- In the engineering and construction (E&C) sector, technologies such as building information modeling, sensors, robotics and other digital tools can be disruptors, and to avoid disruption, industry players will need to embrace technology and alter business processes along the value chain, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum in collaboration with The Boston Consulting Group, Shaping the Future of Construction: Future Scenarios and Implications for the Industry.
- Attracting new talent and improving skills of the existing workforce ranked in the top three actions to keep pace with upcoming disruptions, ringing true to 74% of the E&C CEOs surveyed. Increasing integration and collaboration along the value chain followed, ranking in 64% of respondents' top three. Adopting technology at-scale was something that 61% of CEOs considered imperative.
- To effectively integrate virtual reality, robotics, prefabrication and sustainable methods, companies need to create data-centric business models, study market developments and implement change-management programs, the study found.
Construction is the second-least digitized economic sector, according to a McKinsey & Co. 2017 report. But when the industry decides to take the leap and catch up to the digital strides made by industries like advanced manufacturing and oil and gas, it could reap cost savings as high as 12% to 20% each year, according to the Shaping the Future of Construction report. Full-scale digitalization across the E&C sector will translate into estimated savings of $1 trillion to $1.7 trillion annually, the study found.
The use of 3D digital models through BIM applications is very common in the U.S., as 72% of construction firms are thought to use it. Among other cost-savings benefits, BIM offers increased visibility into projects to help designers, engineers and contractors catch mistakes sooner, eliminating the need for costly reworks once construction has started.
BIM models could eventually be 7D, according to the report, by incorporating data on scheduling (4D), cost (5D), sustainability (6D) and operations and management (7D). In theory, BIM data could be used to direct autonomous construction equipment like brick-laying robots and drones. Sensors could also be built into a project as a source of data for facility managers.
By promoting technologies that are being used and increasing investment in research and development, the construction industry can begin to chip away at stereotypes of being low-tech. Using technology in recruitment and training, for example, can be effective in attracting and retaining young workers, who not only ease the pressure of the skilled labor shortage but can also help lay the groundwork for full-scale digitalization.