It’s no secret that construction is among the most dangerous professions around, with thousands of serious and fatal accidents occurring every year. From slip-and-fall injuries to equipment malfunctions, contact with hazardous chemicals or injuries from falling debris, the potential for accidents is great. Technology, however, can help you to reduce those dangers greatly.
Drones and robots, for example, are becoming increasingly popular in the industry and can complete tasks that present danger to humans, including scouting and surveying dangerous locations, such as dark areas, heights or difficult-to-access regions that are tough to navigate. This gives you greater surveillance and stronger oversight. Robots can monitor safety situations, generate reports and even take on some tasks that are too dangerous for human workers to tackle, such as dealing with toxic waste.
Wearable devices that can track your workers’ biometrics, their GPS location or environmental factors can also keep you and your workers informed when potential risks get too high. This can enable a worker to escape a dangerous situation before the risk results in harm. Some of these devices even allow a worker to remotely call for help if they need it.
Organize Your Projects
Project management has always been an issue on construction sites. Keeping track of where a project is at every stage and adequate record keeping are challenges that in the analog age were difficult to meet. Modern project management software, however, has changed that. It’s easy now to keep track of your scheduling, budget, status and records with the click of a mouse or the tap of a screen, and to instantly generate detailed reports that are precisely tailored for your staff, your management or your clients.
These systems are built to help you integrate your entire project into a single location. They vastly improve productivity, transparency and efficiency. Yet, according to the above-cited survey, a mere 8% of those surveyed are using such a system. While high-end versions of this software can be quite expensive, there are also less expensive, scaled-down versions that can still increase your effectiveness, and it’s always possible to build to larger systems later.
The Millennial Workforce
There’s no question that the gap between the outgoing baby-boomer workforce and the current millennial workforce is huge and constantly under discussion. The expectations and work ethic of millennial workers are far different than those of boomers. Fewer millennials are entering the construction industry, and as more boomers retire, a worker shortage could potentially occur. That means it’s essential to connect with these younger workers, and technology is the means by which companies can do that.
Millennials are dependent upon technology. They are the first generation to grow up with tech as an integral part of their lives, and that means that your business has to meet those needs. Millennials need to access information and documents instantly, which makes connectivity and cloud computing essential to your operations. Millennials want instant feedback, efficient processes and instant gratification, and while that may not be traditional, it is necessary to continue to attract workers.
Transforming the Industry
The Internet has completely changed the way construction companies do business. Without it, we have no cloud computing, no project management software and no communications hubs. It allows easy means to build, design and monitor all of your projects and is the core foundation for all of the innovations that follow. Every smartphone app that wirelessly accesses information or controls something is based in internet technology.
The importance of technology in the construction industry, such as blueprint and design programs like CAD software cannot be understated. No longer are draftsmen, engineers and architects tied to tables with massive sheets of paper and piles of pencils. Designs can now be generated on a computer with advanced tools to cover all aspects of virtual building and construction.
No more will you experience the need for a separate file room full of piles and boxes of paper files through which you have to dig in hopes of finding a single record. Now your tablet, laptop or smart device is your means to access everything you need from a virtual file room. You’ll be able to examine a blueprint as a 3D model, looking over every single aspect of the design and correcting problems before physical work begins. Your designs can integrate physical, civil, electrical and structural schematics into one integrated model so you can see just how everything will play together.
One of the most innovative approaches to the industry that owes everything to technology is the idea of off-site construction. This is an approach by which repetitive elements of a project can be designed off-site in a factory-like setting. It’s most often used in projects where each floor has the same design schematic, such as an apartment building, hotel or school, and it uses an assembly-line method of construction that increases productivity and reduces waste.
In the industry, these off-site techniques are often referred to as modular construction or prefabricated construction, and they encompass everything from a bathroom to a living space. When a given module or building component is completed, it’s sent to the construction site, where your on-site workers insert and assemble it or secure it to the frame.
Another way that technology in the construction industry is enhancing safety is through the use of augmented or virtual reality. This technology allows training in a controlled environment where dangers are virtual instead of real. VR can create exposure to confined spaces, working with heights or other dangerous situations, but without the risk of an uncontrolled environment. Such simulators have been used for years in the training of professionals from surgeons to pilots, and they are now making their way to skilled trades and construction.
Augmented reality allows for the creation of more detailed safety plans, for training on heavy equipment and for a range of other efficient and effective training scenarios. Simulators can also be used on-site, For example, AR systems can allow for the viewing of safety or job checklists via projectors in a helmet or glasses, and they allow for the monitoring of workers.
Since the 1960s, recycled rubber has been used to create more efficient, less expensive asphalt that reduces landfills and lowers material cost. Recently, technology has allowed the use of materials like recycled bottles and single-use plastics in asphalt admixtures. It’s even possible to create snap-together blocks that are recycled from other materials and fit together much like LEGO blocks, and recycled printer toner may be used in asphalt mix. A study out of Australia even indicates that using cigarette butts can improve the quality of roadways.
Concrete printers have allowed the use of technology to create entire bridges out of commercial on-site 3D printers. The advantages of this approach are countless and will improve the efficiency of construction processes in the future while simultaneously reducing costs.
A Competitive Edge
The 2017 survey is an indicator that it’s not too late to adopt the most modern technology in the construction industry to gain a competitive edge. From transparency in operations to instant communications and 3D printing that can allow you to quickly prototype concepts, technology is a must for your company to stay ahead of the game. Technology also allows a sustainable future in an era when climate change and green living are more important than ever. It can reduce the amount of materials you go through, and it can help you to create green buildings for your customers.
Surety Bonding With National Surety Services Inc.
Technology in the construction industry has even improved the process of surety bonding. In days gone by, the process of getting bonded might have involved mountains of paperwork followed by a number of meetings and phone calls and weeks of background checks. Today’s technology allows for online application processes and a lightning-fast turnaround of just a few days.
Results-oriented and -driven companies like National Surety Services Inc. can help you grow your business rapidly while getting you the surety bonds you need. Whether it’s a payment or performance bond to stay in compliance with Miller Acts or Little Miller Acts or an SBA bonding program to allow your small business to bid against larger competitors, we can help get you going.
We bring over 25 years of successful service in banking, business and construction to the table. We are experienced experts in all aspects of the surety industry, and we are ready to help you get the job done. Learn more about our company and get in touch with us for more information today.