CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY AT THE CROSSROADS OF TECHNOLOGY
The emergence of the millennium marked the involvement of technology into various sectors of the world. Technology with its “Midas Touch” weaned out the inefficiencies of the previous century and brought out the leaner, meaner and faster face of all the industries it touched.
3G and then 4G brought people closer, and made the internet accessible to a wider population, and in the process made the telecommunications sector shed its excess baggage.
Social Media, Streaming platforms shook media and took out the traditional TV, newspapers and the once highly valued Radio.
Industrial Robots and Automation took manufacturing to new levels and made mass production of yesteryears look inefficient.
Transportation took a large behavioral turn from private pollution spitting devices to shared, electric ones.
All these industries and the multitude of others, had to follow this tough metamorphosis to be competitive in the new age of technology. Those who didn’t, lost out to the disruptors and the adapters.
The Construction industry, which for the longest time protected itself from the onslaught of technology, is finally at the crossroads of destiny. There is a rapid adaptation of technology by the leading firms in the industry, while a large majority are still waiting for the right moment to board the train.
The Construction industry faces the same issues it used to face decades ago:
Fragmentation : The age old model of contractors, subcontractors, independent suppliers, specialists - lead to a situation where work is dependent on a lot of people who have different motives.
Decentralization of decisions: While GCs could have a route map in mind, most of the operating decisions are left to the site managers and project managers, who have to make the best decisions keeping in mind the fragmented workforce and timelines.
Changing Teams: Each work which happens at a different location comes with a different team, who has their own style of working.
Lack of uniformity : Projects vary in size, difficulty, timelines and mainly budgets. This reduces the rate of the learning curve and requires specialists who can learn across projects.
The Construction industry has finally arrived at the stage where it can shed its old bulky image and move on to the sleeker and meaner model like other sectors did. This is made possible by the advancement of technology like artificial intelligence, computer vision, and the increased connectivity of places with faster internet and such factors. The various sectors in construction that are being improved by technology is given below:
1. Safety Management
(Image source : https://www.osha.gov/construction)
The role of safety is major in construction and comes with its fair share of difficulties. While “spotters”, safety managers, site safety plans, all work towards a safer risk-free environment, mitigating the risk is not that easy. A safety manager cannot be everywhere at the same time and a “spotter” cannot be expected to perform without fail, every single time. This is where automated monitoring comes in, with their efficiency in performing repetitive tasks. Every site can now be actively monitored from a camera feed by a computer vision software which can work in real-time to analyze the feed and plot the safety risks. This could include the basics of safety - PPE adherence, Ensuring Helmets and harnesses, and in the risk of pandemics - ensuring physical distancing, masks, etc. Our own company Reflective AI has developed a suite of solutions for construction safety and Covid-19 compliance. Refer to https://www.reflective.ai/covid-19-real-time-monitoring-camer for details.
2. Workforce Management
The application of computer vision has been gaining grounds in the industry in the past few years and has brought in previously impossible improvements in efficiency monitoring and timely intervention. Computer vision is currently used in real time monitoring of workforce, progress reporting, geo-location and tracking, automated time-capture, new age time cards, manpower reporting and analysis, etc. Reflective AI has the latest in the industry with its Manpower reporting solutions, which uses computer vision and artificial intelligence to analyze the deployment and efficiency of the manpower component in a worksite.
3. Equipment Monitoring & Tracking
Computer Vision can be used to manage the equipment movements in a worksite and helps to improve the operational efficiency by decreasing disruptions in the flow. The movement of large and small equipment across worksites can be tracked and availability can be seen by the site engineer. This can also be used by GCs to understand the actual cost of equipment usage to make informed decisions about renting/owning.
4. Material Tracking
In large construction sites like highways, dams or even high rise buildings, there is often an issue of supply chain visibility. Materials are stocked in various places and the real time status of their availability becomes an issue. Material delivery tracking is still based on century old pen and paper models at job sites. Very often, inefficient planning leads to delays and cost overruns. This can be eliminated by the usage of technology which will help in enhanced planning and just-in-time deliveries which can be automated with the supplier as per the site needs. The overhead of requiring skilled personnel to manually collect data and then identify issues and delays manually can be avoided by automating the system. This can lead to huge cash savings as material wastage will be significantly reduced and information is available in real time.
The time is ripe for construction to rapidly adapt and improve their bottom-lines with reduced costs and improved productivity with the new technologies available. The construction industry sits on a lot of data which can help them to achieve those targets.
The pace will get quicker and those who get those data to work for them will benefit the most.