- A World Economic Forum study found the construction industry's productivity advancements have been "meager" compared to those in the rest of the world's industries during the last 50 years, according to the Engineering News-Record.
- The Swiss business organization, along with The Boston Consulting Group, said the industry must focus on "digitalization and construction techniques" if it wants to catch up to global business communities.
- The study said that reducing construction costs by only 1% through productivity improvements would save the construction industry approximately $100 billion each year.
Despite the potential of billions in savings, the study reported that the construction industry has actually lost productivity over the last 40 years. But it's not just cost savings at stake, as this lack of "forward-thinking" is steering much-needed talent into other industries, according to the report. If the trend is to be reversed, all aspects of the construction business, including technology and operations, must be addressed.
The Forum suggested that the construction industry could increase its productivity is through the use of Lean Construction methods, which have the potential to reduce costs by 15% and knock 30% off construction schedules. Digitalization could also cut operational costs up to 17% and capital costs by up to 21%. However, even the productivity gained through technology and other means could be canceled out if the industry doesn't develop worldwide standards and remains a "fragmented industry," the study noted.
As the Forum report indicated, construction has been notoriously slow at adopting the latest digital tools, but some construction tech startups are making headway in the industry. In fact, one of the most popular cloud-based construction management tools, Textura, is gaining such ground that computing giant Oracle recently purchased it for $663 million. Other technology startups changing the way construction companies do business are PlanGrid, which allows users to digitize construction plans and drawings and then track changes to them; Fieldwire, a construction project mobile and web platform services firm; and Caterpillar-backed Uptake Technologies, which allows users of heavy equipment to track machinery performance and maintenance via sensors.
Most experts agree that the proliferation of mobile apps has increased the use of and interest in construction technology, as many of today's most popular construction productivity apps can be utilized on smart phones and tablets in the field.