The construction industry is at a crossroads. On one side, there’s the traditional approach, characterized by manual processes, siloed teams, and a reactive mindset. On the other side, there’s the promise of digital transformation, with its potential for improved efficiency, collaboration, and innovation.
The key to unlocking this potential lies not in technology itself, but in the people who use it. This article explores the role of the community in driving change in the construction industry, with a focus on learning, collaboration, and the adoption of new technologies.
In recent years, the construction industry has been inundated with new technologies, including Building Information Modeling (BIM), reality capture, prefabrication, modular construction methods, drones, wearable technologies, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
These tools promise to transform the way we design, plan, and execute projects. However, the sheer volume of available technologies can be overwhelming, especially at large industry conferences where thousands of different solutions are on display.
The challenge is not just about choosing the right technology, but also about understanding how to use it effectively. Too often, companies adopt new tools without a clear understanding of how they fit into their existing workflows. This can lead to inefficiencies, frustration, and a lack of return on investment. Therefore, it is crucial for construction firms to thoroughly evaluate and comprehend the relevance of each technology before adopting it.
By carefully assessing and effectively integrating these technologies into their workflows, construction companies can enhance productivity, reduce costs, and successfully tackle the challenges of modern construction projects.
Addressing the challenges of the construction industry involves building communities centered on fostering a culture of learning and collaboration, not just networking or sharing best practices. An example is the BIM Coordinators Summit, an annual event emphasizing learning and collaboration over technology sales, where industry leaders share ideas and explore new working methods.
The power of these communities extends beyond the event itself, with continuous learning, collaboration, and change-driving activities occurring online throughout the year. This ongoing engagement is vital for overcoming the challenges of digital transformation.
Integral to these communities are the ‘BIM Heroes‘, individuals who push boundaries and drive change within their organizations. They are not just technologists or innovators, but change agents who understand that digital transformation is about people, processes, and culture, not just technology. They are willing to take risks, challenge conventional wisdom, and drive change.
A significant challenge in the construction industry is the existence of functional and technological silos, where different departments, teams, or systems work in isolation, leading to inefficiencies and communication issues. Overcoming these challenges involves fostering a culture of collaboration and information sharing through collaborative platforms, integrated systems, and open standards. Breaking down these silos can enhance coordination, reduce errors, and increase efficiency.
Mentorship plays a vital role in an organization. It can encompass various forms, including direct observation of senior members’ workflows or providing the responsibility of onboarding and training in new technologies to younger staff.
A prevalent challenge in introducing new technologies to an organization is resistance from employees who may perceive it as irrelevant or unnecessary. To overcome this, appointing an internal guide can be effective. This individual can showcase the benefits of the new technology, such as potential time and cost savings, as well as improvements in safety.
Modern technology has transformed traditional mentorship, allowing knowledge and information to be shared on a global scale, overcoming geographical and temporal constraints. Asynchronous communication tools facilitate this process, accommodating cultural differences, languages, and varying work schedules. Companies can build a knowledge-rich environment by sharing problem-solving processes, such as through videos, fostering training and problem-solving.
Technologies like Google Glass and drones are being used in sectors like manufacturing for remote mentorship and problem inspection. This results in a global knowledge-sharing platform, promoting a more comprehensive worldview through interactions with individuals from various regions.
International conferences can act as catalysts for this sharing, providing exposure and networking opportunities for startups, potentially leading to a fusion of best global practices and driving innovation. The transferred knowledge should not only serve immediate needs but also be preserved for future generations and projects, ensuring a continuous and self-sustaining learning cycle.
Current construction practices often treat each project as unique, failing to incorporate lessons from previous experiences. However, treating each project as a digital prototype for the next can foster continuous improvement. Knowledge transfer is key in this, as exemplified in building data centers where past experiences and solutions can be documented and shared to enhance future projects’ efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Technology aids this knowledge transfer, with tools like video calls and virtual walkthroughs offering insights into past projects. Counteracting arguments against standardization in construction due to building uniqueness, it’s argued that building components are standardized and lessons from their assembly can be applied to future projects, creating a cycle of improvement.
This knowledge transfer extends to project managers, construction teams, and suppliers, assisting with location-specific challenges. Modern technology can document processes and analyze data to identify best practices.
Media like podcasts can amplify knowledge exchange and stimulate wider discussions. Continuous learning and self-improvement are vital in the ever-changing construction and design world, necessitating a commitment to learning, openness to new ideas, and dedication to improvement, all facilitated by technology and knowledge transfer.
The construction industry is on the cusp of a digital revolution, but achieving its full potential hinges on people’s focus, promoting a culture of learning, collaboration, and empowering individuals. This dynamic approach is critical for the construction industry’s future.
The future of construction lies not in technology itself, but in how we use it. By focusing on learning, collaboration, and community, we can harness the power of technology to drive change and improve outcomes.
This requires a shift in mindset, from a reactive approach to a proactive one. Instead of using technology to fix problems after they occur, we should use it to prevent problems from occurring in the first place. This means using tools like BIM and reality capture to plan and coordinate projects, rather than just to document them.
It also means using technology to improve communication and collaboration. By sharing information in real time, teams can coordinate their efforts, resolve issues quickly, and make better decisions. This can lead to improved productivity, reduced costs, and better project outcomes.
This blog is an extension of the BIM Heroes Podcast hosted by Cody Whitelock, a virtual construction manager at Barnhill Contracting in the US. In the episode, Cody was joined by Ralph Montague, a seasoned architect with over 30 years of experience, specializing in consultancy and guiding the construction industry through digital transition. Also present was Vinnie Quinn, co-founder of Evercam, known for pioneering camera software development for construction and transforming it into a data-driven entity. Together, their aim is to ensure seamless alignment between live images and project plans.