How Digitalization Is Reshaping The Construction Industry
Until the late 19th century, photography was an elite and largely inaccessible form of art. Camera equipment was bulky, expensive and usually only reserved for professional use. That all changed in 1888, when George Eastman, the founder of The Eastman Kodak Company (better known as Kodak), revolutionized the industry with the invention of portable, affordable cameras.
By the mid-20th century, Kodak had become a household name, having surpassed $1 billion in U.S. consolidated sales by 1962. In 1968, the company had captured about 80% of the global market share in the photography field and was regularly rated one of the world’s five most valuable brands until the 1990s. But despite its seemingly unstoppable upward trajectory, Kodak eventually hit a breaking point from which it never recovered.
Kodak’s downfall was, among other things, chiefly attributed to its rejection of digital photography technologies. In the 1980s, most of Kodak’s competitors had started to make the switch to digital photography. The rise of digital was inevitable, but Kodak executives dug in their heels, citing fears of alienating their customer base with new technologies. For 10 years, Kodak tried convincing its customers that film was better than digital rather than following its competitors’ lead and making the switch.
The decision to stay stuck in its ways cost Kodak greatly. In 2012, the company declared bankruptcy, bringing an end to a monumental chapter in photography’s history.
Like photography did in the 1980s, the construction industry is also undergoing a wave of digital transformation. The rise of technologies like digital twins, BIM, the cloud and other key innovations promise to revolutionize the industry entirely, ushering in an era of construction workflows characterized by improved efficiency and safety, increased transparency and a heightened ROI. The construction industry is traditionally an analog one, but future-oriented EPCs would be remiss not to take advantage of the digital technologies making tectonic shifts in the industry.
The Impact of Digitalization in Construction
Digitalization impacts the construction industry on several fronts. Digital technologies help EPCs bolster their efficiency (and save time and money to boot) by automating material readiness, improving safety on the job, streamlining change management and maintaining accuracy across every stage of a project’s lifecycle. Here are the details on how digitalization is reshaping construction.
● Automation is enhancing material readiness
Digitalization is empowering the migration from document-centric to data-centric material readiness management within the construction supply chain. Before digitalization, construction firms had to manually track down their assets – an extremely painstaking and labor-intensive process.
Digital tools like Jovix , which provides advanced work packaging capabilities, provide a single source of truth for material availability, improving material control and enabling transactional efficiencies between stakeholders. In a single digital platform, Jovix compares supply data from purchase orders, shipments and field transactions with demand data from work packages and project schedules, ensuring that workers have their materials ready when they need them.
According to the Construction Industry Institute , craft labor productivity can be improved up to 25% through improved workforce planning and integrated material readiness solutions, and we can point to the U.S. Department of Energy as an example of the magnitude of these savings. By implementing automated work packaging technologies, the DOE was able to achieve over 30% production improvement in the work package planning – a savings of over $1 million a year.
● Digital tools are promoting heightened safety and risk mitigation
There are several ways that digital technologies can improve the safety and risk mitigation of a construction site. For starters, they help in identifying a project’s risks, managing those risks and creating robust mitigation plans.
Digital tools like employee tracking technology can help identify and alert employees of potential hazards on a job. This allows contractors to see who is on a job site and where they are located, receive real-time alerts for potential injuries or site hazards, and quickly communicate in the event of an emergency. Digital technology can also enable contractors to gather safety incident data for regulatory bodies. Furthermore, digital technology also makes it easier to navigate local regulations surrounding a particular job – connected workers can pull up permits, JHA, and PPE prescriptions directly on their mobile devices, enabling seamless transparency and greater efficiency.
● Digitalization is greatly improving change management
Analog change management is a traditionally cumbersome process, but it doesn’t have to be. Digital tools enable swift communication and collaboration across different departments, improving efficiency and reducing errors. Take HxGN SDx® technology, for example. As a comprehensive information management solution, HxGN SDx allows users to capture, organize and relate large volumes of facility information and provide web-based access to everyone who needs it. This level of transparency across every project asset enables efficient, error-free change management.
● Digital technologies empower laser-precise accuracy
Accuracy is paramount to the smooth facilitation of projects large and small, and digital technologies enable accuracy down to the tiniest of details. Document-based workflows are vulnerable to human error, but digital tools enforce parameters that ensure all information in project documentation remains accurate and consistent.
When employees assign asset names in analog documents, for example, things can quickly get lost in translation. A digital documentation system, on the other hand, will ensure that every asset is named correctly and follows the same naming conventions. The same goes for making changes to plans and drawings. With digital tools, employees aren’t able to make edits to an instrumentation drawing, for example, without signoff. A digital system makes sure all edits are approved by the necessary parties before the changes to an asset are implemented.
Looking Ahead: The Future Of Construction Digitalization
Digitalization in the construction industry has made leaps and bounds in the last two decades. Looking ahead, we’ll witness even more innovations sparking dramatic improvements to the industry.
In the next several years, we can certainly expect to experience a rise in technologies that empower the connected worker. This includes next-gen augmented reality glasses that enable workers to access and manipulate digital drawings as if they were right in front of them. Dedicated digital commissioning systems will empower the streamlined and transparent planning, delivery, verification and risk mitigation of projects. And the more advanced digital twin technology becomes, the more it will be employed to capture a holistic view of a project across its entire lifecycle.
Much of the world was stunned to witness Kodak’s fall from grace in the 1990s. The company’s once-iron stronghold on the photography market was made possible by its ability to innovate and use cutting-edge technologies to provide better products to its customers, but missing the digitalization boat was its fatal misstep.
The construction industry would be wise to reference Kodak’s history as a cautionary tale. Key players in the construction industry risk incurring Kodak’s same fate if they, too, turn a blind eye to digitalization. Though progress may be outpacing our ability to embrace change, digitalization empowers a safer, efficient, and more cost-effective construction industry – and that progress is not slowing down anytime soon.
Navigating the digital landscape can be challenging, which is why Hexagon is here to help construction professionals and industry leaders enter the digital arena and make the best decisions possible for their businesses. Reach out today and discover the improvements made possible by digitalization. Whether you’re a large EPC firm or a local general contractor, our mission is to help your business embrace digital transformation in a way that works for you.