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Innovation in the construction industry: Three examples of technology transforming the field

Technology advancements are paving the way for one of the largest industries in the world, the construction sector. As emerging technologies reshape the construction industry, construction companies are reaping the results from eliminating long-standing inefficacies and low productivity.

Despite construction being known as one of the lesser digitized sectors, industry leaders are embracing the challenges and turning toward new ways of working.

According to a recent McKinsey report, construction companies:

  • Increased R&D spending 77 percent in just over five years
  • Predicted that COVID-19 will lead to an acceleration of digital transformation (two-thirds of their respondents);
  • Changed their priorities throughout the pandemic, focusing more on their processes, business models, and ecosystems (pushed over 72% of construction companies);
  • Already raised investments in digital technologies (50% of respondents)

It’s no surprise why. In an industry where cost overruns are the norm and one that’s only seeing a meager 1% productivity growth annually for the past two decades, implementing new technologies brings a competitive advantage. In fact, a digital transformation can provide up to 15% increase in productivity and reduce costs up to 6%.

Additionally, companies that add new technologies into their operations:

  • Improve worker collaboration
  • Gain better risk management
  • Optimize costs and reduce waste
  • Remain competitive
  • Attract younger workers
  • Improve site safety

What is digital transformation in the construction industry?

As lingo like “digital transformation” and “digitized” gets tossed around freely, it may be easy to jump in on the trend without fully understanding the meaning. But, construction companies that jump in on the latest technologies and solutions without understanding the process and aligning it to their specific construction needs risk throwing away money without any return.

“Digitizing” your company or undergoing a “digital transformation” in construction means integrating digital technology into all areas of operations to gain a major competitive advantage. Digital technologies can involve anything from physical devices to software or mobile apps used in the office or the field.

Three examples of technology transforming the field

For construction executives looking to capitalize on the full benefit of digital to stay competitive in the years and decades ahead, there’s a handful of success stories to mirror.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing, or technology that gives users access to storage, data and files through connected devices, allows construction companies to shift away from traditional methods of collecting, inputting and sharing data across construction sites. With faster access to data and resources, companies can communicate and collaborate more efficiently.

Just ask PolyQuest, a plastics manufacturing company that is one of the fastest-growing distributors of PP and HIPS resin in the United States. PolyQuest was seeking an innovative payroll solution that matched the new, modern era of the industry and a system that was better suited for manufacturing. With plants in multiple cities, PolyQuest needed a comprehensive time and attendance system with the flexibilities, approvals and reporting and the ability to manage the automatic overtime calculations for various shift rules. Recognizing that paper timesheets, bulky time clocks, and manual tracking are inefficient and more time-consuming, PolyQuest wanted a cloud-based time and attendance system that would streamline their tasks and integrate directly into their payroll system.

So, they switched to Microsoft Dynamics 365, the cloud enterprise resource planning ERP solution that’s built for Microsoft Azure and managed from a network of managed data centers located across the globe. In addition, they also added a mobile time and attendance system to track and monitor employees’ work hours. Through embracing innovative technology built for project-based industries like manufacturing, PolyQuest streamlined their payroll reporting, gained a seamless real-time experience across facets, improved project management through centralizing workforce data and gained a collaborative solution that connects timesheets to payroll .

In addition, PolyQuest gained real-time analytics in manufacturing to predict required corrections and keep things on schedule and within budget.

Automated Workflows

For companies looking to be more agile and gain a competitive advantage, automating business workflows ensures business continuity. Workflow automation is an approach that allows tasks, documents and information to flow without any human intervention.

Performance Contracting Group (PCG), a leading specialty contractor in the United States that offers more than 25 different industrial and commercial construction services, moved to a new ERP system and union payroll software that utilized automated workflow to support their complex union payroll needs. Through this technology in construction, PCG simplified payroll by automatically delegating tasks, scheduling activities, performing calculations, and updating field — all without anyone on their team touching a single button.

Now, they simultaneously processes union and non-union payroll, while also customizing payroll processing for different states, unions and projects.

The result? Through an ERP and union payroll system that automates workflows, PCG reduced costs and saved time, improved employee productivity and integrated their systems to function on one platform to the payroll for thousands of salaried and hourly union and non union workers.

IoT and Advanced Analytics

In the construction industry, emerging technologies like internet of things (IoT) and advanced analytics improve safety in the field by monitoring productivity and reliability. IoT-enabled devices allow equipment and material in the field to be monitored and regulated remotely and providing tracking and reports on different changes in materials or environment conditions. Advanced analytics is the process of using software and data to systematically evaluate patterns and generate meaningful insights. IoT and advanced analytics both work to reduce construction time and material-related costs.

Granite Construction Company, UAE, a well-known EPC contracting organization, was wasting time and accruing costs using siloed applications that didn’t share data. To continue delivering projects in infrastructure, energy, engineering, water/sewer/civil, and government services, Granite Construction Company moved to an ERP system that utilized powerful business intelligence and AI to keep their business competitive and gain an edge.

Using advanced analytics and software that tracked equipment and material usage in the field, Granite Construction Company improved efficiency within their existing processes, connected business with intelligent business applications from the field to the office and utilized predictive AI-driven insights for EPC reporting, progress monitoring, and planning and control.

How we can help

With nearly 20 years of experience driving the digital transformation businesses need to succeed, CEM Business Solutions work with Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) businesses to evaluate, research and implement digital EPC services for their needs.