Digitising the Construction Sector

Author: Eugenija Steponkute
Published: 09/10/2023

In today’s article, we will be talking about the benefits of digitising the construction sector. Our goal is to deliver the point that change is inevitable and consult the reader on why it’s important to embrace it.

For the past decade or so we often hear the term ‘digital transformation’ thrown around, as well as different outlets urging businesses to ‘digitise’. From the primary confusion of what exactly it means to clumsy attempts to implement this new approach, the majority of industries are now at the level where they can confidently say they’ve mastered the strategy. Alas, the construction industry is not one of them. 

According to McKinsey, the construction industry is, in fact, the least digitised. There are many reasons for that: locations being distant from one another, environmental concerns, the general disinterest in abandoning traditional practices and many more. However, digital transformation is now coming to the construction sector, whether you are ready or not. There is no way of stopping it, so the best you can do is embrace and own it.

In this article, we want to address some of the biggest reservations we have encountered when working with construction firms. To sway your mind, we will also be talking about the benefits it carries and why the best time to begin is now before it is as widely spread and well-developed as it is across other industries. So let’s preface this by saying that those who follow the footsteps of others may have an easier route to success, but those to lay down the path are the ones to shape what success looks like.

How Digital Technology is Changing the Construction Industry?

Similar to how digital technology affects other industries, the main change observed in construction companies that onboard digital tools is the improvement of efficiency and time-saving. Especially when it comes to delivering projects. 

Digital tools don’t simply execute tasks like time-tracking, shift scheduling and similar but also record data as they are being used. And often that data could not be acquired by other means. Having access to it gives companies insights that were previously out of their reach, naturally highlighting new opportunities and potential weak spots. 

Equipped with that knowledge, construction firms can improve their performance exponentially. Firstly, it will allow them to be more flexible in terms of budget and resource allocation. Secondly, it will feed into them coming up with more accurate project forecasts and estimates. And thirdly, it does miracles in establishing better communication internally and with the client.

In other words, digital technology is changing the construction industry in small steps that deliver a huge impact. And, before long, they are bound to grow into wide strides towards success. However, with digitisation still being in its early stages in the construction sector specifically, there is a lot of resistance. One thing we can say, however, is that to achieve new heights, one needs to leave their comfort zone. And this is an example of that. 

Embrace the Change

The change is always scary. However, no change leads to stagnation. With how fast our world is moving, stagnation is nothing short of a failed business, which will happen quicker than you expect. That’s why you need to remain flexible and move along with the times. 

‘Brick and Mortar’ Industry

Some argue that the construction sector is not something that can be digitised. This stems from the fact that the industry is, indeed, historically deprived of digital innovations and relies on manual labour. But does that mean its status as a ‘brink and mortar’ type of business is non-negotiable? Absolutely not. If anything, it’s the perfect time to try and shake that title off. Not only is digitisation possible in the construction sector, it is nothing short of mandatory. The world is innovating, and lagging behind is not an option.

Of course, manual labour will still be at the heart of construction, but there’s so much more that goes into delivering successful projects than the visible results. We are talking about processes such as resource management, expenses, job allocations, invoicing, billing and many more. It’s what’s happening behind the scenes, the power of bringing plans to complete projects, that must embrace the power of digitisation. All the above-described operations are vital to delivering construction projects, and all of them can run smoother and more efficiently when the right digital tools are used.

Meeting Today’s Expectations

Now you might be asking why it matters - to smoothen internal processes. Maybe, even though your approach is outdated, you are happy with it and don’t want the change. Fair enough. We can understand the logic behind not wanting to fix what isn’t broken. But can your clients? The reality is that the expectations for construction projects today are higher than they’ve ever been. And, to put it simply, outdated practices and half-working processes will hinder you when it comes to meeting them. 

Gone are the days when the only thing that mattered was the quality. It is still a key factor, but many more things come into play: incredibly short timeframes, transparency and visibility, fluidity of communication, client experience and many more. It is unrealistic if not simply impossible to meet all these criteria if you rely on the humans alone simply because they are bound to have limits, not to mention are prone to errors. But introducing automation of certain tasks makes it not just possible, but also easily achievable. What’s more, there is no rush to do it all at once. You can digitise gradually, giving yourself ample time to adjust. 

Safety First

The construction industry is pretty serious about health and safety, especially on-site. However, not just the physical aspect of the job is riddled with dangers. Of course, manual workers are susceptible to injuries, but there’s another side to it too, one that affects everyone in the company, including your clients - data safety. Digitisation is absolutely inevitable if you want to ensure proper security of it. Think of it. Even from the standpoint of natural disasters or simply displacing documents: both saving and retrieving them is easier when the copy is digital and not physical.

When stored digitally, documentation can be easily accessed from a variety of devices. You also control who gets the said access and what’s the level of it. Uploaded documents are stored on the cloud, meaning they are protected by layers of encryption and are secure in overseas servers, ensuring no one but you and the ones you grant permission to can access them. That’s right, not even the provider of the software. What’s more, any changes made to documents can be tracked back and reversed in just a couple of clicks. 

Top Notch Construction Projects

Other than creating an overall better environment, digitisation in the construction sector is aimed at bettering project delivery. In other words, it brings benefits to both, the construction firm and the client - as well as a positive experience. So, let’s discuss how exactly digitising some internal processes makes the difference. 

Stop Losing Time

The key perk of digitisation is the fact it helps you save ample time. And this is true in many areas, both production and backend. For example, using digital solutions you can create better and more accurate models in less time. You can also predict more accurately the overall cost of the project, as well as the time estimates, both of which will make it easier to forecast how much workforce will be needed. In terms of admin work, automation makes procedures such as expense claims, worker compensation, holiday management and others much quicker. Not to mention, it generates nearly instant reports to keep track of the project’s progress that can be shared with the stakeholders and the clients. 

Digitisation can even smoothen the on-site operations. For example, instead of spending additional paid time submitting paper timesheets, workers can do that using their mobile devices while commuting home. It can also help you track attendance better, preventing malpractice such as buddy punching. Most attendance management solutions require users to log in with their unique details and can even be tied to specific devices. Some, to avoid fraudulent time locking, also come with geo-tracking. All in all, as you can see when adding digitisation into various processes, the time it takes to deliver construction projects can be significantly reduced. With that in mind, it can be safely said that the lack of it is among the reasons why the industry is lagging behind. 

Transparency-Driven Communication

Most digital solutions are perfect collaboration platforms. Unlike outdated industry staples like Microsoft Excel, they can be used by multiple users simultaneously, making changes visible and tracked in real time. That said, every change or comment made is logged, making it easy to verify who could have potentially made a mistake and easily revert it back to the correct version. This is a great addition not for just internal communication, but also with outsourced workforce and even with the clients. What’s more, most of the digital solutions are built on the SaaS model, meaning they can be accessed from literally anywhere in the world, as long as the user has access to the internet and to a web browser or a designated app. 

Going digital often also entails easier document storage. We’ve already mentioned the safety benefits of storing your documentation on the cloud, but we can also top that up by highlighting the fact this approach makes document sharing much easier and more intuitive than sending countless emails. Many solutions provide a centralised location for all parties involved to access, upload and edit documents. Of course, the level of access for each user can be configured. Not only this will smoothen the communication, but can also make it easier to compare how the overall project is progressing, track the said changes by comparing reports back to back and much more. 

You Shape the Industry

It’s always scary to take the first step into the unknown. However, the construction sector is in desperate need of digitisation. We understand it’s daunting to take the first step, especially when the area isn’t widely explored within the industry. But let’s be honest - someone has to. At the present moment, any dabbling with innovation is in a position to shape the industry’s best practices moving forward. And whoever is the first one to take the leap of faith is bound to become the industry thought leader moving forward, gaining even more power to turn it in their favour. 

Due to a lack of popularity and demand, there aren’t many solutions on the market aimed specifically at the construction sector. However, plenty of tools are available to help you better your operations, even if they come without a label. Such would be a timesheet solution, an attendance system, an accounting package, an invoice generator, a pay-and-bill system and many others. The point is that the software you need already exists. It’s just isn’t marketed for construction yet. Which doesn’t mean it’s not useable. Thankfully, most vendors offer free trials for businesses to test the product before committing, as well as a free demonstration. All you need to do is keep your mind open and make the decision. 

The Construction Sector is Changing

Whether you choose to delay the change or dive into digitisation head first, the process has already begun. While it’s moving slowly, the construction sector is starting to onboard more and more digital solutions to help with its everyday operations. What we are trying to say, is that the change is happening already. Whether you embrace it now or try to adapt later is completely up to you. We, however, heavily advise you to jump on the bandwagon now. Not only is this a low-hanging fruit, but also a great opportunity to shape the industry.

As it is now, there are no permanent or even defined best practices, opening the door to exploration and experimentation. However, it is worth noting that more and more companies are waking up to the impending revolution of the sector. That said, hesitating to take the first step now means a more sporadic and demanding adaptation period later when the groundwork is laid out. Digital transformation is no longer the future but rather the present of other industries. Many companies ceased to exist over failing to adapt or downright hoping for the need for digitisation to pass like a fad. So, ask yourself - which risk is greater? To try and fail until you succeed, or to do nothing and be left in the dust? 

Key Takeaway 

Digitisation of the construction sector is lagging behind in comparison to other industries. It is also progressing very slowly, but progressing nonetheless. More and more companies are starting to experiment with digital tools in their daily operations, meaning it’s a matter of time before the industry gets into the full swing of things. Now is truly the best time for the companies to begin their journey. 

With the growing demands for quality, speed of delivery, ecological concerns and many more, construction firms simply won’t be able to meet them without the right tools in place. Not to mention address sensitive concerns such as data safety, transparency, fair holiday policies and many more. At the end of the day, even the most successful companies are run by humans, and humans have limits. This is why we need machines. 

Digital tools offer a lot of automation features, taking over tedious tasks such as expense management, project tracking, attendance recording and many more. Not to mention, they also collect data when you use them, enabling you to spot patterns and opportunities to better your processes moving forward. All in all, while digitisation is still somewhat of a wild west in the construction industry, it is certainly the future. And you should strive for it. 

Are you ready to begin the process and become the one to form the industry’s best practices? Then we are happy to help.

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