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A Journey of Continuous Improvement

Rick Dunlap, Vice President Technical Services –BrandSafway

A Journey of Continuous ImprovementRick Dunlap, Vice President Technical Services –BrandSafway

This is an exciting time in the construction industry. Technology has evolved from novel or interesting one-off gadgets into an essential, comprehensive strategy for construction leaders and the companies they manage and run.

At a minimum, we in the construction industry must adopt certain technologies to stay competitive— either through efficiencies or differentiation. But it’s the leaders who leverage tech, while continuing to innovate, who are best positioned to maintain that competitive advantage.

Then and now

Before many of our industry’s technological enhancements were implemented, companies in the construction sector often faced similar challenges: processes were manual, siloed and challenging to replicate broadly. A need would arise, and we’d create a solution to solve the problem. But these manual systems were difficult to share and replicate for a wider benefit. Back then, the inability to collaborate effectively with clients and project stakeholders created massive amounts of duplication, re-work, schedule overruns and other costly impacts for clients. Fortunately, new technology emerged that broke down these silos, enhanced collaboration and could be shared broadly, improving alignment and communication.

Construction vs. other industries

However, the construction sector has lagged or remained stagnant in its adoption of technology. There are many who rebuff innovation for a variety of reasons. We’ve heard dozens of real or perceived misconceptions regarding the adoption of technology, from “construction is too complicated; we can never get everyone on the same page” to “I’m just going to manage my contract.”In addition, some fear sharing their solutionsis to risk giving away trade secrets, and others reject the notion of standardization. Many assume they can’t afford to innovate, losing sight of long-term gains.

This is an exciting time in the construction industry. Technology has evolved from novel or interesting one-off gadgets into an essential, comprehensive strategy for construction leaders and the companies they manage and run.

At a minimum, we in the construction industry must adopt certain technologies to stay competitive— either through efficiencies or differentiation. But it’s the leaders who leverage tech, while continuing to innovate, who are best positioned to maintain that competitive advantage.

Then and now

Before many of our industry’s technological enhancements were implemented, companies in the construction sector often faced similar challenges: processes were manual, siloed and challenging to replicate broadly. A need would arise, and we’d create a solution to solve the problem. But these manual systems were difficult to share and replicate for a wider benefit. Back then, the inability to collaborate effectively with clients and project stakeholders created massive amounts of duplication, re-work, schedule overruns and other costly impacts for clients. Fortunately, new technology emerged that broke down these silos, enhanced collaboration and could be shared broadly, improving alignment and communication.

Construction vs. other industries

However, the construction sector has lagged or remained stagnant in its adoption of technology. There are many who rebuff innovation for a variety of reasons. We’ve heard dozens of real or perceived misconceptions regarding the adoption of technology, from “construction is too complicated; we can never get everyone on the same page” to “I’m just going to manage my contract.”In addition, some fear sharing their solutionsis to risk giving away trade secrets, and others reject the notion of standardization. Many assume they can’t afford to innovate, losing sight of long-term gains.

Getting started

While the notion of starting to innovate can be overwhelming, it’s critically important to get in the technology game and find meaningful applications to support our employees, our businesses and our markets. To keep it simple, consider two key tranches:efficiency and productivity, and innovation and solutions.

"Technology centered around mobility is now readily available at scale and can facilitate myriad opportunities within organizations."

Efficiency and productivity

are important, especially in what has become a constrained market for our most precious commodity:people. Ask yourself where you have huge amounts of risk, duplication of effort, poor communication, or lack of visibility. These are opportunities where you can leverage technology to streamline processes.

Solutions and innovation

are key to the long-term success of a business. As your competitors also begin to use technology and as neat mobile apps become standard practice, we must continuously seek new solutions and innovation. Any given technology can only take you so far, from an efficiency perspective, until there is simply no more “juice to squeeze.”Truly successful leaders recognize the benefits of continuous innovation by finding new and better ways to add value for their employees, company and clients. Innovation yields more than just keeping pace with the market — it lets you beat it.

In today’s construction environment, there are several key opportunities where solutions and innovation will add value. These opportunities include mobility(driving processes, efficiencies), which includes data architecture (enabling synergies, re-use, standards), artificial intelligence (AI) and/or machine learning, which help leverage data standards and drive data insights. 3D   and building information modeling (BIM) can create efficiencies, set standards and aid collaboration. Additionally, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) can create efficiencies, help maintain compliance and foster generative solutioning, and generative designs canimprove product and application engineering approaches.

Technology centered around mobility is now readily available atscale and can facilitate myriad opportunities within organizations. Key benefits include transactional efficiency opportunities, such as payroll, safety, quality, etc., and critical business processes that can introduce risk. 

Before advancing your mobile technology strategy, consider establishing and adhering to a robust process. Your organization will also benefit (directly and indirectly) from established or improved data architecture. As your data processes mature, adding data science can lead to AI and machine learning, opening up even more areas of opportunity.

The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” comes to life with 3D and BIM visualization. The internal and external benefits are significant. Using digital images to validate designs is a safe, efficient way to address clients’ needs, define project scope and more. It can also be used to allay fears and convince change-resistant stakeholders.

Start by developing 3D capabilities and assets and integrate them into your processes. It’s an efficient means for your organization to take the next steps of the journey, while AR/VR are examples of what’s possible at scale with true 3D capability. You can leverage these technologies to illustrate your solutions to customers, support your field team’s work activities, and assess and teach your workers about key business needs.

Art and science

Though rooted in science, technology is an art. At the onset of innovation, remember to keep it simple and focus on foundational elements — you will gain substantial benefits along your journey. While adopting new technologies and continuous innovation are not necessarily easy, one thing is certain: As we walk along the path ofthe technology maturity curve, we may not understand or see every step along the way — and that’s okay. While on step one, you may not understand (or even know) there will be a step 78, unless you have made the journey.

Don’t be afraid to take the first step.

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